Why aren't we happy?

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Why aren't we happy?

Postby King Author » Sun Dec 06, 2009 11:03 am UTC

According to the World Health Organization, any given year, about 10% of Americans suffer bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder or chronic minor depression. This is the highest rate recorded. For comparison, Nigeria has about a 0.9% rate of the same disorders. We could get into a debate of the philosophy of psychology and argue whether the diagnostic criteria are sufficient to compare such different cultures and nations, and whether any given diagnosis is culture-bound, but let's not. For the sake of argument, let's accept this as a fact -- the more industrialized a nation becomes, the higher the rates of mental disorders revolving around sadness/despair/unhappiness (I say that as opposed to, say, schizophrenia, which has rather consistant rate around the world -- perhaps because depressive disorders are so influenced by lifestyle while schizophrenia and similar disorders are physical anomalies of the brain).

In other words, the wealthiest nations in the world are home to the most miserable, the saddest, least-fulfilled people in the world. While it's certainly not great to live in a least-industrialized nation, at least the people there aren't tearing their hearts out from sadness.

So I pose the obvious question -- why?

Why are we who have everything - who live like kings compared to any given Bushman - so unhappy, despite the fact that we have so much? And why isn't that random Bushman unhappy, given that he lives in comparable squalor?

I think that perhaps the very psychological makeup of the human creature is antithetical to the way we live our lives in the industrialized nations of the world. I'm a student of psychology, and evolutionary psychology is a lens I find useful to examine many psychological topics. This is no exception. See, if you think about it, for ~100,000 years, the human creature evolved to live pretty much precisely like Joe Bushman -- maybe nomadic, maybe in a small hut in a small community with a few other families, hunting mainly, maybe performing a bit of agriculture but nothing too large-scale. In other words, our very minds evolved in such a way that we're "supposed" to live simple lives wherein we survive on a day-to-day basis.

In the industrialized nations, survival is essentially a given. Yes, you might not graduate school or you could get fired, either of which could end you up homeless, and there's crime and disease and all, but by and large, we've gotten past the point of having to think about living day-in, day-out, and instead focus on things like the furtherance of knowledge, philosophy, art, luxury, entertainment or just climbing the corporate ladder.

What I wonder is if we can change our essential nature. If it's true that we're "supposed" to live as - for intents and purposes - "hunter-gatherers," and that we're not "supposed" to live in big cities and have all this technology, are we doomed to be increasingly miserable as our society grows increasingly complex, or can we change the fundamental nature of the human creature such that we can find happiness in a complicated life as much as a simple life?

Obviously, a single individual can find happiness in the most complex life imaginable, and an individual can lead a simple life and be miserable and unfulfilled, but we're talking in general here.

If we can't resolve the conflict between the way we live and the way we're supposed to live to be happy, what are we to do? Give up high society and technology? I'm not sure that's necessarily the answer, although I do believe it would ultimately work (and given how we handle the energy crisis, we might not have a choice anyway >_>).

Though I don't have the source at hand, I read recently that a survey in the U.S. showed that the top stressors in peoples lives tended to be work, school and money. Intuitively, it seems to make sense that these are the things that make us miserable, that make our lives so unfulfilled and unhappy; we're essentially concerning ourselves with money, money, money, and wealth is an empty goal. I think that perhaps, if we radically changed our educational system and the way we conduct the business of modern life, and I mean radically, we may be able to live complex, modern, industrialized lives and still be happy. Again, we as a whole, as a people.

The radical changes necessary entail all sorts of things. First off, the Western education system, where you temporarily memorize a huge host of facts year after year as you're shunted along from grade to grade - a system which was designed to prepare young people to enter the work force and not to make them any more intelligent, mind you - would have to be entirely scrapped. A more fluid and much slower-paced system aiming at truly learning things and not focused on moving from grade to grade would have to be developed. The purpose of this schooling would need to be intelligence and wisdom, not job preparedness.

That said, our work system would have to be utterly changed as well. We'd have to devise some way to tell who's qualified to do what job that doesn't rely on the achieving of a degree to prove you have X, Y and Z knowledge. Ideally, it'd be some sort of social, communicative thing; a vast social network of employers and employees where everyone knows enough people well enough to occupy a sizeable portion of the social web, such that recommendations (given that they're honest) and not numerical credentials serve to place people in jobs.

At this point I'm rambling. What do you think? Why is it that, the more industrialized a nation becomes, the more miserable and unhappy its people become? And what, if anything, can be done about this?
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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby Brunch » Sun Dec 06, 2009 11:33 am UTC

This is the topic of the book Better Off, which I think you'd enjoy reading.

Also, have you seen the film The Gods Must Be Crazy? It has the same main idea: a African tribal community is really happy and is depicted as living in their own little utopia. A glass Coke bottle falls from the heavens (is thrown out of a plane flying overhead) and is found to be so extraordinarily useful that tensions start building and people become unhappy fighting over it. At the end, the wise elders decide to get rid of it, and everyone's happy again.

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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby Sharlos » Sun Dec 06, 2009 11:38 am UTC

have you considered that in industrialised nations, there are better diagnostic tools available and less people going undiagnosed?

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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby Nath » Sun Dec 06, 2009 12:55 pm UTC

King Author wrote:We could get into a debate of the philosophy of psychology and argue whether the diagnostic criteria are sufficient to compare such different cultures and nations, and whether any given diagnosis is culture-bound, but let's not.

I think most of the truth is in this bit that we're excluding from the conversation. But yeah, there are probably several cultural factors as well. Something about life in developed countries makes it easier to get isolated. I think that as a society gets richer, people become more self-sufficient, and the average household size gets smaller. It becomes increasingly rare for multiple nuclear families to live together. For instance, most Indians of the previous generation grew up with lots of cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents around. In the west, this would be strange; somebody who chose to stay with family into adulthood would be seen as eccentric.

And then there's the fact that it wealth makes it easier for people to entertain themselves through solitary, sedentary activities like watching TV. These habits are probably formed during childhood. Kids in poor countries grow up playing outside, out of necessity. As society gets richer, staying home becomes more and more convenient.

One other factor is work ethic. People in rich societies often actually end up working more hours than people in poor countries. This isn't necessarily why they're rich; I think there might be a bit of a vicious cycle thing going on.

