By now, I have written +400 blog posts on Positive Psychology and given +30 talks and presentations for different audiences, mostly in the realm of business. While I receive a lot of positive feedback (referring to the PP content; I´m not talking about my presentation style here), quite obviously, I also get some pushback once in a while. Over time, I´ve come to notice that most of the counterarguments I hear are based on a rather small set of “shared (mis-)conceptions”. I guess, a lot of these arise over time due to the fact that – for the sake of brevity – speeches and news articles on Positive Psychology have to simplify and overgeneralize their messages in order to get their points across. In order to structure my own thoughts vis-à-vis this situation – but also for discussion – in the following, you´ll find…
10 Propositions regarding (Positive) Emotions, especially Happiness
1) I feel, therefore I am. Emotions are among the very few constants in life. Where´s the consciousness, there´s emotion. They may not always be strong, and we may not always be aware – but they are there.
2) All emotions are valid and adaptive, depending on context and dose.
3) In excess, every emotion can and probably will have detrimental side effects.
4) Different emotions will have different consequences (e.g., for our overall health or the perception of “meaning in life”), especially in high doses and in the long-term.
5) Feelings are contagious and therefore, (almost) always “social”: What we do unto ourselves, we do unto others (to some degree). With that, there comes a responsibility.
6) Happiness is mostly used as an umbrella term, it comes in many different forms and sizes (e.g. serenity, exhilaration, relaxation).
7) Feeling happy is not a (or the) goal in life itself, it’s a “positive side effect” of certain behavior patterns and thinking styles.
8) Feeling happy is not shallow. At least, it´s not shallower than experiencing sadness, anger, or any other kind of emotion.
9) Feeling mostly happy requires effort, at least more work than feeling mostly unhappy (especially with regard to people displaying certain unfavorable genetic predispositions).
10) We seldom feel pure emotions. In most situations, we have several feelings at the same time. Quite often, they display a somewhat antagonistic structure (e.g., experiencing a bittersweet moment; or feeling proud of having been humble).
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