In A Dark Side of Happiness

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Psychologists, June Gruber, along with her colleagues, Iris Mauss & Maya Tamir, discuss their findings in “A Dark Side of Happiness?” Gruber’s purpose is to expand on the idea with her team that there is in fact a dark side to happiness. Gruber adopts an educational and informative tone throughout the article in an attempt to relate to other colleagues conducting peer review or others that are simply reading the information on this new found study.

Gruber opens up her paper with an abstract informing the audience on exactly what they should expect to find before they continue reading on. By doing this, Gruber has already expressed exactly which audience she is targeting which would be fellow colleagues in the psychology field, medical field and students aspiring to someday be in the felid of psychology.

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In the opening page, Gruber starts off with a quote by Aristotle. The opening quote sets the tone for the entire paper by having the reader question if the pursuit of anything or having anything in abundance can result in a negative feeling. Once Gruber gets the audience to question themselves, she comes in with her theory on why the pursuit of happiness can lead to negative feelings such as depression. This was a great tactic simply because she quickly obtained the readers’ interest and presented her theory all before the reader could notice what just happened.

Later on, June makes a reference as to how happiness is now in high-demand among people in this present time. She makes reference to how the use of motivational speakers and self-help books are at an all-time high. In a related article by Gareth Cook, he also takes notice these two methods of obtaining happiness has swept the nation. Gareth Cook addresses the issue in the first three paragraphs of his paper by first imitating an advertisement that one would relate to a self-help book, he then mocks these same exact methods and finally gives a brief breakdown on the study of happiness and the rise of these methods to obtaining happiness. Further on in the study, Iris Mauss adds that the more we strive for happiness, the higher the standard is placed on the idea of happiness.

Cook shifts his focus to the study conducted by Jane Gruber. He dissects the study and rephrases it so it can be understood by the casual reader as well as psychologists. He does this realizing the forum that his article is being presented is a public newspaper available for purchase by the common public. Another example of this would be further down in the article when he begins to discuss how those that seek happiness often tend to focus on themselves. When focusing on yourself you tend to lose social connections and begin to feel lonely leading to unhappiness and disappointment. While discussing this, he manages to fit “(How happy am I? How do I do better?)” Seamlessly into the paragraph as a way to keep the reader focused and engaged.

When this standard cannot be reached, the disappointment is toxic. Cook responds with a simple solution to the problem posed by Mauss by simply suggesting that people gain acceptance that what they are striving for is often unrealistic and impossible to attain.

Continuing on in the study, Gruber and his colleagues ask another question which is “Are There Wrong Types of Happiness?” The psychologists then go on to mention how certain levels of happiness can actually impact the body negatively. Three examples are provided for exactly how this happens and what types of emotions are associated with happiness. In the online blog, Science Daily, a similar view is also taken on this approach of too much happiness. The online blog goes on to state that “One study followed children from the 1920s to old age and found that those who died younger were rated as highly cheerful by their teachers.”

Researchers have found that people who are feeling extreme amounts of happiness may not think as creatively and also tend to take more risks. For example, people who have mania, such as in bipolar disorder, have an excess degree of positive emotions that can lead them to take risks, like substance abuse, driving too fast, or spending their life savings. Another problem is feeling happiness inappropriately; obviously, it’s not healthy to feel happy when you see someone crying over the loss of a loved one or when you hear a friend was injured in a car crash. Yet research by Gruber and her colleagues has found this inappropriate happiness also occurs in people with mania. Happiness also can mean being short on negative emotions which have their place in life as well. Fear can keep you from taking unnecessary risks; guilt can help remind you to behave well toward others.”

In the following paragraphs, Mauss reiterates her point on how striving to be happy doesn’t only decrease someone’s well-being but it also contributes largely to the loneliness a person feels. In Joseph Brownstein’s article, “Want to Be Happy? Stop Trying” he goes on to not only side with Mauss, but to also offer his own take on the situation while also providing additional studies on the topic. The additional study provided is by Jonathan Schooler, a psychology professor at the University of California, his study, in simple terms, goes on to state that setting goals of happiness is self-defeating and also elusive.

In “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin she spent a year making lists, keeping a journal and engaged in activities that were goal centered on helping her achieve happiness. Although this method was effective for her, the three psychologists would strongly advise against mimicking such an act. As stated in the original study “. These findings suggest that the pursuit of happiness may lead to maladaptive outcomes because it sets people up for disappointment.” “These findings demonstrate that the pursuit of happiness can have negative effects on individual well-being.” Gruber does an efficient job instilling into the readers’ head that pursuing happiness is just not the best idea. The studies provided in the article and the results provided show that it can lead to damaging effects emotionally and physically.

In an opinion article, Dr. Fitzgerald, takes a different approach in his article titled, The Dark Side of Happiness. In a complete contrast to the two articles above, Fitzgerald uses a sarcastic, yet, cocky tone throughout his entire article. I believe his main purpose is to simply mock the claims in the study without soiling his name in the process.

Dr. Fitzgerald’s opening paragraph exudes the extreme sarcasm and arrogance mentioned earlier. His first sentence is “I knew it.” Then the following sentence, “The results are surprising — to some people at least. Not to me and other lifelong dysfunctionals.”

In the following paragraphs, Dr. Fitzgerald goes on a rant about remarks left on a child’s report card. Making remarks that if you received either “very happy” or “cheerful” it was ultimately the kiss of death. To somewhat mock the study Dr. Fitzgerald goes on to say that if a child receives a negative remark on their report card such as “ your child is a difficult boy” or “your child cannot sit still” would ultimately lead to the child living a long, healthy life unlike the opposing happy children.

Following on in the article, Dr. Fitzgerald continues his sarcastic tone as he discusses what happy children do that go on to shorten their life expectancy which in his opinion are: smiling, relaxing, not taking offense, not holding grudges, laughing, being reasonable, being generous, and avoiding paranoia. He states that as a young child, he knew that their happiness would lead to their early demise. Obviously, this paragraph alone is drenched in his sarcastic tone in which Dr. Fitzgerald slowly proves just how serious he takes the study produced.

All in all, this is an excellent study produced by the three psychologists, Jane Gruber, Iris Mauss and Maya Tamir. The method used to write the paper worked flawlessly. Instead of having one long paper the writers decided to separate the paper in four sections with each section being labeled by a question. The writing style effectively helped the writers carry on their initial goal of educating the readers on their new study.