Oh, and there's the fact that people in industrial societies can move around more. Imagine growing up in a single town, with the same people you went to school with. You quite possibly end up working together, and meet up in the evening to sit around and chat while the kids play. Contrast this with the pretty common (though of course not universal) experience in the western world of someone moving to a new town, working all day, without any hobbies or exercise, and no social activities beyond going to a bar with some colleagues on the weekends.

This post might make it seem like living in a developing country is some sort of utopia. It's not. I'm from a developing country, and I'm glad that it's, well, developing. I don't think any of these are inherent problems with technology or economic progress. It's just that very little conscious thought has gone into how people are affected by all the convenient new stuff we have.

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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby Pez Dispens3r » Sun Dec 06, 2009 1:15 pm UTC

King Author wrote:According to the World Health Organization, any given year, about 10% of Americans suffer bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder or chronic minor depression. This is the highest rate recorded. For comparison, Nigeria has about a 0.9% rate of the same disorders.

I don't mean to dismiss your entire point, but consider that Nigerian airports outside of Lagos don't have functioning RADAR towers*, and that the country may not report statistics as well as we would hope. Have you more reliable examples you've found to illustrate your point, because one counter-argument could simply be people with depression are not being found. What would you make of Japan and South Korea's relatively high suicide rates (both industrialized and both reliable for reporting statistics)?

*This is according to a interview I saw of a Nigerian ex-pat, so take with grain of salt. Even so, I think you see my point.
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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby Indon » Sun Dec 06, 2009 1:45 pm UTC

Hard to say (not least because frankly, the entire phenomenon could largely, or entirely, be an artifact of varying levels of medical infrastructure). A better question would be, "What causes depression and bipolar disorder, and what of those might industrialized countries have more of?"

It looks like one major factor is marriage and other marital strife. Divorce and psychological problems seem to be involved in a vicious cycle: Divorce has a negative impact on psychological well-being, not only in the adults involved but in their children, and then later on psychological problems can contribute to divorce.

Unemployment seems similar: Unemployment raises the rate of psychological problems, and depressed individuals are at greater risk of losing their jobs, another vicious cycle.

Also, survival, at least in America, is by no means guaranteed, at least not by the time you're homeless with the correspondingly high risk of being psychologically jacked up.

Also, we should probably eat more seafood.
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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby guenther » Sun Dec 06, 2009 3:34 pm UTC

Here's a great book on the subject: Stumbling on Happiness. You can hear radio interview with the author to get a feel for what the book is about. I can't recommend the book enough; it's fascinating.

The summary is that we're terrible at predicting what will make us happy. When we predict, we try to imagine what the future would look like if X happens, and then we assess based on that whether X is worth pursuing or not. However, while our mind is good as simulating the future for things like "Should I chew on thumb tacks?", it's awful for things like "Should I take that new job in LA?". The book covers many reasons why our imagination fails so often at helping us make good decisions.

One reason is that we fail to predict how quickly we adapt to new scenarios. We imagine $100 million will make life a lot better and losing an arm will make life a lot worse. But if we study people that actually did win the lottery or lose an arm, they aren't awash in happiness and sorrow, respectively.

The book isn't a self-help book and is mainly about describing the phenomenon, not solving it. However, it did have one piece of advice: use other people's advice to help predict future outcomes.

My final answer is this: Freedom without wisdom leads to bad results. Our intuition will often fail us, so we need to rely on the wisdom of others. And in a society with more freedom than every, doing this is more important than ever. But following good wisdom usually means making painful choices that most of us would rather exercise our freedom to avoid. [EDIT: I twerked the last sentence slightly.]
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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby Elvish Pillager » Mon Dec 07, 2009 1:32 am UTC

Why aren't we happy? I think it's because our society is based on unhappiness.

For instance, advertising. The way to sell your product is to make everybody unhappy about the fact that they don't have it. The capitalist pig-dogs have gotten very good at accomplishing this - you can't run a consumerist society without a lot of unhappiness. Or, for instance, bullying and harassment. Sure, it's less bad than being murdered, but at least if you get murdered, you're not unhappy about it afterwards.

We don't need the philosophical/cultural arguments. There are people deliberately trying to make us unhappy; put some credit in human ingenuity, and the obvious conclusion is that they'll be effective, which ought to be able to explain the problem fully.
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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby mmmcannibalism » Mon Dec 07, 2009 1:46 am UTC

One thing I heard a while ago is that it results from the potential for social stratification. In an industrial country there can be someone who is "rich" and "better" then you which can promote depression(even between two non equally rich people). If you are a hunter gatherer sure some guy may be better with a spear then you but he won't really be viewed as better.
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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby G.v.K » Mon Dec 07, 2009 2:48 am UTC

I make a distinction between joy and desire.

joy is everything that makes one 'happy' right now - food, sex, social interaction with friends and family etc.

desires are the things we think will make us 'happy' in the future.

in more complex societies, the number of desires on offer is staggering. the way to get them is also often a few degrees separated i.e. i need to work to get money to pursue this desire. by the time i get the thing i desire, i may realise that i didn't really want it after all. can i admit to myself that i wasted all that time and get up the motivation to try again?

i guess that societies which are based on simple local interactions eg. family or tribe-based, can do well at joy but not very well at meeting desires which differ from the norm. as things get more complicated socially, more people will get lost in the bushes chasing things they didn't really want or need and finding it hard to get even basic pleasures.

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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby TGM » Mon Dec 07, 2009 7:41 am UTC

Elvish Pillager wrote:Why aren't we happy? I think it's because our society is based on unhappiness.

For instance, advertising. The way to sell your product is to make everybody unhappy about the fact that they don't have it. The capitalist pig-dogs have gotten very good at accomplishing this - you can't run a consumerist society without a lot of unhappiness. Or, for instance, bullying and harassment. Sure, it's less bad than being murdered, but at least if you get murdered, you're not unhappy about it afterwards.

We don't need the philosophical/cultural arguments. There are people deliberately trying to make us unhappy; put some credit in human ingenuity, and the obvious conclusion is that they'll be effective, which ought to be able to explain the problem fully.


What? How do they do this? I don't feel unhappy when I see an ad. I seriously have no idea what you're talking about.

mmmcannibalism wrote:One thing I heard a while ago is that it results from the potential for social stratification. In an industrial country there can be someone who is "rich" and "better" then you which can promote depression(even between two non equally rich people). If you are a hunter gatherer sure some guy may be better with a spear then you but he won't really be viewed as better.


