Sunday, 11 April 2010

Myths, Misconceptions, Beliefs

Most of us like to think we have a pretty good idea how others behave. It's one of those basic adult skills, based on self-knowledge, our observation of others and the inherited wisdom of the ages.

Understanding human behaviour; how hard can it be?

Well according to this article I read, it's difficult and many of us go through life with deeply flawed notions of how people feel and behave. Statements/questions like:

"Do you believe most teenagers experience a period of turmoil"
"People use only 10 per cent of their brains"
"Criminal profiling works"
"Do you think individuals commonly repress the memories of traumatic events"
"Men and women communicate in completely different ways".

If we believe these things, we're wrong. But we are not alone!

There are various reasons why such myths become lodged in our minds but at the base of the problem is the simple fact we seem to need a set of such beliefs to function.

But what really caught my attention was the section about happiness and the myth that says happiness is mostly determined by our external circumstances. Meaning if we change those circumstances, we can make ourselves much happier.

According to the "experts" we are each born with a genetically determined "set point" of happiness, a baseline from which we bounce up and down in response to short-term events.

So it appears that most happy people are that way because they're born like that, which, of course, is terribly unfair - another reason many of us would rather believe happiness can be acquired through effort. The brutal conclusion was that "trying to be happier is like trying to be taller".

I do believe when I read one of the greatest of all myths is that the major determinant of happiness is material wealth. The research shows that above a modest level of wealth, money doesn't make much difference. Nor, by the way, do life events. Happy people tend not to experience more awards and promotions.

But it did say enjoying quality time with friends and loved ones, memorable trips with people we care deeply about and special nights out with romantic partners will contribute to our happiness.

Sadness is increasingly seen NOT as a normal part of life but as a weakness, something to be eradicated.

I agree we should embrace those dark parts of our life, they are natural and normal. When we embrace those darker sides of experience, those times when we're sad or sorrowful, we often learn things about ourselves that we would not learn had we simply remained content.

Many myths apparently stem from an overestimation of the role of early life experience and the notion that the first few years of life are somehow much more powerful than the later years.

Other myths stem from the myth of fragility, the idea that most of us are delicate creatures who easily crack in the face of trauma.

We don't hear/read about strength very often, certainly not in the media. There is no drama in buildings that stay up, trains that run on time and people who cope with pressure.

"We can keep from a child all knowledge of earlier myths, but we cannot take from him the need for mythology"
~~ Carl Gustav Jung

Dianne & I, Easter 2010. She is such an inspiration and believes she will beat the horrible cancer that is trying to destroy her body.


HappyOrganist said...

I don't know - I kinda believe in that 'external circumstances' thing ;D !!!


no - but I DO really believe that one about spending time with people you love. which is why I'm so sad

see I knew there was a good reason.

For being 'born' with a natural range of happiness.. mm.. I don't know. DEFINITELY there are gifts that would engender that (dontcha think?). All kinds of gifts.
BUT - like any gift or talent - things can be acquired with persistence, practice, and so forth.
ex: I might not be born with a gift for playing the piano easily - but I CAN learn it (albeit with a lot of effort depending on how little talent I am born with in that field). I think the same is true for all gifts. SOME things might be super hard for people to learn. Like I think I may never learn to enjoy cooking and eating the way the chefs I enjoy watching do. I believe I could acquire such skill if I really worked hard at it.
I also think that while many things may not be given to us in this life (in the way of such gifts) maybe some will be given to us after we die.
i'm such a punk.
Then we can all be equally gifted (everyone enjoy being happy, for example - even if in this life we may not have been 'born' with that special skill)

now as for money.. you can never have too much, right?

(You know I'm kidding, right)

Cherio amiga.

Who you callin' housewife? said...

As I have given up on being taller (seeing that I am now shrinking), I will give up on being happier.

When I force myself to be cheery and outgoing, I feel like such a fake.

I will be my usual slightly sad and lonely self and be happy with my few friends and small family.

Cozyflier said...

Being married to a doctor, I can tell you attitude is everything. If she believes she is going to beat the Cancer, that gives her doctors the upper hand with treatment!
anothe reason I'm doing the marathon. to give people with CA more time with their families.
Hugs, Carrie

Stefunkc said...

I just love reading your posts Peg. You make me think, smile, tear up, and laugh. And almost always make me wish I could follow along on your life for a few weeks. I pray your friend will beat the cancer and that you will be an encouragement to her.
Love you friend:c)

Christine said...

that's a deeo article you found, Peggy. It's the first I've heard of a 'set point of happiness'...hmm. And the need for sadness to fully experience life is so true if you think about it.

Laura said...


aynzan said...

I think one has to toss away all the negativity and approach life in a positive attitude to gain inner happiness at all times..

Mike Smith said...

Another excellent read, Peggy. Those statements - I think the first two are linked if my two girls were anything to go by...

Constance said...

Great post, Peg.

I fight minor ongoing sadness a great deal. My basic responses are hurt, loneliness and isolation.

I've definitely gotten significantly 'taller' than I used to, yet I'm far from having automatically happy or quickly resilient responses.

It comes from a fierce self-discipline to change the way my perceptions and the way I think/see things.
And like anything, it is "work" and sometimes I just get tired of the fight for a while.

Still, the measuring stick has more strength than the old days, so the "work' is worthwhile.

If people only knew how very very lucky they are if their gentics have a higher happy quotient!

Money DOES make for many lovely options in life, granted. But it is a substitute - not the real thing. I'm happy having it. I'm ferociously grateful to have it. It just doesn't mean that I don't get lonely or cry or fail at things other people seem to succeed at easily.
Money doesn't mean your emotional/intellectual/spiritual/physical life is effortlessly easy - just that basic bills can be paid without stress.

I hope your friend's body - and her karma - recalibrate to ongoing optimum balanced health, for her highest good.


Anonymous said...

Interesting post Peggy. It kind of goes against your idea that we can become what we believe through positive thinking ie we will be happy - or not - depending on our genetics, no matter what we do. Well I agree - and disagree. On the Happiness Workshop I went to last year, the teacher said that 50% was genetics, 40% was life-style, and 10% was circumstance. (And these figures were based on research). So while it is true to say that it MOSTLY depends on genetics, we still have 40% that we can work with and change - that's pretty good if you ask me! Like you, she said that being with friends and - get this - even spending time with people we don't know or care about, will improve our happiness levels. She also recommended practising gratitude and - wait for it - positive thinking!!

miruspeg said...

Dear friends
As always I thank you for your input and also your well wishes for Dianne.

I feel the jury is still out on a lot of what I read in the article, but it is all food for thought and philosophy is teaching me to neither accept or reject what is handed to me for I am here to observe and learn.

What pleases me this instant is that I am the eleventh comment!!

Namaste my friends
Peggy xxxx

Beth Niquette said...

I find this article to be profound. Thanks for sharing!

Lilly said...

wow, you mean men and women dont communicate differently? Oh there goes that theory. Lovely picture Peggy and best wishes to Dianne.

miruspeg said...

Lilly - I think there is merit in this point about men and women communicating on a similar level. The men I have come across in the blogging world communicate very much the same way as I do.
And thanks for your well wishes for Dianne, I will pass them on to her.