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The Upside of Your Dark Side is a gripping read that tests the modern-day Western ideals of being happy and positive. The authors' findings are shocking and telling, and reveal in many ways that, in order to truly be happy, we've got to accept that happiness is but one in an endless palette of emotions making up the total picture that is a complete human life.
In a chapter on comfort in American culture, the authors present some major info that really opened my mind. Like, this whole air conditioning thing that we all seem to cling to nowadays, was only endorsed by about 25% of the population in the 70s, but by the mid-90s had climbed to 50%.
"Americans are many things: we are creative, confident, industrious, and well-known for being hopelessly upbeat. Above all, however, we are comfortable."
And speaking of the 1990s, did you know that the term "comfort food" didn't arise until around 1990? Also, it was about this time that "comfort zone" came into fashion, and, lest we forget, our old friend the Tempur-Pedic mattress came to market.The authors find that this so-called addiction to comfort is isolated to America and the Western world generally. In Eastern cultures like China, South Korea, and Japan, life in general is less comfortable and, likewise, comfort is not viewed nearly as much as a need. People in these cultures tend to be more accepting of “negative” feelings, and thereby experience their positive feelings more richly.
So while it sounds like a cool idea to be happy and comfy 100% of the time, we’ve got to recognize that this, in the end, is not natural; to experience our lives to the fullest, we've gotta be okay with accepting a little more sadness and discomfort or we're actually keeping ourselves from knowing true joy.