That's along the lines of what I'm thinking. I reckon it's a matter of perspective.

The Bushman may be happy because he doesn't know any better. All he knows is his way of life, he isn't missing out on anything as far as he knows.

Westerners, on the other hand, are exposed to the lives and privileges of those richer than them on a daily basis. This may be from a tabloid, a talk show, or even just seeing an item that you can't afford. We know what we're missing out on, and we know that we won't ever be a multi-millionaire.
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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby King Author » Mon Dec 07, 2009 8:19 am UTC

Here's a further question to those who are saying that it essentially boils down to the fact that we want too many things; what about people who have everything they want? A big house, a dozen cars, a massive flat screen HD TV in every room, iPods and PS3s galore, even maids and cooks, etc. Why would a person like that not be happy, if it's merely the consumer/competitive aspect of our culture that makes people unhappy?

I don't think a consumer culture is a healthy culture, but nor do I think that Western culture being a consumer culture is a major contributing factor to our deep-seated unhappiness. Keeping up with the Joneses is tiring, but I don't think it's enough to fracture your soul.
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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby guyy » Mon Dec 07, 2009 9:47 am UTC

King Author wrote:Keeping up with the Joneses is tiring, but I don't think it's enough to fracture your soul.


Maybe not, but I think it's an important factor. Developed-nation culture tends to value money and expensive stuff over almost everything else, shifting most kinds of work towards being a means to an end (more stuff), instead of being at all fulfilling in itself. It sort of turns your life into a battle for status and material things, rather than a battle to accomplish good things in the world.

To put that somewhat more clearly, nearly anyone can, in theory at least, build/make things, raise kids, help people in need, etc., and feel some sense of accomplishment from those things. But the game of stuff-collecting is practically unwinnable, because there's nearly always a lot of people with more stuff than you. More and more people in rich countries are learning to value things over achievements, which is, on the whole, not good for their happiness. Actually doing things is generally more rewarding, but a lot of us seem to have forgotten that. (We're all from the B-Ark, after all. And while I'm linking, here's some current comics.)

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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby Elvish Pillager » Mon Dec 07, 2009 12:42 pm UTC

King Author wrote:Here's a further question to those who are saying that it essentially boils down to the fact that we want too many things; what about people who have everything they want? A big house, a dozen cars, a massive flat screen HD TV in every room, iPods and PS3s galore, even maids and cooks, etc. Why would a person like that not be happy, if it's merely the consumer/competitive aspect of our culture that makes people unhappy?

I don't think a consumer culture is a healthy culture, but nor do I think that Western culture being a consumer culture is a major contributing factor to our deep-seated unhappiness. Keeping up with the Joneses is tiring, but I don't think it's enough to fracture your soul.

Some people want the house, cars, TV etc., but most people want the ideal image of those things. Getting the things doesn't get them what they really wanted. Hence, unhappiness (and now undirected unhappiness, since they don't have any idea how to get what they want.) It's not enough to make someone super depressed, but it's enough to give you a push in the wrong direction.
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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby Vaniver » Mon Dec 07, 2009 2:34 pm UTC

It's also worthwhile to compare mortality rates. Not only are diagnostic tools better (and probably overdiagnosing) in the developed world, it's a lot harder to die- it could be that people living in the undeveloped world are the ones that survived.

More significant, though, are expectations. It's a lot easier to be happy when you expect little than when you expect a lot- and there are a lot of stressors in modern life, particularly its social aspects.
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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby Indon » Mon Dec 07, 2009 2:42 pm UTC

King Author wrote:I don't think a consumer culture is a healthy culture, but nor do I think that Western culture being a consumer culture is a major contributing factor to our deep-seated unhappiness. Keeping up with the Joneses is tiring, but I don't think it's enough to fracture your soul.


Actually, considering the impact of stress on suicide and other psychological ailments (citation upon request), 'tiring' does seem to equate to 'soul-fracturing' to some degree.

So that could be another factor - not necessarily the unhappiness of not having things, but the expectation ingrained by the consumer culture that you should have those things.

Overdiagnosis, as Vaniver notes, is also a potential problem - many psychological problems are poorly understood, so even an expert could concievably make a mistake regarding them.
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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby Dazmilar » Mon Dec 07, 2009 3:48 pm UTC

The opening post assumes its own conclusion.

King Author wrote:(I say that as opposed to, say, schizophrenia, which has rather consistent rate around the world -- perhaps because depressive disorders are so influenced by lifestyle while schizophrenia and similar disorders are physical anomalies of the brain).


I don't think you can write off depressive disorders as lifestyle, and then turn around say, "Aha! it's because of our lifestyle!" And it seems like the kind of point that would need copious amounts of citation to back up. Echo various diagnostic concerns of previous posters.

Happiness is a soft, fuzzy term. How exactly are we defining it here? In an evolutionary psychology mode of thought, is there any reason for a species to benefit from a general state of happiness over a general state of mild unhappiness punctuated by brief moments of happiness? The latter, which is how I'd define humans, seems advantageous as a survival drive. Though I admit that in this context it seems more like I'm talking about contentment.

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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby Vaniver » Mon Dec 07, 2009 6:15 pm UTC

Dazmilar wrote:Happiness is a soft, fuzzy term. How exactly are we defining it here? In an evolutionary psychology mode of thought, is there any reason for a species to benefit from a general state of happiness over a general state of mild unhappiness punctuated by brief moments of happiness? The latter, which is how I'd define humans, seems advantageous as a survival drive. Though I admit that in this context it seems more like I'm talking about contentment.
Indeed; generally scientists use questions like "did you smile yesterday?" to try and get a gauge of happiness. Generally, 'happy' responses are more common in less developed countries.

I wonder if there's anything involved with 'enlightenment'- a lot of things which people enjoy are crude or cruel, and become less common in developed countries, and many downtrodden people expect their place in life while in developed countries, they are promised or told they deserve more. I would say expectations play the dominant role (when you expect that everyone around you will die sometime soon, life becomes more precious and death becomes less horrendous than when death is 95% preventable; when you are happy to have a house without holes and a belly that isn't growling, you are far easier to please than when you perpetually have someone more successful to compare yourself to, as well as constant reminders that you could have more), but there may be a minor role played by the opportunities for happiness available. The number of professions probably works in the opposite direction, though- if your choices are farming and factory work, you're probably less likely to find a fulfilling profession than you are in America.

