Cursed With a Conscience

marvels and musings of a normal girl in a wacky world.

The Perks of Being a Wallower

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Time magazine Journalist Susan David notes: “The paradox of happiness is that deliberately striving for it is fundamentally incompatible with the nature of happiness itself.”

My interest in the enigma  of “happiness” has persisted for many years, due in large part to my excessively analytical, self-conscious, and at times melancholic personality. I constantly wonder: is happiness the mathematical product of set variables? Does it derive from life circumstances that are inherently good or bad? Are certain emotions correlates or symptoms of happiness, or it’s counterpart?

My intrigue with this subject was recently renewed when I stumbled upon an article in Time magazine called “Don’t Worry, Be Gloomy: Negative Feelings have Benefits Too”. Being one married to stress, anxiety, and all it’s relatives, I was curious to learn why these emotions might actually serve me. Was it possible that feeling  the emotions seemingly contradictory to happiness could, in fact, augment my well being?

This article, and a wealth of other research on this subject of happiness, explain how stereotypically “negative” emotions, such as anger, envy, stress, sadness, shame, anxiety and fear, can actually serve positive purposes. Psychology Today states, “Negative emotions are not only crucial to our existence but also—ironically—to feeling good. To live optimally in the world and endure its challenges, it’s necessary to engage the full range of psychological states we’ve inherited as humans.”

Anger, for example, occurs when we feel we are being undervalued. We respond with anger to prevent ourselves from being exploited; it leads us to advocate for our own well being and to assert our self-worth. According to Pyschology Today, anger also “boosts confidence, optimism and risk taking”, which can have very positive outcomes.

Anxiety can also be useful. When we are anxious, we are more active, aware, and stimulated. In addition, it can “point to ways in which we’re not being true to ourselves”, ways in which our actions “don’t align with our deepest values.” Anxiety can serve a “corrective purpose”, bringing us back on our rightful track.

Similarly advantageous, envy can make us strive to be better, and fear helps us avoid or escape danger. Shame conveys humility and remorse, which increases our likeability and often attracts compassion from others. Regret motivates corrective action and teaches us important lessons. Skepticism helps us form arguments and use unbiased reasoning.

Ultimately, Susan David reminds us that negative moods “summon a more attentive, accommodating thinking style” that leads us to “examine facts in a fresh and creative way.” She maintains: ” It’s when we’re in a bit of a funk that we focus and dig down.”

So is the state of temporary bliss really conducive to self-improvement? Personal well-being? Long-term happiness? Not necessarily. In fact, studies show that people in a state of “happiness” tend to be more gullible, accept easy answers, jump to conclusions, and avoid challenges. They also expect things that are unrealistic, resulting in disappointment and resentment.

Happiness, then, is not the result of everything going our way. It’s not the cheery outcome of avoiding challenges and tough realities. So, next time you find yourself in a funk, beset with anger, fear, shame, envy or anxiety, I invite you to find solace in these words from the infamous Mark Twain:

“Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.”

Amen. Be calm and grouch on, my friends 🙂


Author: emmaroseblog

Hello everyone! For those who are visiting my blog and do not know me well, I will say right away that I consider myself to be a "what you see is what you get" type of girl. I am very candid and expressive, and prefer to be direct and honest in my interactions with the world. With that said, I do feel there is a lot to know about me that is not easy to tap into or read on a first impression basis- I have been known to really surprise people who judge me too quickly, or from too great a distance. In short, my name is Emma Secker. I’m a Super -senior English major at SDSU (with a psych/ interdisciplinary studies double minor). I love the company of good friends and family, going out and about on ( a probably too frequent) occasion, enjoying long, scenic runs on the beach, reading for school or leisure, and traveling whenever I get the chance. These activities barely skim the surface of who I am and what I like to do, which is why I have decided to start blogging. Because I do not feel that surface information such as this can do justice to one’s deeper self, I'm using this blog as a medium to express myself in a less general, sweeping manner, and a more acute, insightful one. The best way for others to understand you in meaningful depth is to open up your mind so others can view in. So there you have it, tune into my blog and hopefully you will come to understand me a little bit better, and like at least some of what you see. Cheers!

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