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- Publication Date: December 26, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
No one can live happily who has regard to himself alone and transforms everything into a question of his own utility; you must live for your neighbor, if you would live for yourself. (Seneca)
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. (John Donne)
In 1931, at the age of four, my father was diagnosed with polio. He was immediately put into an isolation room at the local hospital in Brooklyn, New York. There was no cure and no vaccine for polio at that time, and city dwellers lived in fear of its spread. So for several weeks my father had no human contact, save for an occasional visit by a masked nurse. His mother came to see him every day, but thats all she could do wave to him and try to talk to him through the glass pane on the door. My father remembers calling out to her, begging her to come in. It must have broken her heart, and one day she ignored the rules and went in. She was caught and sternly reprimanded. My father recovered with no paralysis, but this image has always stayed with me: a small boy alone in a room, looking at his mother through the glass.
My father had the bad luck to be born at the confluence point of three big ideas. The first was germ theory, proposed in the 1840s by Ignaz Semmelweis and incorporated into hospitals and homes with gradually increasing ferocity over the next century. Pediatricians in the 1920s came to fear germs above all else as they began to collect statistics from orphanages and foundling homes. As far back as records went, they showed that most children dropped off at foundling homes died within one year. In 1915, a New York physician, Henry Chapin, reported to the American Pediatric Society that out of the ten foundling homes he had examined, in all but one of them all of the children had died before their second birthday. As pediatricians came to grips with the deadly effects of institutions on young children, they reacted in a logical way by launching a crusade against germs. It became a priority in orphanages and hospitals to isolate children as much as possible in clean cubicles, to prevent them from infecting each other. Beds were separated, dividers were placed between beds, nurses retreated behind masks and gloves, and mothers were scolded for violating quarantine.
The other two big ideas were psychoanalysis and behaviorism. These two theories agreed on very little, but they both agreed that the infants attachment to its mother is based on milk. Freud thought that the infants libido (desire for pleasure) is first satisfied by the breast, and therefore the infant develops its first attachment (psychological need) to the breast. Only gradually does the child generalize that desire to the woman who owns the breast. The behaviorists didnt care about libido, but they too saw the breast as the first reinforcer, the first reward (milk) for the first behavior (sucking). The very heart of behaviorism, if it had one, was conditioning the idea that learning occurs when rewards are conditional upon behaviors. So unconditional love -- holding, nuzzling, and cuddling children for no reason -- was seen as the surest way to make children lazy, spoiled, and weak. Freudians and behaviorists were united in their belief that highly affectionate mothering damages children, and that scientific principles could improve child rearing. Three years before my father entered the hospital, John Watson, the leading American behaviorist (in the years before B. F. Skinner), published the best seller Psychological Care of Infant and Child. Watson wrote of his dream that one day babies would be raised in baby farms, away from the corrupting influences of parents. But until that day arrived, parents were urged to use behaviorist techniques to rear strong children: dont pick them up when they cry, dont cuddle or coddle them, just dole out benefits and punishments for each good and bad action.
How could science have gotten it so wrong? How could doctors and psychologists not have seen that children need love as well as milk? This chapter is about that need the need for other people, for touch, and for close relationships. No man, woman, or child is an island. Scientists have come a long way since John Watson, and there is now a much more humane science of love. The story of this science begins with orphans and rhesus monkeys, and ends with a challenge to the dismal view of love held by many of the ancients, East and West. The heroes of this story are two psychologists who rejected the central tenets of their training: Harry Harlow and John Bowlby. These two men knew that something was missing in behaviorism and in psychoanalysis, respectively. Against great odds they changed their fields, they humanized the treatment of children, and they made it possible for science to greatly improve upon the wisdom of the ancients. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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~ Jonathan Haidt from The Happiness Hypothesis
That’s officially the longest intro quote of any of the Notes I’ve created so far but OMG. Makes you wanna read the whole book, eh?! :)
Jonathan Haidt is a leading positive psychology researcher/professor at the University of Virginia and this book is an incredible look at ten “Great Ideas” from ancient wisdom that he brilliantly analyzes in the light of modern science while helping us apply the super practical stuff to our 21st century lives. It’s a great blend of intellectual rigor, philosophical wisdom and nuts and-bolts practicality that I highly recommend.