It might be interesting to see happiness vs. some measure of fitness- it might be that laborers have fitter bodies and that makes them happier, but they would also be more injury-prone. Who knows?
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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby Cleverbeans » Tue Dec 08, 2009 7:19 am UTC

I blame consumerism and corporate media. When people are conditioned to link their happiness to products and services they're unable to create themselves the relatively impoverished have no viable means of achieving happiness even though material considerations have almost nothing to do with happiness. Also, individual liberties have eroded significantly since WW2 in the US which leads to unhappiness as well because it has a sufficiently developed police state to enforce the removal of those freedoms. But hey, it's only 10% or so and tyranny of the majority has always been winner - right? :P
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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby tekk » Tue Dec 08, 2009 5:53 pm UTC

I think that it'd be more ingrained in what just what we are. If you're living in relatively bad conditions and your brain doesn't really recognize things getting better, it sends out signals to keep you happy the way it is. The problem occurs in this society where there is ALWAYS the chance to be higher that the brain perceives, it's to encourage you to try harder and get there, not that it always works that way.

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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby guenther » Tue Dec 08, 2009 6:09 pm UTC

Cleverbeans wrote:I blame consumerism and corporate media. When people are conditioned to link their happiness to products and services they're unable to create themselves the relatively impoverished have no viable means of achieving happiness even though material considerations have almost nothing to do with happiness. Also, individual liberties have eroded significantly since WW2 in the US which leads to unhappiness as well because it has a sufficiently developed police state to enforce the removal of those freedoms. But hey, it's only 10% or so and tyranny of the majority has always been winner - right? :P

So the first statement seems to be a knock on a free society, and the second seems to be saying we need a freer society. These seem to contradict. I think blaming consumerism is like blaming technology. Maybe we'd all be happier people if the TV wasn't invented, but I would rather us learn to function better in the presense of new technology rather than limiting the technology itself. (I don't actually know if TV correlate to unhappiness.)


And to the audience at large: Here's another idea I had while driving my car. Many people think of happiness as a goal, but maybe it's more of a symptom of running our lives well. We don't design car engines with the sole goal of having them hum nicely, they're built to do work. But we also know that they work best when they hum nicely, and if they start making bad noises (like mine), then something is going wrong. So back to real life, maybe happiness shouldn't be the goal, but an indication that we're doing some other goal well. (I personally think being good is more important than being happy, and I 've derived a lot of happiness out of pursuing this goal.)
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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby Cleverbeans » Tue Dec 08, 2009 9:20 pm UTC

guenther wrote:So the first statement seems to be a knock on a free society, and the second seems to be saying we need a freer society. These seem to contradict.


Well to clarify consumerism is a choice made in a free society, and reflects American values rather than any implied external cause. "The Man" isn't keeping anyone down but on that note, marketing is essentially the study of mass emotional manipulation and I have serious reservations about the ethics of such behavior. Thankfully with the rise of the internet corporations no longer have a monopoly on mass media and we're already starting to see the impact. Newspapers are dying off entirely, far fewer people are tuning in to television, and multitudes of pay-to-view systems are rising up to replace traditional advertising models (Netfix, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog, and such are good cases).

Technology certainly had a role to play historically and I agree - it's not the cause, just a reflection of the cause. The amount of television consumed has a correlation with unhappiness in children and some adults, but there is evidence that people who watch more TV are unhappier with their finances which I do think is related to the false social expectations advertising and rating driven shows develop.

As for your analogy I see it as more an indication that Americans have lost direction. Happiness definitely flows from a sense of higher purpose, not from the things we have and the perceptions others have of our affluence. This is why I mentioned the erosion of personal freedoms as a secondary cause, if a population feels as though they have less control over their destiny they tend to dream small or not at all. Why try for something more when they believe their are serious legal and financial barriers to achieving those goals. That perception is partly accurate, and partly myth, but I'd say it's a definite cause of unhappiness.
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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby Philwelch » Wed Dec 09, 2009 12:04 am UTC

King Author wrote:I think that perhaps the very psychological makeup of the human creature is antithetical to the way we live our lives in the industrialized nations of the world.

...

In the industrialized nations, survival is essentially a given. Yes, you might not graduate school or you could get fired, either of which could end you up homeless, and there's crime and disease and all, but by and large, we've gotten past the point of having to think about living day-in, day-out, and instead focus on things like the furtherance of knowledge, philosophy, art, luxury, entertainment or just climbing the corporate ladder.

What I wonder is if we can change our essential nature. If it's true that we're "supposed" to live as - for intents and purposes - "hunter-gatherers," and that we're not "supposed" to live in big cities and have all this technology, are we doomed to be increasingly miserable as our society grows increasingly complex, or can we change the fundamental nature of the human creature such that we can find happiness in a complicated life as much as a simple life?


There's something you should read: Industrial Society and Its Future by Theodore Kaczynski. Here it is. Try not to be biased too much by the fact that it's written by the Unabomber, it's a very literate, logical, interesting, and challenging read.
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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby Zcorp » Wed Dec 09, 2009 8:07 am UTC

King Author wrote:At this point I'm rambling. What do you think? Why is it that, the more industrialized a nation becomes, the more miserable and unhappy its people become? And what, if anything, can be done about this?


The flaws in available accurate data and measuring capability aside it really comes down to individual perception and materialism. The "American Dream" is basically work hard your whole life to retire and then you can have fun. While if you look at pretty much every religious philosophy, eastern philosophies, productivity philosophies etc its all about maximizing consistent fun and not focusing on some end fun and suffering to get there.

To many people develop this schema and fail at enjoying anything along the way. In addition we have a large problem with a culture of silence and denying reality. At some point the societal pressure became dealing with shitty situations because changing them hurts other people (even of all parties are currently unhappy) and that we should feel guilty for not being able to get along with some others so we consistently put ourselves in not happy situations.

I'd go into much more depth but it is pretty much all of the humanistic views in psychology. Maslow, Jung, Glasser, bit of Bronfenbrenner, Gestalt.

Consumerism is a symptom not a cause. Teach people how to think early and enjoy doing things and we will get a much better result then regulating.

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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby DucksOnATruck » Wed Dec 09, 2009 11:06 pm UTC

I'm a dude with anxiety and mood disorders, so get ready from some anecdotal opinions!

