B.'s Reviews > Stumbling on Happiness

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Todd Gilbert
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's review
Apr 14, 2008

really liked it

Two of the abilities that separate us from the beasties; the ability to remember the past and the ability to imagine the future; receive a thorough analysis from author Daniel Gilbert that inform us just how unreliable these faculties can be. We create illusions on a daily basis that enable us to find happiness no matter what life tosses our way. This is fascinating stuff. Much of what our senses tell us is real, much of what we remember of our past, and much of what we anticipate will be true in the future is illusionary and based upon the way we make false comparisons and illogical assumptions that, although apparent to us when pointed out by Gilbert, nonetheless still manage to confuse and mislead us. Funny, thought-provoking, and insightful, Stumbling on Happiness is a wealth of fascinating information about how our memories and foresight actually work to make us happy.
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message 1: by B. (last edited Apr 14, 2008 09:33PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

B. The Illusions of memory and foresight(or imagination, if you will) can also make us unhappy, this is true. We believe, according to the text, that we are both more generous and more selfish than others. We also believe, before they happen, that big mistakes or injuries will affect us more harshly than small ones. This is what we imagine, but not what we feel after the fact. We also envision that we will be in a worse emotional state after we experience a tragic or adverse incident than actually occurs.
Our imaginations construct worse case scenarios and we predict our future feelings based upon these assumptions. Our egos, however, begin a process of rationalization following shocking or traumatic events in order to protect themselves from the harshness of reality, ie. the pain that happens in every person's life. The moment our brains find a reasonable, plausible explanation for what has just befallen us, we feel an immediate sense of relief and a reduction in unhappiness, even if that explanation is false. Here is an example from the book. Imagine getting jilted at the altar. The humiliation, embarrassment, the heartbreak, all seem too horrible to recover from and, yet, after being jilted, most people come to a rationalization such as, "Thank god I did not marry so-and-so...woulda been the biggest mistake of my life," etc., etc.

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