Being Happy Does Not Make One Right

The optimist’s impatience with or condemnation of pessimism often has a smug macho tone to it (although males have no monopoly of it).  There is a scorn for the perceived weakness of the pessimist who should instead ‘grin and bear it’.  This view is defective for the same reason that macho views about other kinds of suffering are defective.  It is an indifference to or inappropriate denial of suffering, whether one’s own or that of others.  The injunction to ‘look on the bright side’ should be greeted with a large dose of both skepticism and cynicism.  Cheery optimists have a much less realistic view of themselves than do those who are depressed.  ~ David Benatar (Better Never To Have Been)

See Illusion and Well-Being: A Social Psychological Perspective on Mental Health

The perception of reality is called mentally healthy when what the individual sees corresponds to what is actually there. Illusion is defined as a perception that represents what is perceived in a way different from the way it is in reality. An illusion is a false mental image or conception which may be a misinterpretation of a real appearance or may be something imagined. It may be pleasing, harmless, or even useful. (Stein 1982)

Can one ever know reality? What if one can’t handle the truth? What if, in order to protect one’s psyche from fully perceiving a world of DNA run amock, surviving for the sake of surviving, with no purpose whatsoever, blocks out that reality? What if illusion is actually manufactured for the masses intentionally so that they remain distracted chasing things they think they want (like continued existence, a career, an automobile, a mate, offspring, etc)?

As difficult as it may be for some people to admit, most people are not nearly as content as they themselves think they are. In fact, having access to more resources does not necessarily diminish dissatisfaction. It often aggravates dissatisfaction, where one needs more and more distractions in order to maintain illusions of ontological security and personal fulfillment.

Paradoxically, so-called depressed or negative people might be more content and more grounded in reality than those who profess to be happy or positive people. It is quite possible for one to be unrealistically positive.

In contrast to the extremely positive view of the future displayed by normal individuals, mildly depressed people and those with low self-esteem appear to entertain more balanced assessments of their likely future circumstances (Taylor, Brown 1988)

An attribute of many psychologically disturbed people is an inability to monitor reality effectively, and the so-called healthy individual may be portrayed as one who maintains very close contact with reality. Recall Erich Fromm’s work The Sane Society. How ironic that mass hypnosis could bring about a situation where those who see things as they really are most clearly may be viewed as “mentally ill” because they are depressed or don’t want to work or reproduce, while those who are unrealistically optimistic with a positive attitude may have very little contact with actual reality.

To be continued …


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