My disorders arose from the constant need to always succeed. In elementary school, I was always told (by parents, teachers, and peers) I had to work hard or else I won't get into the advanced classes in middle school. The same thing happened in middle school, and then high school, and it's still happening in college. I've spent the entirety of my life essentially walking on a narrow bridge across a ravine of failure. Mess up once and it sets off a chain reaction that ends up with me bagging at walmart for the rest of my life.

Not everyone has the same experience as me, but I'm sure that everyone has felt intense pressure that they have be perfect, or else someone better is going to come and take their spot. Whether or not its school or work, there are always people (or yourself!) hounding your ass to do the best damn job possible, because good enough isn't good enough anymore. Competition drives the free market, and it drives the people fucking insane.

Would this be a problem in a hunter-gatherer society? We wouldn't need to be optimal at all times. If you hunt with only half effort, you can still get some food, and no one is going to take your job. Hell, the other hunters are probably half-assing it too because they all know that they're gonna get some food and that's all they need. Hunter gatherers depend on cooperation.

Everyone applauds competition for driving innovation and economic growth, which I know it does admirably well. The problem is that whoever decided that those were the things we really need must have been a sociopath.

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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby Vaniver » Wed Dec 09, 2009 11:33 pm UTC

Philwelch wrote:There's something you should read: Industrial Society and Its Future by Theodore Kaczynski. Here it is. Try not to be biased too much by the fact that it's written by the Unabomber, it's a very literate, logical, interesting, and challenging read.
This is mentioned in The Future and Its Enemies by Virginia Postrell, which I recommend as a counter argument.
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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby Zcorp » Wed Dec 09, 2009 11:37 pm UTC

DucksOnATruck wrote:My disorders arose from the constant need to always succeed. In elementary school, I was always told (by parents, teachers, and peers) I had to work hard or else I won't get into the advanced classes in middle school. The same thing happened in middle school, and then high school, and it's still happening in college. I've spent the entirety of my life essentially walking on a narrow bridge across a ravine of failure. Mess up once and it sets off a chain reaction that ends up with me bagging at walmart for the rest of my life.
It doesn't end there. Once you have a good job you need to do well to get your promotion. If you are not making good money you're not going to attract an 'ideal' mate. If you don't attract an 'ideal mate' you won't have children. If you don't have children you are probably a failure as your parents want grand-children and you are not meeting their expectations. Even if you do have children you need to work for more promotions and make more money to support the family, and children are a financial liability in the industrialized world not a extra pair of hands on the farm. Once your children are out of the house and financially independent you can check how much you have in savings, spend the next 10-20 years working hard to have a good retirement, and finally when you are 65+ you can theoretically use that money to finally enjoy life.

It is this very conception you are talking about that is the problem. But this conception is not intertwined with innovation, progression, economic growth or a lack of cooperation. It is just sold that way to you.

Would this be a problem in a hunter-gatherer society? We wouldn't need to be optimal at all times. If you hunt with only half effort, you can still get some food, and no one is going to take your job. Hell, the other hunters are probably half-assing it too because they all know that they're gonna get some food and that's all they need. Hunter gatherers depend on cooperation.
Like many people taking this side you underestimate the difficulties of average life prior to the industrial age. People then didn't just spend half a day looking for food then go home and do mindless 'easy' activities.

I'd challenge you to go live this way. Find a piece of land that is not claimed by other people (so probably not in the US), farm it and hunt with out the use of any manufactured anything including weapons, clothes and shoes. Built your house with only the tools you can create. Find ways to store and keep food from other animals, from environmental effects. How to stay warm in the winter without heat or cool in the summer without AC. I'd even give you a year to do research and take classes using modern things like the internet, cars and planes to make up your lack of upbringing in that environment.

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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby G.v.K » Thu Dec 10, 2009 12:31 am UTC

Zcorp wrote:To many people develop this schema and fail at enjoying anything along the way. In addition we have a large problem with a culture of silence and denying reality. At some point the societal pressure became dealing with shitty situations because changing them hurts other people (even of all parties are currently unhappy) and that we should feel guilty for not being able to get along with some others so we consistently put ourselves in not happy situations.



this point reminds me a little of Burckhardt's writing on renaissance Italy and how a vicious and cruel political instability actually gave birth to some of the greatest works of art, knowledge, science etc.

what if behind our current political stability lies a total lack of courage and real belief in what is important? how many of us just sit back and take it up the arse because the system is simply too big to fight against? of course, as DucksOnATruck wrote, it tends to take a long time just to figure out that you've been on the wrong track anyway, let alone to figure out what might be important to pursue.

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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby DucksOnATruck » Thu Dec 10, 2009 12:37 am UTC

My point wasn't about the ease of living in a hunter-gatherer society. I know it would be physically and mentally demanding, probably much more so than my current life. Difficulty does not equal competition.

My point was about the perceived need for perfection. With less competition, there is less need for perfection, and the (irrational) desire for perfection is what causes a lot of my unhappiness, and I'm betting it is for a lot of people.

EDIT: Also, farming is not really part of hunter-gathering.

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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby Zcorp » Thu Dec 10, 2009 12:50 am UTC

G.v.K wrote:what if behind our current political stability lies a total lack of courage and real belief in what is important? how many of us just sit back and take it up the arse because the system is simply too big to fight against? of course, as DucksOnATruck wrote, it tends to take a long time just to figure out that you've been on the wrong track anyway, let alone to figure out what might be important to pursue.


I'm not understanding what you mean when you juxtapose the political stability to happiness, can you expand on that?
Lots of us sit back and take it up the arse because we think the system is to big to fight against, but at least in the US (assuming things actually work as they appear to) it is that perception the keeps the system to grandiose to change.

When you compromise on some aspect of your happiness within the system to gain some theoretical political benefit we seem to start a chain of events that lead us to the political arena now. Where Philwelch's signature allies fairly well.
Right-wing thought: If you're not with us, you're against us
Left-wing thought: If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem
.

When you start compromising for the least of two evils because you feel to insignificant to change anything you're experiencing learned helplessness. When you're told you need to vote for the Republican because we can't let the Democrat in the White House you are no longer exercising your control nor are you in search of creating a happier environment. If you haven't seen it go check see Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?. Jeff Smith lost his campaign due to people being afraid of the opponent winning rather then being people being opposed to him and his ideas. Politically we make decisions out of fear. We are afraid because we are ignorant. Then through ignorance we perceive ourselves to be politically helpless. When we accept that we are helpless we are in fact helpless. When we feel helpless we are accepting our state of ignorance.The feeling of helplessness is not one that is common among happy people.

