The Flawed Pursuit of Happiness: The Upside of Your Dark Side by Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener
The Upside of Your Dark Side: Why Being Your Whole Self--Not Just Your "Good" Self--Drives Success and Fulfillment
This book is incredible. In The Upside of Your Dark Side, the authors put happiness under many different lenses and explore it from a variety of angles. The book is an effort to share the facts on happiness, a mental state which they have found through their research to be much over-valued in American and Western cultures generally. Kashdan and Biswas-Diener present a series of eye-opening data that show that we Westerners put too much importance on happiness and generally fail to accurately appraise and employ our myriad emotional alternatives.
"Psychologist Shigehiro Oishi and his international collaborators collected current dictionary definitions of happiness in thirty countries. They found that in twenty-four of those countries, happiness was deemed to be strongly related to fate, fortune, or luck."
This quote precedes a succinct list of reasons why our culture misjudges the value of happiness and how, despite the American belief that happiness is the single most important and worthy emotion (side note: at an earlier point in the book, individuals surveyed actually assigned more weight to not feeling regret than to being happy), in a lot of situations happiness does us more damage than good.
The authors found that a happy mindset has a few distinct drawbacks. One I found particularly interesting is that the pursuit of happiness in fact tends to backfire. When we try to leverage experiences--whether it's seeing a film, going to a concert, listening to a song, etc.--to produce happiness, we actually end up less happy than we were before.
We would all be happier, the authors suggest (as do the majority of dictionaries around the globe), if we gave up on trying to be happy and would just be. Happiness will come and go, and it will be all the more savory if we let it behave as it pleases.
"We now have scientific evidence suggesting that this single-minded pursuit of happiness is akin to trying to grab a bar of soap in the bathtub. The more you reach through the water, the more the soap slips away, and the more difficult it is to lay a hand on."