Solely In Black and White: Crazy Happy?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Crazy Happy?

Happy people are crazy, at least based on the premise that happiness is a product of the mind. Yup, that seems to be the way it is, or at least it just seems to be; because to be “truly” happy you must be crazy. Granted, crazy is relative. ;-) But with so much pain and suffering abound, as well as life’s little annoyances that crop up on a day-to-day basis, that it would take some pure insanity to be truly happy. Yet, as resilient and resourceful humans we somehow manage to be happy. However, perhaps that is no longer happiness but merely contentment and our goal of attaining happiness is misguided? Obviously, some people are more inclined to be happy than others based on some factors, like this guy: 

See what I am saying?  8-| Surely that cannot be the case! :-p What happened to the pursuit of happiness? Is it mealy a pursuit to find the minimum level of gratification or is it something more? Maybe happiness is a byproduct of our imagination and has nothing to do with reality, which case is point, would imply that being happy requires one to achieve a minimal level of psychosis in order to remove themselves from their own personal reality. One can argue that happiness is purely a fictitious belief, at least in the realm of the tangible real world, and therefore doesn’t truly matter since the only “happiness” that truly matters is true spiritual “simcha.” However, even so the term happiness would still need to be weighed as matter of the mind compounded with the fact that on some basic level ever human must feel happy. 

Crazy Kawaii Bot
So this leaves us with a very interesting and quite a bizarre situation, at least on a cognitive theoretical level. How is that we can be happy yet be sane…? Well… according to some academics (particularly a fellow by the name of Richard P. Bentall) we can’t be. That’s right! There are wise scholars, well at least one, who would like to classify happiness as a mental disorder, albeit pleasant, based on many factors. Take a look at the excerpt below for some examples of his argument as outlined from the article. And who knows; maybe this guy is right. With his theory we could explain often decried “engagedness” of engaged people (such as bridezilla syndrome etc…) and the peculiar behaviors of newlyweds that seem to make people role their eyes… and the examples go on and on…. So maybe this guy is on to something or not…! 

Excerpts from Richard P. Bentall’s article in The Journal or Medical Ethics (1992) titled: A Proposal to Classify Happiness as a Psychiatric Disorder. 

The epidemiology of happiness has hardly been researched. Although it seems likely that happiness is a relatively rare phenomenon, exact incidence rates must depend on the criteria for happiness employed in any particular survey. Thus, although Warr and Payne found that as many as 25 per cent of a British sample said that they were 'very pleased with things yesterday', Andrews and Withey (7), studying a large US smlple, found that only 5.5 per cent of their subjects rated themselves as scoring maximum on a nine-point scale of life-satisfaction. 

Since the emergence of the profession of psychiatry in the nineteenth century it has commonly been assumed that psychiatric disorders are forms of disease. Whilst this has not gone unchallenged in recent years it remains so pervasive within mental health professions that the demonstration that happiness qualifies as a disease would be a powerful argument for including it within future nosologies of psychiatric disorder. 

Thus, there is consistent evidence that happy people overestimate their control over environmental events (often to the point of perceiving completely random events as subject their will), give unrealistically positive evaluations of their own achievements, believe that others share their unrealistic opinions about themselves, and show a general lack of' evenhandedness when comparing themselves to others. 

I have argued that happiness meet all reasonable criteria for a psychiatric disorder. It is statistically abnormal, consists of a discrete cluster of symptoms, there is at least some evidence that it reflects the abnormal functioning of the central nervous system, and it is associated with various cognitive abnormalities - in particular, a lack of contact with reality. Acceptance of these arguments leads to the obvious conclusion that happiness should be included in future studies of mental illness, probably as a form of affective disorder. This would place it on Axis of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. 

In any event, once the debilitating consequences of happiness become widely recognized it is likely that psychiatrists will begin to devise treatments for the condition and we can expect the emergence of happiness clinics and anti-happiness medications in the not too distant future. 

The second, related objection to the proposal that happiness be regarded as a psychiatric disorder points to the fact that happiness is not normally negatively valued. Indeed, it is testimony to the insidious effects of happiness on some of the greatest minds in history that some philosophers have argued that the pursuit of happiness is the ultimate aim of all human endeavors. However, it is notable that even some of those who have been rash enough to advocate the greatest happiness for the greatest number have been explicit in rejecting those extreme forms of happiness associated with gluttony of the senses. 

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