What is happiness? Happiness, although experienced by many on several different occasions is a concept that cannot be equally defined across cultures. Modern psychological studies measure happiness on three levels. This is most commonly called the measure of “subjective well-being” and include an individual describing whether they feel good, bad, or satisfied with life (Chang, 2014). Countries can be ranked on this three measures of happiness.
As described in this particular article, in our Western culture we see happiness as one of the highest and most treasured human goods. This article definitely gave me quite a few things to think about in terms of the culture that we live in and the values that I was taught to hold as a child and even now as an adult. Growing up we always sought out the things that made us the happiest, most of us were told to do whatever we wanted with our lives as long as it made us happy. Growing up in this culture, it is hard to comprehend that in other cultures there is a certain level of fear that is held towards the feeling of happiness.
A man by the name of Mohsen Joshanloo, a published author who holds a PhD in Philosophy and Social Psychology, writes that there are many forms of fear that can be held towards happiness. This can be shown by hate displays, anxiety, and looking down upon those who pursue happiness (Chang, 2014). When it comes to the Eastern culture it has been found that they tend to hold moral actions and social duties higher than the euphoric state of happiness (Chang, 2014). A possible reason for this shift in attitudes about happiness can be thought that happiness is seen as fragile. I can recall several times in my life where my potential happy moment was overcome by sadness or disappointment over something so simple as a change in plans or even weather. This behavior leads me to wonder if the pursuit of happiness is healthy for our culture as a whole? Several clinical studies have been done to study the fear of happiness and they have found that the pursuit of happiness can actually help people to overcome depression, although not all people who hold a fear of happiness are at a risk for any mental illnesses (Chang, 2014). Although a study done by mental health researcher Paul Gilbert concluded that the fear of happiness had a strong positive correlation to depression and other depression-related beliefs (Chang, 2014).
Although cultures do hold different views of happiness, the positive psychological movement has become a pop-culture phenomenon in our Western society which has paved the way for an overproduction of self-help books. Learning such things made me analyze my own value placed on happiness and I have found that I fall in a small percentage of those who believe that unhappiness follows happiness, so I do hold a certain level of fear for the sensation. I feel that this has come from several situations in my childhood where I held high expectations of a good situation and became disappointed afterwards since it never met my expectations or that something incredibly bad always seemed to happen on the days that I was feeling good and happy. As with everyone else in this world I have gone through several bad moments in my life but the cure for this was always the pursuit of happiness, even if it was in something small like a walk outside or drawing a picture.
Happiness, a concept that has no one true definition, is something that helps us understand how complex and diverse the cultures of the world truly are. Although not entirely universal, the sensation of happiness has been found to have an impact on our mental well being as well as our physical well being. It is hard to understand how an emotion can have such an impact on our mental condition or how it can make a major difference in our everyday lives.
Chang, Bettina. (September 2014). Hating Happiness. Pacific Standard: The Science of Society. Retrieved from http://www.psmag.com/navigation/books-and-culture/hating-happiness-who-is-afraid-different-cultures-western-psychology-research-91269/