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25 February 2006 @ 04:41 pm
Embrace life with all its pain and pleasure  
Salon has an article about Steven Hayes' book Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life coauthored with Spencer Smith. After years of self help books geared to helping us find happiness, the authors maintain that some unhappiness and pain is inevitable, and that merely feeling good may limit us in achieving a meaningful life. In the Salon interview Hayes says:


Well, that was the headline of the Time piece. I don't exactly say it in the book. What I say is that pain is ubiquitous and suffering is normal. If you ask people, "Are you happy?" many of them are going to say yes. But if you ask people, "Is this really what you want your life to be about?" many more are going to say no.

What people mean by happiness is feeling good. And there are many ways to feel good. And many of the ways we feel good actually limit the possibilities for living the way we want to live our lives.

...We have to ask why it is that we have such issues of substance abuse and addiction, self-control problems and even suicide when most people say they're happy. It's because most people aren't living the ways they want to be living, and that comes from how they're managing their own pain.


It sounds like an interesting premise for psychology. We've had the crew of people examining what brings us pain, and a newer group examining what makes us happy. Perhaps it's time for the field to simply explore how both of these things play a necessary role in living. It reminds me of the various Eastern philosophies that urge us to simply be present and observe our feelings as they change moment to moment, accepting them rather than fighting them.

Read more at Amazon.

At least one reviewer has angrily noted the similarities to Buddhism. However, not everyone wants to abandon their religion to try Buddhist practices as a part of the faith, so distilling the essence of these into a psychological theory may bring the benefits to more people.