Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy Against Happiness discussion

I disagree, but without authority

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message 1: by Lindsay (new)

Lindsay I have not read this book, but I take issue with the summary, in particular this line: "Where does it say that [we should be happy:] in the Bible, or in the Constitution?" If I'm not mistaken, both state that we are in fact meant to be happy. There are 201 mentions of the word "joy," 25 of the word “happy” and 27 of “happiness,” and 240 of the word “rejoice” in the Bible. Though it is the Declaration of Independence and not the Constitution that we should seek "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," the Constitution does state the desire to "insure domestic tranquility." That sounds like happiness to me, but I suppose that’s left up to interpretation.

On the other hand, I do agree with the need to stop over-Prozac-ing ourselves and embrace the depressive side of life--to a point. Suffering depression myself for years, I have seen both the need for it as well as the desperate need to end it. If not at a crippling degree, depression can ground a person in reality. It brought me a sense of pragmatism like nothing else I’ve experienced, and I believe I am a much stronger and more self-sufficient person after going through those years of anguish. I learned to pull myself up by my bootstraps and survive. And of course, without knowing bitterness we could not know the sweet. For these reasons I am grateful to the illness.

However, clinical depression is a truly disabling disorder and treatment saves lives. It’s become fashionable to be “down with Prozac,” but for those who genuinely need help this trend is dangerous. People suffering depression already feel enormous guilt for being sad and feeling worthless. To put the idea in their heads that to seek help is to be weak only strengthens depression’s hold. Let’s not fan the flames of the illness.

As I said, I have not read this book. It’s my hope that somewhere in it, a line is drawn between natural human melancholy and mental illness, which stems from a biological abnormality and not temporary situations. For life’s normal difficulties I agree there is no need to resort to medication—we all must learn to work and grow through sorrow. But we also must learn when to ask for help as well as learn to help each other. In this, I believe, happiness is found.

For someone who has read the book, can you tell me if my hope is realized?

Natalie Ya you're right about the line needing to be drawn between human melancholy and mental illness and the author does acknowledge this. He believes in medication when a person truly needs it but as a quick fix or just to numb the uncomfortable feelings you have, it's not. I don't think the blurb really does a good job of portraying the book's message but in it he is actually talking about superficial happiness and how many feel like they are supposed to be happy all of the time so they hide sad feelings instead of acknowledging and embracing them and realizing its human and only allows you to better appreciate the joyous ones. And so he brings in examples of artists, musicians, and poets who produced their best work during their darkest times. And just points out that if everyone prozacs or suppresses these emotions, amazing works stemmed from this melancholy emotion, will be washed out. But maybe it's better for someone to be happy than to feel like shit but make amazing art. Not if it's fake happiness though. I think more than anything it was a good read because, sometimes I tend to feel guilty or get down on myself even more if I'm feeling sad or melancholy and I fight back which doesn't make it go away and kind of makes it worse. So to accept that it is normal and let it pass without resisting can be a good way to deal with it sometimes. But it's unique for every person and situation. I think it is super important to be positive and that those thoughts and emotions are contagious but also to not be fake and to admit that sometimes you just aren't stoked and that's ok.

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