If this Note resonates with you, I *definitely* think you’ll love the book. I put it up there with Sonja Lyubomirsky’s How of Happiness and Tal Ben-Shahar’s Pursuit of Perfect and Happier as some must-read positive psychology goodness.
Here are some of the Big Ideas:
1. The Rider & The Elephant - Learn to ride your elephant!
2. Epiphanies - And lasting change.
3. Meditation - The magic pill.
4. Cognitive Therapy - It works.
5. Pulling the Splinter - The joy of taking responsibility.
Let’s get clear on our ultimate purpose and move toward it, lest we step in other people’s elephant poop, yo! :)
More goodness— including PhilosophersNotes on 300+ books in our *OPTIMIZE* membership program. Find out more at brianjohnson . me.
The overriding metaphor of the book involves portraying the mind as as an elephant and its rider, which Haidt uses to explore the insights of evolutionary psychology. Crucial here is the distinction between automatic and controlled processes. The rider represents rationality (a controlled process), which has evolved to serve the elephant, which represents everything else (automatic processing such as intuitions, instincts and visceral reactions.) The rider and elephant work best when they work together, and the rider can influence the elephant, but the rider is not in charge, and Haidt elaborates how and why the interaction between rider and elephant is often dysfunctional. Though the notion that the mind is divided is hardly novel, Haidt provides a thought provoking, scientifically updated and defensible interpretation of this point of view.
Haidt views the notion that “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” as the root of much ancient wisdom. Haidt sees this Stoic and Eastern quest for serenity through acceptance as having beneficial aspects, but considers it as only part of the happiness equation. And to the extent that this quest is important, a particular criticism of the Western sages is that their valorization of reasoned insight as a freedom producing tool does not accord with our modern understanding of the mind. Though I’m sure Haidt would not dissuade a reader from tackling Marcus Aurelius or Boethius, he prefers cognitive behavioral therapy as a scientifically updated version of Boethius-like cognitive reframing activities that takes account of the powerful Elephant and its tendency-as seen through our evolved negativity bias-to be be pessimistic. As Haidt puts it: “Cognitive therapy works because it teaches the rider how to train the elephant rather than how to defeat it directly in an argument.” Haidt is also a big fan of meditation, an ancient practice that tames and calms the elephant directly. Haidt also is a supporter of SSRI’s like Prozac, and thinks that since our affective style-which reflects the balance of power between our approach and withdrawal systems-turns out to be largely genetically determined (though meditation and cognitive therapy shows there is obviously some room for self-improvement), SSRI’s can benefit some losers of the “cortical lottery” who otherwise might have very limited prospects for relief from depression, anxiety and the like.
Haidt points out that group life is enabled to a great degree by reciprocal “tit for tat” strategizing, and says such behavior is absolutely critical for personal happiness. However, there are problematic complications. Seeming to be a good team player is more practically important than the reality, and persuading others of our good intentions works better when we are convinced of these intentions ourselves regardless of the facts. Haidt notes “we are well-armed for battle in a Machiavellian world of reputation manipulation, and one of our most important weapons is the delusion that we are non-combatants.” This applies both to persons as individuals and to persons to the extent they identify as members of groups. Haidt explores concepts like the inner lawyer, the rose-colored mirror, naive realism, and the myth of pure evil to argue that we have come equipped with evolved cognitive processes that predispose us to hypocrisy, self-righteousness, and moralistic conflict. Haidt also thinks evolutionary pressures have certainly contributed to often joyless “rat race” pursuits and their accompanying worries: “the elephant cares about prestige, not happiness.”
Pursuing happiness necessitates becoming aware of and dissatisfied with the various self-promoting games we all tend to play-see his discussion regarding the progress and adaptation principles and the resulting weak relationship between environment and happiness-and striking out in a new direction. Haidt thinks that adversity is crucial for helping people to reassess and make meaningful alterations in their lives, and to develop greater coherence across what he takes to be the three levels of personality (basic traits, characteristic adaptations, and life story), all of which promotes human flourishing. He talks a lot about post traumatic growth-and he thinks that this insight if taken seriously has profound implications for how we structure our society and our lives. Haidt acknowledges, though, that one can experience too much adversity, and that it can strike at unhelpful stages in life. He thinks that adversity tends to be most profitable if experienced when one is in his/her 20’s. Though Haidt doesn’t mention it in his book, an obvious application here applies to college campuses. Haidt is a well known defender of free speech at the University level who laments the stultifying effects of PC orthodoxy on intellectual inquiry; if he is right about the 20’s being the best time to experience post-traumatic growth, than one could also criticize PC “snowflake culture” on the contemporary college campus as a factor inhibiting personal development because of excessive sheltering.
