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Analysis Of Happiness & Mania. Part I

Analysis of Happiness & Mania

Defined:

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.

Background:

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.

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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

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Happiness Isn’t Our ‘Natural’ State Of Mind.

The reason we want things isn’t because they will make us intrinsically happy, instead we expect them to bring us happiness. The paradox of happiness, whereby we can live in conditions that have improved significantly over the generations, yet our level of actual ‘happiness’ hasn’t been enriched. I’d call it ‘smoke with no fire’, people creating reasons to gain happiness yet no noticeable effect. What are the causes of happiness? Do the contents of our moment to moment experiences reflect a truer form of happiness?

People in some instances are incapable of finding their own happiness, always in pursuit. The idea of happiness becomes a fugitive emotion that remains intangible despite achieving successes. You have to examine what it intrinsically means to pursue happiness both morally and ideologically. It has been judged that the psychic damage is caused by the educational and economic systems, pretending to find logical solutions to human unhappiness. The perception of happiness is becoming entangled by social and intellectual idealisations. The pursuit of happiness has become naturally embedded within culturally acceptable norms. The psychological and emotional consequences of pursuing happiness in contemporary society analyses what constitutes as true happiness often contrasting with the over dramatized unhappiness.

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People insist that the notion of happiness can’t be left in the dominion of vague feelings or inexplicable internal conviction, requiring empirical reasoning and calculation, and not merely left as an ambiguous sentiment.  Using empirical reasoning to judge happiness would neglect the subjective nature of happiness, interpretations of happiness often misinterpreting utilitarianism and hedonism as happiness. Andrew H. Mills poses the question:  “Suppose that all your objects in life were realized; that all the changes in institutions and opinions which you are looking forward to, could be completely effected at this very instant: would this be a great joy and happiness to you?’ And an irrepressible self-consciousness distinctly answered, ‘No!”.

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We then can argue how reliably aware are we of our own happiness, often referring to past days as “happy old days”, but is that a reliable judge of emotion? Seeking happiness means to accept and commit oneself to examining the incompatible desires and values that are internally manifested. Is ‘true’ happiness actually attainable, or is it merely a pedestal sentiment that is unreachable, promoting people to keep trying harder to pursue ‘true’ happiness. Mills has further stated that mental cultivation and selfishness generates unhappiness. My belief is that to achieve a semblance of happiness people need to share the view that human life is imperfectly arranged, but that its wrapped in potential.

Charles Dickens: “Where is happiness to be found then? Surely not everywhere? Can that be so, after all? Is this my experience?”

The Skepticism of Auto-pathography. The Unreliable Narrator.

Auto-pathography is an autobiography that is focused on the disability/disease or disorder of the author. The skeptics criticize the ability of any authors who write autobiographies to adequately create a self-representation and self-regulation of their work. A mental illness narrative asks whether the discourse of mental illness can be narrated as a true debilitating condition. Questioning whether it is the author’s therapeutic or pathological identity that is engendering the narrative. The author is also tainted by their medical identity or label, influenced by their psychiatric categorization of symptoms and the effects of ongoing medication treatments. The reliability of the narrative is completely undermined by the person’s mind that has been altered by both the illness and the treatment, ultimately creating a fictional self-story that can’t be in any complete way corroborated.

Authors all write for different reasons, whether it is to directly mislead the reader or as a vice to protect themselves from their own perceived inner guilt. A lot of authors are completely unaware that their first-hand narration makes them unreliable; the recounting of their events is filtered through their distinctive set of beliefs, experiences and biases. Reality is ultimately multi-faceted, shaded by the uniqueness of each individual interpretation and their perception of objectivity and honesty. A direct example of the unreliable narrator is my experiences with depression, whereby I view winter as dulling the memories, finding it hard to construct a coherent narrative with most moments having been forgotten. The elusive memories create misrepresentations and uncertain insights into the ‘actual’ occurrences of events, making discernment unattainable.  

My Bipolar Sunshine.

