23 Mar If you want happiness, should you talk about happiness?
Check out this interesting article by my friend in happiness, Jeremey McCarthy
If you saw the movie Fight Club, you may remember Brad Pitt as the colorful Tyler Durden, sharing the rules of Fight Club: “The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club.” (The second rule, by the way, is “you DO NOT talk about Fight Club.”) Similarly, the first rule of happiness seems to be: You do not talk about happiness.
I say this because I am seeing a backlash against happiness not only in mainstream culture, but even among those in the positive psychology community. Todd Kashdan, for example, a psychologist from George Mason University recently wrote about “The Problem with Happiness” on his Huffington Post blog. The gist was that the relentless pressure to be happy in American culture is causing everyone to be miserable. Just last week, the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled, “Is Happiness Overrated?“ And this week, City Journal published a thought provoking article on “the Western cult of happiness” entitled, “Condemned to Joy.”
At a recent alumni event for graduates of UPenn’s positive psychology program, former students discussed the challenges of being taken seriously when trying to promote or sell happiness. Many people who work in the field massage the language to make it sound more relevant, and so we see programs being sold to businesses promoting “wellbeing” and programs for the military offering (the much tougher sounding) “resilience.” In “Well-Being for Public Policy ,” the authors (Diener, Lucas, Schimmack, & Helliwell) explain why they chose well-being rather than happiness as a focal point. A focus on happiness, they say, “could be easily dismissed as a superficial and misguided attempt to distract people from more important concerns.”
It is only natural to see a backlash against happiness when you consider our growing obsession with it over recent years. Programs, speakers and books on happiness have all risen to the tops of the charts with titles like “The Happiness Hypothesis,” “The How of Happiness,” “Happier,” or just plain “Happiness.” (These are all on my bookshelf by the way, and I recommend them.) But they do leave some people asking, “with all these books on happiness, why aren’t we happier?”
Now we are seeing the pendulum swing the other way…