Haidt provides a Happiness equation, H=S+C+V, where S stands for the biological set point (the affective style, which can be altered to a degree), C stands for conditions (some of which are inalterable and others which can be changed), and V stands for voluntary activities. A stoic or an Eastern sage would define the happiness equation as merely H=S+V, with the voluntary activities in question being those that promote serene acceptance, thereby improving S. Haidt builds on this beginning, however, insisting that yes, there are conditions and other voluntary activities that matter. Meaningful relationships are important for Haidt, and by exploring attachment theory, he particularly argues for companionate love as a condition that definitely bolsters happiness. And utilizing the scholarship of Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, he points to activities that promote “flow” as part of the happiness equation as well. Summing up, if what one might call “the wisdom of the East” taught that happiness was to be found within, Haidt says that it is to be found within and without, though we need to be very discerning about where to look for it outside ourselves.
Haidt refines his outlook on happiness even further. We can find love in relationships and strive to find flow-ideally in our work-but Haidt goes further by speaking of “vital engagement,” a relationship to the world that is characterized both by experiences of flow and by meaning. Haidt’s vital engagement prioritizes journey over destination, an outlook that accords well with what he has to say about the effectance motive and the related progress principle. For Haidt, vital engagement is another way of saying that work has become love made visible. Haidt’s revised outlook on happiness is that it “comes from between;” since vital engagement exists in the relationship between the person and the environment, this right relationship is not entirely up to the individual.
Accordingly, Haidt emphasizes the importance of cross-level coherence between the physical, psychological, and sociocultural realms for creating a sense of meaning conducive to happiness. The liberal atheist Haidt-he has since started calling himself a political centrist- thus appreciates conservative, durkheimian insights into the importance of “community” for human flourishing, views the “character” approach to ethics as superior to the long dominant rationalist “quandry” approach, sees virtuous behavior as conducive to happiness, conceives of the perception of the “divine” as natural to man and as ennobling, regardless of whether or not God actually exists, and writes appreciatively of the work of David Sloan Wilson regarding religion as a evolutionary group adaptation designed to promote cross-level coherence. Haidt thinks the scientific community should accept religiosity as a normal and healthy aspect of human nature, and that maybe non-religious people can learn something from religious people, whether or not they believe in God.
Haidt’s book was a pleasure to read, and has spurred my interest regarding many authors and texts he weaves into his argument. In addition to opening new vistas and providing food for thought over a host of topics, evolutionary psychology in Haidt’s hands helps support time honored components of the “good life” such as family, vocational calling, faith, and community. And his own academic career strikes me as an example of the vital engagement he valorizes.
This book is definitely worth a read.
Top international reviews
But I found this book extremely helpful and the author explains the happiness hypothesis by comparing modern psychology as well as old religious scriptures (with great emphasis on Buddhist and Hindu scriptures).
I like how he went on to question and even in some cases challenge the happiness principles of old scriptures.
I would definitely recommend this book for one reason only. It has challenged my beliefs and encouraged me to think and question a lot of ideas in my mind. It has motivated to have an inner debate in my previously held beliefs.
This is going to be a very interesting read irrespective of your professional background. I would definitely recommend you to invest in this book.
Automatic processes, on the other hand, have been through thousands of product cycles and are nearly perfect. This difference in maturity between automatic and controlled processes helps explain why we have inexpensive computers that can solve logic, math, and chess problems better than any human beings can (most of us struggle with these tasks), but none of our robots, no matter how costly, can walk through the woods as well as the average six-year-old child (our perceptual and motor systems are superb).
I believe the Scottish philosopher David Hume was closer to the truth than was Plato when he said, “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.”
Two people feel strongly about an issue, their feelings come first, and their reasons are invented on the fly, to throw at each other. When you refute a person’s argument, does she generally change her mind and agree with you? Of course not, because the argument you defeated was not the cause of her position; it was made up after the judgment was already made.
In moral arguments, the rider goes beyond being just an advisor to the elephant; he becomes a lawyer, fighting in the court of public opinion to persuade others of the elephant’s point of view.