Not sure if this addressed what you meant relating to politics and happiness or not.

Edit: Added a response to this.
DucksOnATruck wrote:My point was about the perceived need for perfection. With less competition, there is less need for perfection, and the (irrational) desire for perfection is what causes a lot of my unhappiness, and I'm betting it is for a lot of people.

Aye, need for perfection or at least working towards perfection seems to be the natural state of things. Nature seems to strive to increase complexity and the general postulate and purpose for increasing complexity in every philosophical theory (besides I suppose nihilist ones) is to attain perfection. The problem is not the desire for achieving perfection, the problem comes in trying to define what perfection is and how to get there (Here is one theory on the progress of complexity).

The path that has been set before you by not only your meso and micro spheres (although in your case they seem to be the spheres you let shape your influence the most) but also your exo, macro and chrono spheres (heres a link giving a quick rundown of those concepts). I strongly believe we need to start teaching people to start asking why they are doing things rather the how at a much earlier age (or even teach it at all).

Why do I need to be educated, why do I need a big income, why do I need to be in a relationship, why does it need to be a monogamous one, why shouldn't I kill people who steal my lunch money, why shouldn't I steal that kids lunch money, why work, why have kids, why do anything, why do I exist.

We also need our more intimate spheres of influence to offer much more useful solutions than because thats what the Bible/God says.

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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby G.v.K » Thu Dec 10, 2009 7:50 am UTC

Zcorp wrote:
I'm not understanding what you mean when you juxtapose the political stability to happiness, can you expand on that?
Lots of us sit back and take it up the arse because we think the system is to big to fight against, but at least in the US (assuming things actually work as they appear to) it is that perception the keeps the system to grandiose to change.

When you compromise on some aspect of your happiness within the system to gain some theoretical political benefit we seem to start a chain of events that lead us to the political arena now. Where Philwelch's signature allies fairly well.
Right-wing thought: If you're not with us, you're against us
Left-wing thought: If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem
.

When you start compromising for the least of two evils because you feel to insignificant to change anything you're experiencing learned helplessness. When you're told you need to vote for the Republican because we can't let the Democrat in the White House you are no longer exercising your control nor are you in search of creating a happier environment. If you haven't seen it go check see Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?. Jeff Smith lost his campaign due to people being afraid of the opponent winning rather then being people being opposed to him and his ideas. Politically we make decisions out of fear. We are afraid because we are ignorant. Then through ignorance we perceive ourselves to be politically helpless. When we accept that we are helpless we are in fact helpless. When we feel helpless we are accepting our state of ignorance.The feeling of helplessness is not one that is common among happy people.

Not sure if this addressed what you meant relating to politics and happiness or not.

Edit: Added a response to this.


yeah, i didn't formulate that idea well.

maybe it's not so much political stability, but political involvement. we are ignorant because there is too much information to digest. we don't have the time to properly involve ourselves and we don't know how to make informed voting decisions. assuming politics is about different ideas of how society should work, the current situation points to a lack of real alternatives and lack of power on the part of people to pursue larger scale social ideas.

on the other hand, there's probably more potential now to pursue your own individual objectives if you so choose.

i think we are all programmed to take it easy when things are stable and comfortable. conserving energy would have been useful once upon a time. but when there are extended periods of stability and comfort, it seems we don't know what to do with ourselves. (hence the possibility that war and political instability actually drive us to achieve).

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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby King Author » Sun Dec 27, 2009 11:55 am UTC

guyy wrote:Maybe not, but I think it's an important factor. Developed-nation culture tends to value money and expensive stuff over almost everything else, shifting most kinds of work towards being a means to an end (more stuff), instead of being at all fulfilling in itself. It sort of turns your life into a battle for status and material things, rather than a battle to accomplish good things in the world.

To put that somewhat more clearly, nearly anyone can, in theory at least, build/make things, raise kids, help people in need, etc., and feel some sense of accomplishment from those things. But the game of stuff-collecting is practically unwinnable, because there's nearly always a lot of people with more stuff than you. More and more people in rich countries are learning to value things over achievements, which is, on the whole, not good for their happiness. Actually doing things is generally more rewarding, but a lot of us seem to have forgotten that. (We're all from the B-Ark, after all. And while I'm linking, here's some current comics.)

Bah, you sound like the Communist Manifesto. There's nothing forcing anybody in a materialistic culture to be deep-seatedly materialistic and shallow. Anyone who wants to can leave civilization behind and build a hut in the woods, or start a commune. Humans have a natural tendency to go with the flow and not think of possibilities beyond their everyday mundanities; that's why more people in a materialistic culture are materialistic. It's not the culture itself, it's just the fad-following nature of Man.

Indon wrote:Actually, considering the impact of stress on suicide and other psychological ailments (citation upon request), 'tiring' does seem to equate to 'soul-fracturing' to some degree.

So that could be another factor - not necessarily the unhappiness of not having things, but the expectation ingrained by the consumer culture that you should have those things.

Then perhaps making more people more happy isn't a matter of changing the culture (which is nigh-impossible to contrive) but getting people to change their expectations. Don't try and stop all the "you have to own things to be happy" messages, just teach people not to be affected by them (which is certainly possible). The question then, is "how?"

Dazmilar wrote:I don't think you can write off depressive disorders as lifestyle, and then turn around say, "Aha! it's because of our lifestyle!" And it seems like the kind of point that would need copious amounts of citation to back up. Echo various diagnostic concerns of previous posters.

Uhg, man, don't make me get citations. It's so boring. Just pick up any given introductory psychology textbook; depressive and anxiety disorders are highly influenced by environmental factors (and of course, influenced by genetic factors as well), whereas schizophrenia and similar disorders are highly influenced by genetic factors, but almost unaffected by environmental factors. Put another way, it's easy to have no genetic predisposition to depression and become depressed anyway because of your circumstances in life, but if you have no genetic predisposition to schizophrenia, as the example, it's incredibly rare to develop it due to your enviroment.

I most certainly didn't "write off" depressive disorders as lifestyle. I just said they're much more influenced by lifestyle than things like schizophrenia, and at the same time, we know that schizophrenia incidence is rather consistant worldwide whereas depressive (and anxiety) disorders vary wildly and correlate with a nation's level of industrialization.

