Friday, October 20, 2006

Two ways to increase your happiness today

1. Surf around a little over at Dr. Martin Seligman's Reflective Happiness Site. Dr. Seligman is one of the founders of positive psychology, and he's done a tone of really rigorous research into what happiness is and how people can increase their happiness. Fascinating stuff. You can sign up for his program for the first month free, or you can just read lots of his stuff and start to work on increasing your happiness without signing up for anything.

2. Make and eat some schadenfreude pie. (click on the name for the recipe) For those who don't know, "schadenfreude" is a brilliant German word which means (as best I understand it) pleasure taken from someone else's misforture. It seems to me that this is an emotion which David, author of the psalms, seemed to openly get right into, but which modern christians would mostly pretend to eschew.


Seren Rose said...

Oh dear!!! i am not a modern christian, but i'm not so keen on revelling in another's sadness either. i think we should all just chill and hug trees and stuff, and all love eachother.

byron said...

Nietzsche's analysis/critique of Christianity as resentment revolves around this concept, though I don't think he ever used the word directly.

Benjamin Ady said...

...could schadenfreude be part of love? Eowyn pulled *all* the linen out of the linen press to make an enormous pile of towels, sheets, blankets, and so forth on the floor the other night. Her father, who had just finished working rather hard to tidy up the house, was quite dipleased, and he said to her "You will remain here and you will pick up all the linen and put it back in the linen press, and if you do anything else before this job is done, ... the universe will become even more excessively unpleasant for you than it is generally is." (this is a slight paraphrase of what he actually said)
Eowyn felt completely overwhelmed by the enormity of this task, and she wept hideously as she *so* slowly picked up one item, put it back in, and (with encouragement from dad) picked up *one* more item, and so forth. "I *can't* do it, dad" she wept piteously" "You can, and you will" he replied. This continued.
Some 15 minutes later, Eowyn came to find dad in the kitchen with a mega-enormous smile on her perfectly beautiful face. "Dad, I wanna show you something. Come with me." She proudly showed off the empty floor and the full linen press, and could be glimpsed beaming her pleasure at the accomplishment throughout the house during the following while.
While Eowyn was so piteously weeping and working on this task, dad was feeling some schadenfreude. It was composed of two parts. Part A was a sense of triumph that (at last) Eowyn was feeling a tiny bit of the weight of the burden that her destructive tendencies create. Part B was a sense that this was actually good for her, based on remembrance of some of his own overwhelmingly unbearably enormous tasks and how astoundingly good it felt when he actually got through them in spite of himself.

byron said...

An important life lesson! But was your feeling really schadenfreude, or simply commendable fatherly pride in your daughter growing up?

Benjamin Ady said...

at least partially I'm thinking it was schadenfreude. I was experiencing pleasure from E's pain (horrible, evil father!)

byron said...

I would have thought that it wasn't her pain per se that gave you pleasure, it was the good that she was learning despite (and perhaps through) her pain. So I still think you were delighting in a good thing, rather than enjoying something bad.