Saturday, June 3, 2017

"Stumbling on Happiness"

-by daniel gilbert
A charming book, that proposes a definitive completion to the endlessly iterated (and eternally debunked) proposition that "humans are the only animals that BLANK". Every time we've tried to finish that sentence (make tools, have culture, use drugs...), our puffed-up arrogance has eventually gone pfffffffffft. But now, NOW, gilbert finally has the correct sentence (or not...perhaps our compulsive need to finish that sentence merely reveals a pathological need to justify our behavior or expunge our murderer's guilt). For what it's worth, gilbert tells us that humans are the only animal that projects its own existence into the future, and thus we're the only creature constantly making decisions based on what we THINK will make us happy years or decades from now. He explores our biology, and our singularly enormous frontal brain lobe. He then illuminates the aspects of human psychology that make us so horribly bad at our aforementioned happiness-projections...namely, that our capacity for self-delusion in the service of ego seems almost limitless, and that we also never stop making the mistake of basing our future state of mind on the limits of our current state of mind. We're also profoundly geared toward needing a good self-image...and to that end, we subconsciously let the truth be damned! We always report a high level of happiness with conditions we're STUCK with (a marriage, a bought car, a circumcision), but are more truthful with ourselves about conditions we can jettison easily (a girlfriend/boyfriend, a leased/rented car, a piercing). For example, we always pay lip service to the notion that parenthood is a source of profoundest joy, when in-depth studies reveal that parental happiness takes a universal dive after children are born, never to return to original levels until the kids have left the nest. Gilbert's main thrust, advice-wise, is to urge us to trust the advice of others who have greater experience. Time and again, studies show that method to be more reliable than our own guesses...yet (surprise?), we seem profoundly resistant to such advice.
A fascinating book, and a wonderful read. In this day and age, it always seems that the psychological profession is farthest behind the curve, relative to the speed with which the other sciences teach us new things about human nature. Thank you for restoring my faith a bit, daniel.

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