Thursday, August 8, 2013

Unhappy Much?

In an episode of The King of Queens called "Shrink Wrap," the insanity of her father, Arthur, escalates to the point that Carrie decides to take him to a therapist, in the hope he'll prescribe some calming "medication." However, after Arthur shares his childhood memories, Dr. Taber advises that Arthur should be validated in all of his hare-brained schemes. 

Eventually, after Arthur indulges in every idea that takes his whimsy, he collapses in oddly unfulfilled fatigue. Doug is dancing in bliss that his father-in-law has finally exhausted himself, but Carrie goes back to Dr. Taber claiming she has never been so miserable. 

Following a look at her childhood, Carrie comes home all excited at her discovery. You are a happy person by nature, Carrie tells Doug, but I'm not. So you are usually up there, while I was down here. While my father was making you unhappy, you came down to my level, so I had some company. Now you are happy, and I am back down here alone. 

Carrie: You are happy, I am not, and I hate that. 

Doug: So when I am unhappy, that makes you happy? 

Carrie: Well, not happy, happier

Doug: I'm not gonna lie to you, I'm a little shaken by that.

That is, according to Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, the basic premise of unhappy people: 
In one experiment, documented in “The Myths of Happiness,” Dr. Lyubomirsky asked two volunteers at a time to use hand puppets to teach a lesson about friendship to an imaginary audience of children. Afterward the puppeteers were evaluated against each other: you did great but your partner did better, or you did badly but your partner was even worse.
The volunteers who were happy before the puppeteering review cared a bit about hearing that they had performed worse than their colleagues but largely shrugged it off. The unhappy volunteers were devastated. Dr. Lyubomirsky writes: “It appears that unhappy individuals have bought into the sardonic maxim attributed to Gore Vidal: ‘For true happiness, it is not enough to be successful oneself. ... One’s friends must fail.’ ” This, she says, is probably why a great number of people know the German word schadenfreude (describing happiness at another’s misfortune) and almost nobody knows the Yiddish shep naches (happiness at another’s success).
Sometimes I can't understand it when people make nasty remarks about another's rather innocent behavior, and then I realize they must be true malcontents. A happy person doesn't feel the need to tear others down in their pursuit of happiness. The unhappy will take out whoever is in their way, and their joy is but fleeting, since there will always be another bursting with glee to highlight their misery. 

Before I get too smug, of course, I find myself making kinda b****y comments in my head about another. Oh, shoot, that means I'm unhappy. Smile! Smile! I'm happy, dammit!


Anonymous said...

i was JUST talking about this with someone - and the worst are the unhappy people who, in a frantic attempt to make themselves feel better, try to drag you down to their level.

Princess Lea said...

There's even scientific proof!