Dazmilar wrote:Happiness is a soft, fuzzy term. How exactly are we defining it here? In an evolutionary psychology mode of thought, is there any reason for a species to benefit from a general state of happiness over a general state of mild unhappiness punctuated by brief moments of happiness? The latter, which is how I'd define humans, seems advantageous as a survival drive. Though I admit that in this context it seems more like I'm talking about contentment.

Do we really need to get into the pedantics of definition? "The more industrialized a nation, the more miserable its inhabitants" is the observation, expressed as "why aren't we (in the industrialized nations) happy?" No need to get into a strict definition of happiness.

Vaniver wrote:I wonder if there's anything involved with 'enlightenment'- a lot of things which people enjoy are crude or cruel, and become less common in developed countries, and many downtrodden people expect their place in life while in developed countries, they are promised or told they deserve more.

Say what now? More developed countries are less cruel and crude in their enjoyments? Now that needs some citation. Yeah, bullfighting and cockfighting and dog fighting and generally being horrible towards animals is more common in less-industrialized nations, but one could easily argue that factory farms are far worse. If a million roosters die every year around the world in cockfights, easily a billion die in factory farms, and at least the cockfighters are doing what comes natural to them and die relatively young (if bloodily); factory farmed animals are kept in sickening conditions and fattened up for year after miserable year until they're taken off to the slaughter, which in many cases could be called no better than being killed by a fellow rooster.

But by and large, I'd say the developed nations have much more cruelty-bent forms of entertainment.

guenther wrote:And to the audience at large: Here's another idea I had while driving my car. Many people think of happiness as a goal, but maybe it's more of a symptom of running our lives well. We don't design car engines with the sole goal of having them hum nicely, they're built to do work. But we also know that they work best when they hum nicely, and if they start making bad noises (like mine), then something is going wrong. So back to real life, maybe happiness shouldn't be the goal, but an indication that we're doing some other goal well. (I personally think being good is more important than being happy, and I 've derived a lot of happiness out of pursuing this goal.)

Hm, I'm not really vibing on the analogy. However, I'm not sure how I feel about the precept that "many people think of happiness as a goal." That doesn't seem right. It may be, it just doesn't feel right. Happiness is a state of being, not a singular point like a goal. We're most often aware of happiness in it's absence, not its presence. People just realize they're unhappy, and seek to make changes so that'll change.

Philwelch wrote:There's something you should read: Industrial Society and Its Future by Theodore Kaczynski. Here it is. Try not to be biased too much by the fact that it's written by the Unabomber, it's a very literate, logical, interesting, and challenging read.

Try not to be influenced? I think I've made it clear I'm a college student -- do you have any idea how many college students read Mein Kampf before graduation? :p

DucksOnATruck wrote:I'm a dude with anxiety and mood disorders, so get ready from some anecdotal opinions!

If more people on the internet were honest, those two phrases would fill several terrabytes.

DucksOnATruck wrote:My disorders arose from the constant need to always succeed. In elementary school, I was always told (by parents, teachers, and peers) I had to work hard or else I won't get into the advanced classes in middle school. The same thing happened in middle school, and then high school, and it's still happening in college. I've spent the entirety of my life essentially walking on a narrow bridge across a ravine of failure. Mess up once and it sets off a chain reaction that ends up with me bagging at walmart for the rest of my life.

Not everyone has the same experience as me, but I'm sure that everyone has felt intense pressure that they have be perfect, or else someone better is going to come and take their spot.

You couldn't be more wrong. People like you, me and the folks on SB in general might be likely to feel the pressure towards perfection, but very, very few young people in the current teenage/college-going generation in America are remotely like that. You could call them the "Do-Nothing Generation;" idiots and aimless douchebags by the campusfull, intellectuals by the deskfull.

But I follow what you're saying. Just wanted to chime in and tell you, you're not the average, typical person for your age if you actually worry about being perfect. Most people our age are perfectly content with straight D's. You and I, who have straight A's and are distressed by one B, are rare.

Zcorp wrote:Like many people taking this side you underestimate the difficulties of average life prior to the industrial age. People then didn't just spend half a day looking for food then go home and do mindless 'easy' activities.

I'd challenge you to go live this way. Find a piece of land that is not claimed by other people (so probably not in the US), farm it and hunt with out the use of any manufactured anything including weapons, clothes and shoes. Built your house with only the tools you can create. Find ways to store and keep food from other animals, from environmental effects. How to stay warm in the winter without heat or cool in the summer without AC. I'd even give you a year to do research and take classes using modern things like the internet, cars and planes to make up your lack of upbringing in that environment.

Just wanna poke my head into this conversation and point out that this is a completely bogus hypothetical. First of all because you're suggesting he do it on his own. Any single person living on their own in the wilderness is going to spend all friggin' day working to stay alive, but a small group of even ten people can divide up labor and each individual have a lot more loungin' around time.

Secondly, and more importantly, because taking an adult (for intents and purposes -- I dunno his age specifically but you know what I mean) who grew up all his life in an industrialized culture and dropping him into the wilderness, even with preparation in the form of research, and demanding he survive indefinitely and still have time to waste, is just like taking an adult from a Bushmen tribe, giving him a year of research into stock markets, then dropping him into Wall Street and demanding he Gordon Gecko his way to the top. A human isn't a blank slate; once you write on certain parts, it's virtually impossible to make any significant turnaround. Not completely impossible, but you're more likely to hit the jackpot than change certain things about any given adult from anywhere in the world.

That said, I'm pretty sure cavemen did spend most of their time just doing nothing in particular. Once you take down a mammoth, you've got food and resources for a month. Yeah, you've gotta weave some clothes, repair your tools and invent fire, but once you're done, you spend most of your time dicking around. The concept that people in the past were more hard-working is as silly as the concept that people in the past were more moral. Go spend some time with a tribe in Australia or Africa or South America or somewhere; they don't have a lot to do any given day, because so much of their activity is dictated by the enviroment (the seasons, the time of day, the migration of wild animals) that they can't do much in any given single day.

Of course, your point was that it's not easy, but I don't think DucksOnATruck said so in the first place, just that it's not as perfection-oriented and hectic as life in an industrialized society. It's more slow-paced and forgiving.
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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby Griffin » Mon Dec 28, 2009 4:54 am UTC

Having had depression, and knowing other people who have, there seems to be a few main issues, all of which modern society is pretty good at creating the environmental crux for. The real problem though just seems to bet the horde of smaller issues that rob life of meaning.

