I asked an open question in facebook not too long ago, "Are you happy in your life or happy about your life?" From the little feedback received, I realized not many really understood the difference in the way the two statements are constructed as they sound almost similar and yet there is a subtle difference. As pointed out by Daniel Kahneman , a nobel prize winner in economics and the author of the book THINKING, FAST and SLOW, one is based on our memory of what happens in our life and the other is based on a summary we call our experience in life. You can watch a video of his talk found here.
Some how, like many island states I've visited in the world with palm trees and beautiful beaches, the people seem to be happy on the island despite poor economic conditions. My "Ah Chik" with his stage name Stanly Lim, became a singer in clubs to earn a living and also sang on weddings and other special occasions. He lived with my grandmother and whenever our family would visit and stay in grandma's home, I vividly remember my "Ah Chik" as one who would always have a smile on his face with sounds of laughter from him whenever he talked. A cheerful happy man that has been that way till even his 80th birthday. Listen to him sing :
PERMA: Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment (or PERMA).
He cites the 3 aspects of happiness : 1. The Pleasant Life 2. The Good Life 3. The Meaningful Life
I tried this questionnaire with statements about yourself which I answered almost all with 'Very much like me' option with just some exceptions in the same area of 'Pleasant Life' type questions like no. 8,13,15 and 18 where I answered 'Somewhat like me' only. The questions are here :
1. Regardless of what I am doing, time passes very quickly.
2. My life serves a higher purpose.
3. Life is too short to postpone the pleasures it can provide.
4. I seek out situations that challenge my skills and abilities.
5. In choosing what to do, I always take into account whether it will benefit other people.
6. Whether at work or play, I am usually "in a zone" and not conscious of myself.
7. I am always very absorbed in what I do.
8. I go out of my way to feel euphoric.
9. In choosing what to do, I always take into account whether I can lose myself in it.
10. I am rarely distracted by what is going on around me.
11. I have a responsibility to make the world a better place.
12. My life has a lasting meaning.
13. In choosing what to do, I always take into account whether it will be pleasurable.
14. What I do matters to society.
15. I agree with this statement: "Life is short-eat dessert first."
16. I love to do things that excite my senses.
17. I have spent a lot of time thinking about what life means and how I fit into its big picture.
18. For me, the good life is the pleasurable life.
Here are my results :
I learnt that the author had declared a change in his original theory of 'Happiness' from the time of publishing 'Authentic Happiness' in 2001 to the time he came out with his new book 'Flourish' in 2011. I researched to find that he wrote a long statement explaining this change from using Happiness to Well Being as a better term under the umbrella of Positive Psychology. You can read this in Source 1 and Source 2 webpages. In a couple of videos I reviewed, I recall he has mentioned that the change is likened to changes required in the field of technology that has become an expected occurrence in our modern day world.
Sigmund Koch was one of the premier scholars of psychology, completing his PhD in Psychology at Duke University in 1942. Koch remained at the institution, initially as an assistant professor and later as a full professor until 1964. He was also a full professor in 1967 at the University of Texas at Austin, moving to Boston University in 1971. He continued to hold his post at Boston until his death in 1996. During his tenures in Texas and Boston, he was also elected as President of several divisions in the American Psychological Society(APA). In his distinguished career in the academic world, Koch was certainly well aware of the rules of the scientific world to determine what can be classified as a branch of Science or not.
In a Los Angeles Times article of July 13 2012 entitled, 'Why Psychology isn't science' by Alex B. Berezow, it was published that the reason is psychology often does not meet the five basic requirements for a field to be considered scientifically rigorous: clearly defined terminology, quantifiability, highly controlled experimental conditions, reproducibility and, finally, predictability and testability.
As I watch the several videos of Martin Seligman, a man who also has a distinguished career in the academic world, I could detect that he spoke as a typical professor to emphasize scientific practice being used in his department's studies that are 'quantifiable' or 'highly controlled experimental conditions' etc. and would often use specific figures or statistics to show that well being could be most important 'measurable' or 'quantifiable.' In the above 2012 video, I heard a scientific or mathematical term he used that I couldn't understand called the 'Losada Ratio' which he talked quite a bit about it. So I googled the term and found that the critical positivity ratio (also known as the Losada ratio or the Losada line) is a largely a discredited concept in positive psychology positing an exact ratio of positive to negative emotions which distinguishes "flourishing" people from "languishing" people.
