Analysis of Happiness & Mania
To first understand happiness it needs to be defined. Happiness is seen as a complete, lasting and justified satisfaction with one’s life. Although if one has to justify their happiness it is no longer experienced subjectively, becoming objectively grounded. It has to be understood that there is no standardised rules to measure a person’s happiness as they are dependent on a person’s pre-dispositions.
Two philosophical schools who look at the concept of happiness, the ancient, which arose in Greece and survived until the 18th century, and the modern, which was created in the 19th century in Europe. Happiness was originally perceived as the possession of the highest goods, whether of a material or spiritual kind. Happiness later became subjectivized and relativized, based on a person’s overall satisfaction with life.
Happiness & Mental Health: The Darker Side of Happiness.
Happiness is usually conveyed as a source of good outcomes, highlighting the pursuit of important goals, social bonds, well-being and psychological health. In some instances the pursuit and experience of happiness can create negative outcomes. Happiness is generally highly beneficial but this is completely reliant on the context it is experienced in and the level of happiness.
“Getting angry . . . is easy and everyone can do it; but doing it . . . in the right amount, at the right time, and for the right end, and in the right way is no longer easy, nor can everyone do it.” —Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (II.9, 1109a27)
Potentially high levels of happiness can become a source of dysfunction, research often highlights that happiness is beneficial, yet psychologically it can become maladaptive. The maladaptive nature of happiness suggests that it has a possible ‘dark side’. People have argued that excessive levels of any mental state or experience—including happiness—can be undesirable and unhealthy. In relation to mania and the euphoric or heightened level of happiness (which is also experienced in hypomania) individuals are more inclined to engage in riskier behaviours, such as alcohol consumption, binge eating, and drug use. Extreme levels of happiness become a marker for emotional dysfunction.
The extremely positive emotion that is associated with mania undermines the person’s ability to experience negative emotions, trapped in a form of happiness overdrive and incapable of downshifting happiness. Excessive happiness leads to risky behaviour and neglect of threats and consequences. Extreme happiness seen through the lens of mania suggests that the emotion creates dysfunctional behaviours which result in poorer clinical functioning. The pursuit and achievement of happiness can no longer be seen as a hallmark for psychological health.
Subjective Bipolar Perception:
I had always imagined that happiness was a sign that I was getting better. After recently getting better from the pit that is depression, I keep wondering if this new happiness is real, or a daydream or merely a new page to living with bipolar. I have to remember that bipolar is part of who I am and why I feel things, but it never stops me from questioning the reasons for my emotional experiences and whether the emotions are manifestations of my illness or the signs of getting better. How can anyone fully differentiate between the two? It’s frustrating to say the least. To me there is great value in experiencing depression, without experiencing the worst aspects of your life you will never be able to completely appreciate the positive times. I can understand and relate to the all-consuming mania or hypomanic emotional overdrive, my personal experiences with hypomania made me incapable of understanding the consequences or perceive the drastic contrasts between my current state and depression, there was no room to understand other emotions.
This is truly my wonderland, a handful of pills keeping the bipolar at bay. The pills mediating a mid-line of emotions that are both boring and uninteresting. Unlike the majority of the population, people with Bipolar Disorder can actually reach the usually unobtainable level of happiness that society seems to always be aiming for, our level of happiness only becoming wrong when it makes us dysfunctional.
A Dark Side of Happiness? How, When, and Why Happiness Is Not Always Good. June Gruber, Iris B. Mauss and Maya Tamir. Perspectives on Psychological Science, Vol. 6, No. 3 (MAY 2011), pp. 222-233
Analysis of Happiness by W. Tatarkiewicz. Review by: E. R. The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Mar., 1979), pp. 569-570
Analysis of Happiness by Wladyslaw Tatarkiewicz. Review by: Max Rieser. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 38, No. 1 (Sep., 1977), pp. 139-140