We have predominantly shallow relationships, an inability to match expectations to reality, significantly less control over our lives than we are led to believe we have (or should have), few opportunities for real, lasting achievements, relatively messy and abstracted goals and desires (rather than simple things like food and shelter and companionship), a deep insecurity fostered by advertising and the media, a frequent requirement to participate in arbitrary systems and organizations we do not fundamentally understand, a rapidly shortening attention span, a surplus of choices most of which are bad but not obviously so, a host of people will to play up our insecurities for personal gain, a severe lack of exercise, limited exposure to sunlight, poor nutrition and food choices, an increasing importance placed on immediate gratification over delayed, etc. and so on.

In all honesty, its surprising we are generally as happy as we are.
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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby frogman » Mon Dec 28, 2009 5:26 am UTC

In my life, I've found it that I'm happier when I can strive towards something. If you're generally better off, you have less to look forward to, and therefore life is less interesting overall. Just my two cents (I don't write very long posts)
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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby geefont » Mon Dec 28, 2009 7:00 am UTC

It cause we are trained to think too much. let me ask you a question, how many "why are we unhappy?" or "why are Americans fat?" or "why are there wars?" forums how you come across? i have seen hundreds but when is the last time you saw a "things people have done to make other people happy" forum? I'm not trying to pick a fight with the people of this forum or anything. Its just that from my experience the more industrial a nation, the more it tries to solve a problem with thinking rather then action.

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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby G.v.K » Mon Dec 28, 2009 9:20 am UTC

geefont wrote:It cause we are trained to think too much.


i don't think it requires any 'training'. in the absence of real (material) problems, people will come up with imaginary ones. probably, in order to prevent boredom.

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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby guyy » Mon Dec 28, 2009 11:50 am UTC

King Author wrote:Bah, you sound like the Communist Manifesto. There's nothing forcing anybody in a materialistic culture to be deep-seatedly materialistic and shallow. Anyone who wants to can leave civilization behind and build a hut in the woods, or start a commune. Humans have a natural tendency to go with the flow and not think of possibilities beyond their everyday mundanities; that's why more people in a materialistic culture are materialistic. It's not the culture itself, it's just the fad-following nature of Man.


Huh? You can't change people's fad-following tendencies, but you can change culture, which is the fad they're following. Shouldn't we try to fix the thing we can actually change? Or should we do nothing at all?

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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby amyweaver29 » Wed Dec 30, 2009 2:55 am UTC

On a personal note, happiness is a state of mind. Being happy is a decision.

In my pursuit to happiness, I have come to this line: "Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have."

I also have learned to count my blessings - I have to thank God I am alive. I have work - though the pay isn't much but at least I have work. I have my family. The air I breathe may not be unpolluted but at least I can still breathe. I have problems. I can see. I can hear. What a blessing it is to see my daughter grow beautifully and hear her sing while washing the dishes! I can feel - I am hurt, I am happy, I am sad. And, so many more things I can be thankful of God's providence - more than I can count of. More importantly, I have Him. Knowing that, is there a room for me to be unhappy?

Be happy.

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Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby amyweaver29 » Wed Dec 30, 2009 3:06 am UTC

DucksOnATruck wrote:I'm a dude with anxiety and mood disorders, so get ready from some anecdotal opinions!

My disorders arose from the constant need to always succeed. In elementary school, I was always told (by parents, teachers, and peers) I had to work hard or else I won't get into the advanced classes in middle school. The same thing happened in middle school, and then high school, and it's still happening in college. I've spent the entirety of my life essentially walking on a narrow bridge across a ravine of failure. Mess up once and it sets off a chain reaction that ends up with me bagging at walmart for the rest of my life.

Not everyone has the same experience as me, but I'm sure that everyone has felt intense pressure that they have be perfect, or else someone better is going to come and take their spot. Whether or not its school or work, there are always people (or yourself!) hounding your ass to do the best damn job possible, because good enough isn't good enough anymore. Competition drives the free market, and it drives the people fucking insane.

Would this be a problem in a hunter-gatherer society? We wouldn't need to be optimal at all times. If you hunt with only half effort, you can still get some food, and no one is going to take your job. Hell, the other hunters are probably half-assing it too because they all know that they're gonna get some food and that's all they need. Hunter gatherers depend on cooperation.

Everyone applauds competition for driving innovation and economic growth, which I know it does admirably well. The problem is that whoever decided that those were the things we really need must have been a sociopath.



I felt the same way then. I had to be the Valedictorian or Salutatorian in elementary and in high school. I should be still in the Dean's List in college. Yes, it was hard, pressing to be Salutatorian in elementary, Valedictorian in high school, and Cum Laude in college. Also, I had to pass the CPA Board Examination on my first take. That's all I went through because the people around me expected me to be always at the top of the class and as my father had said, "Bring home the bacon."

Yes, it was always to tiring. I wished I was just an ordinary student, caring less except just passing and finishing school. However, as I am looking back, yes, it was really tiring but I made my family happy for all that I have achieved. In doing so, I AM happy. It is my happiness to bring my family pride and happiness.

And, guess who reap the harvest? Me! No other. I know you, too.

Fen
Posts: 2
Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2010 9:16 pm UTC

Re: Why aren't we happy?

Postby Fen » Mon Jan 11, 2010 9:33 pm UTC

2 cents / Random theory from a guy who knows jack about sociology.

I wonder if the mass spread of media contributes also. Before widely disseminated information was available, people were basically split into thousands of small 'tribes' so to speak - villages, towns etc all had their own little communities. So people who were good at something within their own community could feel that they were good at what they were doing, because no-one else around them was better or much better. And if they were of comparable skill, they were probably your friend anyway.

So for example, every town or village would have someone who was really good at, say, playing the piano. Didn't matter if the guy in the next town over was better than you, because you'd probably never meet the guy anyway.

Then TV / music industry comes along, and it takes the very very best piano player out there, and spreads their music into every home. And suddenly everyone else 'isn't good enough' any more, because now everyone only wants to listen to this one person.

Beforehand, being 'on the top of the pile' was, if not easy, reasonably do-able, because there were thousands of little piles, and everyone could feel that they were contributing. Now we're all connected - the whole of the country is one big pile, so now if you want to be 'the best' at something, you have to be the best in the whole country. Heck, the whole friggin' world.


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