What’s so bad about being happy?
We’re a happiness website, so we obviously believe that being happy, positive, and satisfied with life is a reasonable, attainable, and worthy goal. But we’re cognizant of the phenomenon of people steering clear of such feelings—in fact, it’s part of the motivation for the DailyHap community. To normalize the pursuit of happiness, you need to feel supported and validated.
Scientists Mohsen Joshanloo and Dan Weijers of the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand recently published a review of why and where people are averse to happiness in Springer’s Journal of Happiness Studies.
“Many individuals and cultures do tend to be averse to some forms of happiness, especially when taken to the extreme, for many different reasons,” say the researchers. “Some of the beliefs about the negative consequences of happiness seem to be exaggerations, often spurred by superstition or timeless advice on how to enjoy a pleasant or prosperous life.”
In both Western and non-Western cultures, some people side-step happiness because they believe that being happy makes them a worse person and that others may see them as selfish, boring or shallow. People in non-Western cultures, such as Iran and neighboring countries, worry that their peers, an “evil eye” or some other supernatural deity might resent their happiness and that they will eventually suffer any number of severe consequences.
An aversion to happiness exists in both Western and non-Western cultures, although happiness is more valued in the West. According to the reviewers, Western cultures are more driven by an urge to maximize happiness and minimize sadness. In non-Western cultures, though, the ideals of harmony and conformity are often at odds with the pursuit of personal happiness and the endorsement of individualistic values.
In general—though we know there are flaws with any blanket statement like this—we believe that individual happiness will lead to collective happiness.
How do you view the pursuit of happiness? Especially if you’ve been following us for awhile, how (if) has your perception changed over the course of your happiness awareness journey?