The mistake was not by Martin Seligman as the ratio was proposed by Marcial Losada and psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, who identified a ratio of positive to negative affect of exactly 2.9013 as separating flourishing from languishing individuals in a 2005 paper in American Psychologist. It was widely embraced by both academic psychologists and the lay public; Fredrickson and Losada's paper was cited nearly 1,000 times, and Fredrickson wrote a popular book expounding the concept of "the 3-to-1 ratio that will change your life". In 2013, the critical positivity ratio aroused the skepticism of Nick Brown, a graduate student in applied positive psychology, who felt that the paper's mathematical claims underlying the critical positivity ratio were fundamentally flawed. Brown collaborated with physicist Alan Sokal and psychologist Harris Friedman on a re-analysis of the paper's data. They found that Fredrickson and Losada's paper contained "numerous fundamental conceptual and mathematical errors", as did Losada's earlier work on positive psychology, which completely invalidated their claims.
In response, American Psychologist formally retracted the mathematical modeling elements of Fredrickson & Losada's paper, including the specific critical positivity ratio of 2.9013, as invalid. The fundamental nature of the mathematical errors, which went unnoticed for years despite the widespread publicity surrounding the critical positivity ratio, contributed to a perception that social psychology as a field lacked scientific soundness and rigorous critical thinking. Sokal later stated: "The main claim made by Fredrickson and Losada is so implausible on its face that some red flags ought to have been raised."
Too bad that Martin Seligman had mentioned the Losada ration in the 2012 video above when the discovery of its flaws occurred in 2013. Latest controversial news I could find on him involves claims that his life's research has influenced the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques”
Being one who is well educated in life starting from the world of science due to the emphasis of the world I grew up i.e. in the country of Malaysia and going overseas to learn more about humanities commerce and even spiritual knowledge, I would make the following statements as a summary of my thoughts after reading and pondering much :
1. Not everything can be solved with science as one as old and experienced as I am can testify. Else my wife would not have passed away of cancer in the middle of her life together with many others who had to struggle with it in their youthfulness. Happiness is therefore not what science alone can help attain and therefore it was appropriate that Martin Seligman changed his theory of Authentic Happiness to emphasize more about the Well Being of a person.
Science is an output of the logical mind which I am very familiar with as it was my strength since at a young age. However I had soon realized that logic and proven facts would not be the answer to say creating good relationships, knowing how to ride a bicycle or even drive fast cars. A kind of flow is required mastering a number of strengths or skill sets if you want to call it in order to create good relationships or perform other amazing feats.
If one wants to understand nature like our own bodies as to know how it works, why it feels what it feels and if we can't understand it no matter how much science tries to explain or define it in quantifiable terms or highly controlled experimental conditions etc, it does not mean we can't attain happiness without science. I can equally make the statement that we don't need science or doctors or drugs to help us be healthier. What the world has become is that we need science to validate anything before we can fully trust anything but yet the complexities of mathematics for example in the Losada ratio can deceive many for a time until one with real knowledge and courage, with nothing to lose, begins to challenge what was supposed to be peer reviewed truth! Guess it makes room for a book like Thinking Fast and Slow to remind us that Thinking does have systematic errors!
2. Yet we need science, the intellectual thoughts and logic to be organized to find a way of solving life's problems and challenges in this world in a systematic way. Admittedly how would I be able to be doing my own research using the internet to better understand or try to participate in solving this life's mystery of happiness if it were not for the sacrifice of many who had use scientifically proven theories and formulas to create the computer and network to link all of us to allow greater access to knowledge?
Without science and the knowledge of mathematics, astronomy and propulsion energies etc man would not be able to fly to the moon or conduct space experiments out of which the benefit of GPS to help us find a friend's home or anywhere that we need to go to quickly is possible today. There are a host of other benefits that could be classified as useful or important to increase the happiness of life in the world I'm sure.
3. Why are we preoccupied with the notion that we either use science or non science methods to determine happiness? Are there only 2 choices as one is prone to be led to think? How many branches of science are there anyway and must we agree and accept everything every branch of science teaches? By the same token how many areas of non science are there? Must we disagree with everything that every area of non-science teaches like wisdom from our grand parents perhaps?
