SOC344 2018 Tut10 – Mossvale

Who doesn’t want to be happy? The last few decades have seen a great rise in the pursuit of happiness. Not the Aristotelian pursuit of a virtuous, well rounded emotional life, nor the Jeffersonian pursuit of happiness through liberty as an ‘inalienable right’, nor even the Utilitarian pursuit of happiness as the ‘greatest good for the greatest number’. Rather, there has been a surge of interest in measuring and planning for the happiness of nations. The OECD now tracks wellbeing measures across countries, Bhutan has pioneered in interest in Gross National Happiness (GNH) over GDP as a measure of societal progress, and the UK is interested in findings ‘happy places’ by measuring wellbeing and happiness by geographic location. Happiness is clearly now an important measure of social progress.

And yet happiness is still largely individualised as an emotion. Despite studies by world happiness experts like Ruut Veenhoven showing that happiness is clearly linked to social structural conditions in that it varies substantially across rich, poor and unequal nations, the treatments for happiness are still largely individualised. Medication and therapy – including mass therapy, or a societal/national foci on promoting mindfulness, positive psychology and CBT – are put forward as the means for resolving unhappiness, even when changes in economic and work conditions, family, gender, ethnic, and age structures, and urban and social connection may be the primary culprits in causing unhappiness. Can the proliferation of lists on how to be happy in 5, 7, 13, or 25 ‘science-backed’ easy (and obviously non-contradictory …) steps really compensate for broader social change?

And what about other emotions? How much of our unhappiness is about rising anxiety, depression, stress and anger? How much of our happiness depends on peace, contentment and love? And how much does our happiness – in all its related emotional forms – depend on what we are doing, rather than how we might sum up our lives on a 0 to 10 scale of satisfaction? In previous research, my colleague Kimberly Fisher and I found (unexpectedly) that Americans would enjoy their time less if they lived like Australians, because they would spend more time doing unpleasant things like housework, and less time doing fun things like having people over for dinner. We also found that the GFC seemed to have the effect of helping Americans re-evaluate the quality of their time, and enjoy the grind of work less and the pleasantness of social and family time more. Clearly, reflecting on and adjusting the social circumstances and lives that make us happy is an important element on our actual happiness. Mary Holmes calls this emotional reflexivity, or “an embodied, cognitive and relational process in which social actors have feelings about and try to understand and alter their lives in relation to their social and natural environment and to others.”

I say – as I always do with regards to all matters sociological – that structure and agency go hand in hand in the consideration of our happiness. We can change the world – and we can change ourselves – one emotion at a time, with reflection and awareness. I say that we need to be reflexive about what makes us happy (how society affects us), what makes others happy (how we affect society), if there are contradictions and inequalities in happiness, and when it is appropriate to beshow, or change our happiness, unhappiness, or other emotions – rather than assuming we should always try and be simply happy as a default for living. If we can do these things, I think we can start to really understand what it means to be happy in today’s society, and to understand and build truly happy societies.

What do you think?

#S344UOW18 #Tut10 #Mvale

Posted in SOC327 - Emotions Bodies and Society, UOW.

3 Comments on SOC344 2018 Tut10 – Mossvale

Holly Lambert said : Guest Report 6 months ago

The feeling often associated with happiness is joy. However, when you feel unhappy it is often assumed that you either can't cope with life's daily stresses or that you suffer from a mental illness. Society is placing unrealistic and unhealthy expectations on how we as individuals express negativity. These expectations are causing people to promote actions such as surface acting that conveys that people are happy at all times of the day. How exhausting and stressful to have to perform this constant false behaviour. Thus, I am constantly noticing how people are becoming more concerned about how they are socially viewed and embraced than depicting the true and honest emotions. This i think is placing more stress and anxiety on people causing a sense of unhappiness to creep in. What a shame that being sad is frowned upon rather than seen as a healthy way of releasing important emotions. By seeing how social media portrays happiness is it even a wonder that people are feeling safe and ok to express being upset or angry when the true feelings are provoked and therefore present. It is important to remember that having both happy and unhappy feelings is normal and knowing this provides a balanced personality.Patulny highlights however that the impact of unhappiness is a consquence of daily stresses, anxiety and depressive moods (Patulny, 2018).

Bronwyn Sims said : Guest Report 6 months ago

Lorann you have made seem really thoughtful observations here. It is interesting that unhappiness is one emotion that we rarely if ever 'surface act', where as happiness seems to be an emotion that is expected of us by others often,Unhappiness is though, as you have pointed out, still a very socially constructed emotion because it often stems from our feelings that we are not achieving what others/society expects of us.

Lorann McCann said : Guest Report 6 months ago

Unhappiness can be the result of stress, anxiety, depression and anger (Patulny, 2018). Our happiness is less about the things or actions that we create as individuals but the expectations of the people close to us such as a partner or the partner we wish we had. In addition, I’ve noticed in this century that people become more and more concerned about what other people think of them but care less about other people in general. In saying this, we are concerned about what we think other people are thinking and this causes a sense of anxiety and stress that as mentioned above is a cause of unhappiness. Often, I feel this sense of what other people are thinking comes due to the expectation that is created via social media and televised media. Overall, there are many factors that result in happiness or unhappiness, including relationships, our general appearance and the expectations of society. We can factor in the multiple topics that have been discussed over the weeks including the act of deviancy creating a positive vibe, the achievement of a pure relationship, depression and how anti-depressants and other drugs are used as a replacement for natural feelings, body modification to achieve the perfect body to either your own expectation or to others expectations and being in touch with the mind and the body.

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