What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind. —BUDDHA
Beck’s discovery is that you can break the cycle by changing the thoughts. A big part of cognitive therapy is training clients to catch their thoughts, write them down, name the distortions, and then find alternative and more accurate ways of thinking.
Dunbar suggests that language evolved as a replacement for physical grooming. Language allows small groups of people to bond quickly and to learn from each other about the bonds of others. Dunbar notes that people do in fact use language primarily to talk about other people—to find out who is doing what to whom, who is coupling with whom, who is fighting with whom. And Dunbar points out that in our ultrasocial species, success is largely a matter of playing the social game well.
Gossip creates a non-zero-sum game because it costs us nothing to give each other information, yet we both benefit by receiving information.
Gossip extends our moral-emotional toolkit. In a gossipy world, we don’t just feel vengeance and gratitude toward those who hurt or help us; we feel pale but still instructive flashes of contempt and anger toward people whom we might not even know. We feel vicarious shame and embarrassment when we hear about people whose schemes, lusts, and private failings are exposed. Gossip is a policeman and a teacher. Without it, there would be chaos and ignorance.
Franklin concluded: “So convenient a thing is it to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for every thing one has a mind to do.”
Meditation is the Eastern way of training yourself to take things philosophically.
We can call this “the progress principle”: Pleasure comes more from making progress toward goals than from achieving them.
This is the adaptation principle at work: People’s judgments about their present state are based on whether it is better or worse than the state to which they have become accustomed. Adaptation is, in part, just a property of neurons: Nerve cells respond vigorously to new stimuli, but gradually they “habituate,” firing less to stimuli that they have become used to. It is change that contains vital information, not steady states.
In every permanent situation, where there is no expectation of change, the mind of every man, in a longer or shorter time, returns to its natural and usual state of tranquility. In prosperity, after a certain time, it falls back to that state; in adversity, after a certain time, it rises up to it.
Buddha, Epictetus, and many other sages saw the futility of the rat race and urged people to quit. They proposed a particular happiness hypothesis: Happiness comes from within, and it cannot be found by making the world conform to your desires. Buddhism teaches that attachment leads inevitably to suffering and offers tools for breaking attachments. The Stoic philosophers of Ancient Greece, such as Epictetus, taught their followers to focus only on what they could fully control, which meant primarily their own thoughts and reactions. All other events—the gifts and curses of fortune—were externals, and the true Stoic was unaffected by externals. Neither Buddha nor the Stoics urged people to withdraw into a cave. In fact, both doctrines have such enduring appeal precisely because they offer guidance on how to find peace and happiness while participating in a treacherous and ever-changing social world. Both doctrines are based on an empirical claim, a happiness hypothesis that asserts that striving to obtain goods and goals in the external world cannot bring you more than momentary happiness. You must work on your internal world.
The Bhagavad Gita is a Hindu treatise on nonattachment.
Pleasures should be both savored and varied. The French know how to do this: They eat many fatty foods, yet they end up thinner and healthier than Americans, and they derive a great deal more pleasure from their food by eating slowly and paying more attention to the food as they eat it. Because they savor, they ultimately eat less.
The big finding was that people experienced longer-lasting improvements in mood from the kindness and gratitude activities than from those in which they indulged themselves. Even though people were most nervous about doing the kindness and gratitude activities, which required them to violate social norms and risk embarrassment, once they actually did the activities they felt better for the rest of the day.
Performing a random act of kindness every day could get tedious, but if you know your strengths and draw up a list of five activities that engage them, you can surely add at least one gratification to every day. Studies that have assigned people to perform a random act of kindness every week, or to count their blessings regularly for several weeks, find small but sustained increases in happiness
Most activities that cost more than a hundred dollars are things we do with other people, but expensive material possessions are often purchased in part to impress other people. Activities connect us to others; objects often separate us.
As a first step, work less, earn less, accumulate less, and “consume” more family time, vacations, and other enjoyable activities.
Modern life is full of traps. Some of these traps are set by marketers and advertisers who know just what the elephant wants—and it isn’t happiness.
If you want your children to grow up to be healthy and independent, you should hold them, hug them, cuddle them, and love them. Give them a secure base and they will explore and then conquer the world on their own.
Sex is for reproduction; lasting love is for mothers and children. So why are people so different?
True love exists, I believe, but it is not—cannot be—passion that lasts forever. True love, the love that undergirds strong marriages, is simply strong companionate love, with some added passion, between two people who are firmly committed to each other.