To be continued or edited as led by my Heart and Mind influenced by the Spirit ....
I wrote the above 3 points and had to pause to read a little more about the history of psychology to find a very nice correlation to my thoughts prompted in point 3 above. I will share some extracts below from the above link:
I had learnt how the world of psychology had started with the first psychological laboratory at Leipzig University, in 1879 by German physician Wilhelm Wundt. From the 1890s until his death in 1939, the Austrian physician Sigmund Freud developed psychoanalysis, which comprised a method of investigating the mind and interpreting experience; a systematized set of theories about human behavior; and a form of psychotherapy to treat psychological or emotional distress, especially unconscious conflict. It seems that psychology started as an introspective investigation of a person's mind where questions are directed to one who would share his/her inner thoughts so that it can be analyzed.
It later focused on the discipline of Behaviorism established in the early 20th century by John B. Watson, and embraced and extended by Edward Thorndike, Clark L. Hull, Edward C. Tolman, and later B.F. Skinner. Theories of learning emphasized the ways in which people might be predisposed, or conditioned, by their environments to behave in certain ways. Much research consisted of laboratory-based animal experimentation, which was increasing in popularity as physiology grew more sophisticated. Martin Seligman and colleagues discovered that the conditioning of dogs led to outcomes ("learned helplessness") that opposed the predictions of behaviorism. But Skinner's behaviorism did not die, perhaps in part because it generated successful practical applications. I believe the experiments that Martin Seligman challenged when I read his book were related to Pavlovian conditioning on dogs.
The fall of Behaviorism model of psychology in the mid 20th century gave way to many branches of psychology. This explains why Sigmund Koch expressed in his writings on 'The Problem of Psychology' that it was hard to justify it to be a separate independent science due to the difficulty of seeing it as one integral discipline and thus declaring in his words "...the futility of seeking theoretical, conceptual or even paradigmatic unification." Here is a website with a list of psychology disciplines numbering to over a hundred! I note that Positive Psychology advocated my Martin Seligman is listed. Also the third point of my summary seems to be in line with the discovery of a proliferation of the branches of psychology and I like the Humanistic psychology discipline which seems to have the holistic or integrating approach to problem solving that I had adopted when I started the information business in the 80s.
In fact I have evidence that I must have psychoanalyzed myself to write a webpage many years ago entitled, 'My Optimal Thinking Brain' found here. It was written much earlier before this time of writing when I have now so much more research information into the world of psychology. I have other later journals reflecting my interest in our mind and brain, citing latest books I've read especially of authors I am impressed with such as Daniel Siegel in his book 'Mindsight.' I enjoyed online programs with him, with the benefit of technology, to be able to be in the comfort of my home in Asia to participate in his lectures which he conducts in the USA. I particularly appreciate the interaction I got to be able to pose live questions to the intelligent professor and writer of the mind and the brain!
Talking about books, I'm excited to know a good friend, Carlos E. Jean-Gilles, who is preparing to launch his book which is about Self Actualization, another branch of psychology too. He is truly a technical guru of facebook which is how I got to know him as I looked for him among all the other volunteers in the help section rated by the most number of questions each had answered. He was rated at the top, and if my memory doesn't fail me, at that time he held the record of answering over 25,000 questions! He is a busy man and a family man too so for the rare moments I get to have a personal online chat with him on facebook, it has always been informative and inspiring to me. He actually left facebook for a year to focus on completing the writing of his book and came back recently to share this dedication section of his book with me which has an inspiring quote I like to share from it's header :
As a researcher and knowledge worker of this 21st century, besides the many other roles I multi-task with, I may have overdone it in this post to share what I know and have discovered about the world's pursuit of happiness. If you felt the entire post was too complicating for you with all the technical videos and words, just watch this last video below, a talk by Sam Berns entitled 'My philosophy for a happy life', and you may truly learn something useful and simple :
Sample of the Happy Movies below :
Instability of 3rd party video sites brings to mind an additional topic fit to be added to this post i.e. Making videos that make you happy is a new opportunity that everyone can take up as I have done and shared in the comments section of a recent facebook post below :