Nicholas's Reviews > The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt
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's review
Aug 04, 08

liked it
bookshelves: biology, philosophy, psychology
Read in June, 2008

** spoiler alert ** Good summary of a lot of different stuff.

The basic idea is that the mind is divided between the conscious and the unconscious. The central metaphor is that the conscious mind is a rider on an elephant. He can tell the elephant where to go but if it doesn't want to then it won't. You're will is insufficient to control your actions. The idea then is to slowly train the elephant to do what you want it to do.

The author then goes on to say that deep relationships, a calling in your work, and an understanding of your relation with your subconscious are key to finding happiness and meaning in your life.

I liked the idea that the Stoics overreacted to the chaos of their times. Today's world is stable in a way that they had never experienced. But then again, theirs is a vision of perfection worth pursuing.

Talk to Haidt about his group selection bullshit. Fuck him for mixing metaphors; he should know better.


"I was a rider on the back of an elephant. I'm holding the reins in my hands, and by pulling one way or the other I can tell the elephant to turn, to stop, or to go. I can direct things, but only when the elephant doesn't have desires of his own. When the elephant really wants to do something, I'm no match for him."

"The rider can't just decide to change and then order the elephant to go along with the program. Lasting change can come only be retraining the elephant, and that's hard to do."

"Meditation done every day for several months can help you reduce substantially the frequency of fearful, negative, and grasping thoughts thereby improving your affective style."

"When cognitive therapy is done very well it is as effective as drugs such as Prozac for the treatment of depression, and its enormous advantage over Prozac is that when cognitive therapy stops, the benefits usually continue because the elephant has been retrained."

"With contempt you don't need to right the wrong or flee the scene. And best of all, contempt is made to share."

"People really are open to information that will predict the behavior of others, but then refuse to adjust their self-assessments."

"Pleasure comes mare from making progress toward goals than from achieving them."

"The human mind is extraordinarily sensitive to changes in conditions, but not so sensitive to absolute levels."

"Happiness comes from within, and it cannot be found by making the world conform to your desires." (Buddha, Epictetus)

(Shit that will affect your happiness) "Noise...Commuting...Lack of Control...Shame...Relationships"

It is vain to say that human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it." (Charlotte Bronte)

"The elephant cares about prestige, not happiness."

"Buddhism might be based on an overreaction."

"Either this is madness or this is Hell.
It is neither, it is Knowledge."
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