There are several reasons why real human love might make philosophers uncomfortable. First, passionate love is notorious for making people illogical and irrational, and Western philosophers have long thought that morality is grounded in rationality.
Durkheim concluded that people need obligations and constraints to provide structure and meaning to their lives: “The more weakened the groups to which [a man] belongs, the less he depends on them, the more he consequently depends only on himself and recognizes no other rules of conduct than what are founded on his private interests.”
The second class of benefit concerns relationships. Adversity is a filter.
But adversity doesn’t just separate the fair-weather friends from the true; it strengthens relationships and it opens people’s hearts to one another.
Trauma seems to shut off the motivation to play Machiavellian tit for tat with its emphasis on self-promotion and competition.
This change in ways of relating points to the third common benefit: Trauma changes priorities and philosophies toward the present (“Live each day to the fullest”) and toward other people.
I don’t want to celebrate suffering, prescribe it for everyone, or minimize the moral imperative to reduce it where we can. I don’t want to ignore the pain that ripples out from each diagnosis of cancer, spreading fear along lines of kinship and friendship. I want only to make the point that suffering is not always all bad for all people. There is usually some good mixed in with the bad, and those who find it have found something precious: a key to moral and spiritual development.
When people report having grown after coping with adversity, they could be trying to describe a new sense of inner coherence. This coherence might not be visible to one’s friends, but it feels like growth, strength, maturity, and wisdom from the inside.
I saw the right way and approved it, but followed the wrong, until an emotion came along to provide some force.
MacIntyre says that the loss of a language of virtue, grounded in a particular tradition, makes it difficult for us to find meaning, coherence, and purpose in life.
The vastness and beauty of nature similarly stirs the soul. Immanuel Kant explicitly linked morality and nature when he declared that the two causes of genuine awe are “the starry sky above and the moral law within.”
In the happiness formula from chapter 5, H(appiness) = S(etpoint) + C(onditions) + V(oluntary activities), what exactly is C? The biggest part of C, as I said in chapter 6, is love. No man, woman, or child is an island. We are ultrasocial creatures, and we can’t be happy without having friends and secure attachments to other people. The second most important part of C is having and pursuing the right goals, in order to create states of flow and engagement. In the modern world, people can find goals and flow in many settings, but most people find most of their flow at work.
Effectance is almost as basic a need as food and water, yet it is not a deficit need, like hunger, that is satisfied and then disappears for a few hours.
More recent research finds that most people approach their work in one of three ways: as a job, a career, or a calling.
Love and work are crucial for human happiness because, when done well, they draw us out of ourselves and into connection with people and projects beyond ourselves. Happiness comes from getting these connections right. Happiness comes not just from within, as Buddha and Epictetus supposed, or even from a combination of internal and external factors (as I suggested as a temporary fix at the end of chapter 5). The correct version of the happiness hypothesis, as I’ll illustrate below, is that happiness comes from between.
Plants thrive under particular conditions, and biologists can now tell us how sunlight and water get converted into plant growth. People thrive under particular conditions, and psychologists can now tell us how love and work get converted into happiness and a sense of meaning.
Here is one of the most profound ideas to come from the ongoing synthesis: People gain a sense of meaning when their lives cohere across the three levels of their existence.
Travailler et aimer. Travailler pour ceux et ce qu'on aime, aimer notre travail; ressentir et juger tacitement de la contribution de notre effort à un but plus large ; accroître ses compétences (sa capacité de contrôle d'un environnement fût-il un jardin) : tel est une des clefs de cet ouvrage riche et stimulant.
mots clefs : effectance, vital engagement, flow, self-disclosure, adversity hypothesis, autonomy-, community-, divinity-ethics, quandary moral, virtue & character moral
1- Nossas formas divididas de pensar e agir
2- Nosso nível de felicidade, o que o influência e como podemos melhorá-lo
3- Reciprocidade, vingança e a convivência social, inclusive com um detalhamento da evolução de nossos mecanismos.
4- Nossa grande tendência a nos achar melhor que as médias e colocar a culpa nos outros.
5- A busca pela felicidade
6- O amor e as ligações (apego) humano
7- As adversidades em nossas vidas, suas consequências e como lidamos com elas.
8- As virtudes da Felicidade (com grande atenção a análises históricas)
9 - Divindade com ou sem Deus e nossa natureza.
10- O equilíbrio para felicidade