A woman’s mental health journal: “I’m god or I use to be”
Her husband made a marginal note: “Did you quit or were you fired?”

Beautiful, crushingly so, you’re going to be the rest of my life. You are a forest, not a temple, you can’t be destroyed and desecrated, and you will always grow back over and over no matter how badly you’re devastated. If I was given the option to be a ‘little’ manic for the rest of my life, I would sign my name on the dotted line and say “HELLS YES!”. Being that ‘little’ bit manic simplifies the world, people smile back at me; I can easily become that easy-going sociable deity that my anxiety holds back from. My anxiety shifts its perception, people are no longer the scary or judgmental third parties of my life, they’re just people. Crazily enough my jokes to strangers even seem funnier (I’ve been having a giggle about my doctor being called Fernando for the past week). It makes me put my opinion forward, I always have an opinion in my classes at university, but hypomania makes me more forthcoming, people come to me for help with their work. The ability to be social is my ideation of heaven, without it I feel like I’m living a type of sub-life.

My go-to phrase during hypomania is “shit happens, life goes on”, I live by that phrase a lot, during hypomania the realisation that nothing in this world is permanent, not even our worries is endlessly realized. The notion that I should be just manic enough, on the low end of the spectrum. On one side of the spectrum you think that you’re Jesus, the other end promoting creativity and productivity. A common misconception surrounds the belief that the less medicine someone is on the less defective they are. Crazy doesn’t truly exist is any whole form, being diagnosed with bipolar doesn’t mean you’re crazy, maybe it merely means that you’re more sensitive to things that people can’t see or feel, or maybe it’s never truly crazy, just a little bit mad, how much depends on where you fall on the spectrum, how much depends on how lucky you are.

The Abnormality of Normalcy.

Who decides what is classified as normality? It’s a self-perceived judgement that we assign to people which has been based on what we pigeon-hole as ‘normal’ versus ‘abnormal’. As a person with bipolar disorder I find is especially difficult to differentiate between the supposed abnormal and normal behaviour that I’m meant to exhibit. Abnormality is defined as a deviation from the accepted thoughts, emotions and behaviour. Normalcy is described as the absence of illness, associated as well-being, the line between the two is difficult to pinpoint with various shades of grey in-between. Normalcy is to abnormality what opportunity is to opposition.

The creation of normalcy can be a strategy of physical as well as mental survival.  Potentially the non- or abnormal (or anomalous), the excluded and marginal, may create their own world of normality.  It can therefore be questioned: how normal are the people who create it? The concept of “normal” has a long history that has been defined and redefined to accommodate that changing perspectives. The Greeks originally linked the concept of “normal” with “natural’, consequently denoting an ideal state in which the regular and average also converges with “healthy” and “good.”

Maybe hypomania and depression is my form of normality, in my mind that is how I perceive myself. That is my normal, anything different is for me abnormal. It is also ‘normal’ for our minds to change what we believe is abnormal, predominately determined by the milieu at the time. Abnormal and normal is completely reliant on context, I think the whole concept of the two is flawed and interchangeable. They are both used to define the other, does that mean that abnormality is a myth merely used to differentiate between people, reliant on perceptions and judgments that aim to reject those who deviate away from common standards? There isn’t a ‘normal’, no one is completely normal, its an invented idea related to conformity, conformity allowing a more functional state within society.

Normal is a measure used to understand realities, society’s problems stemming from the misunderstanding of what we really are versus the social myths that have been adopted to label and separate varying groups of people.

“The real picture consists of nothing but exceptions to the rule.” C.G. Jung

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I have a very child-minded perspective of the world that allows little to no room for the areas of grey. The mood swings that people with Bipolar suffer are perceived by them as normal; they are their initial standard, making it difficult to perceive the different moods as ‘wrong’ or abnormal. The negative stigma or ‘untouchable’ topic of Bipolar has to be changed, everyone is abnormal, and normal is merely an unachievable standard that we base our own actions off. Normality is self-perceived and regulated by each individual, the individuality of normalcy makes everyone abnormal.