THE Happiness

The Happiness Hypothesis

Our Sunday, March 25, Science & Buddhism discussion was led by Ross Smith, who looked at The Happiness Hypothesis, by Jonathan Haidt. Ross's focus was on the first four chapters

Chapter 1: The divided self (pdf chapter sample)

For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh... (St. Paul)

The mind is divided in many ways, but the division that really matters is between conscious/reasoned processes and automatic/implicit processes. These two parts are like a rider on the back of an elephant. The rider’s inability to control the elephant by force explains many puzzles about our mental life, particularly why we have such trouble with weakness of will. Learning how to train the elephant is the secret of self-improvement.

Chapter 2: Changing your mind

The whole universe is change and life itself is but what you deem it. (Marcus Aurelius)

Why are some people optimists and others pessimists? Why do people tend to choose mates, and even professions, whose names resemble their own? The automatic emotional reactions of the elephant guide us throughout our lives. Learn how to change those automatic reactions, using using meditation, cognitive therapy, and Prozac

Chapter 3: Reciprocity with a vengeance

Zigong asked: ‘Is there any single word that could guide one's entire life?’ The Master said: ‘Should it not be reciprocity? What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.’ (Analects of Confucius)

Many species have a social life, but among mammals, only humans (and naked mole rats) are ultra-social – able to live in very large cooperative groups. The golden rule, supplemented with gossip, is the secret of our success. Understanding the deep workings of reciprocity can help you to solve problems in your own social life, and guard against the many ways people try to manipulate you.

Chapter 4: The faults of others (pdf chapter sample)

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? (Jesus)

Part of our ultra-sociality is that we are constantly trying to manipulate others perceptions of ourselves, without realizing that we are doing so. We see the faults of others clearly, but are blind to our own. Hypocrisy is part of human morality, and it sets us all up for lives of conflict. Learn how to take off the moral glasses and see the world as it really is.