Happiness is not all

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Dr_Martin_Seligman.jpgIt's not every day that one's psychological analysis extracted from Hamlet finds confirmation in The New York Times.  But today appears to be that day.

Having blogged about how the paralysis Hamlet suffers because of his existential and epistemological crisis parallels my experience in the face of unyielding rejection and failure, I then read in the Times that

when animals or people were given a series of arbitrary punishments or rewards, they stopped trying to do anything constructive.  "We found that even when good things occurred that weren't earned, like nickels coming out of slot machines, it did not increase people's well-being," [Dr. Martin Seligman] said. "It produced helplessness. People gave up and became passive."
I can relate.  My experience of the world is that, regardless of my merit, effort or desert, luck - that is to say, arbitrariness - is the deciding factor in my accomplishments, both personal and professional. 

Because, as Dr. Seligman says, "accomplishment [separate from happiness] is a human desiderata in itself," my situation is not conducive to satisfaction:

"'Well-being cannot exist just in your own head,' [Dr. Seligman] writes. 'Well-being is a combination of [happiness] as well as actually having meaning, good relationships and accomplishment.'"
Accomplishment must not, therefore, always be based on luck; but achieving this happy state requires a certain redefining of "accomplishment."  For example, as a well-intentioned friend said to me of my novels, I finished them - never mind that they're unpublished and no one reads them.  My friend isn't the only one to employ this technique: in Hamlet, the Danish prince makes "readiness" his accomplishment: "the readiness is all."  The rest?  "The rest is silence."  

This coping mechanism may provide some solace, but the larger relief comes in the recognition that the paralysis is not madness: it's normal.  Well being requires certain objective external conditions that, when absent, sabotage one's enjoyment of life.

That's what the doctor says.  And, I suppose, anticipating that advice through recourse to Hamlet might be considered some sort of accomplishment.
   
(Image of Dr. Martin Seligman from Princeton Alumni Weekly)

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This page contains a single entry by Maya published on May 17, 2011 7:18 AM.

The readiness is all was the previous entry in this blog.

IMF, international aid: screwed is the next entry in this blog.

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