Friday, September 11, 2009

Consult with happy people

Intuition says that advice is for whatever it is inherently worth.

But advice contains a worldview. It has the effect of channeling your attention towards better or worse aspects of reality.

I suspect it is better to take advice from happy people. It is not just the quality of advice, but rather the approach that makes the difference.

I wonder what should one do when he feels that a depressed freind has mroe relevant and practical advice than the happy one.
Certainly, reality has value. But it is less than it seems. Because the energy element and positivity you get when talking with happy people versus the depression self-reproach and negativity you get from depressed ones, that may be much more crucial than the reality gained from a depressed "smart" guy.


T. said...

i agree, and would go further, to challenge the implicit assumption that depressed people see reality more clearly than those having positive affect. (The assumption may go back to Freud). Following Damasio, the feeling of sadness may promote an inefficient mode of thought, while a feeling of joy may promote wellbeing. Might the automatic processes in Nozick's experience machine be able to account for some of this conclusion?

Yechezkel Zilber said...

Barbara Frederickson shows that positive affect broadens the thinking. While depression is long known to create over technical thinking. (i.e. thinking *hard* but technically, without considering more options)

There is recent research that shows optimists to be less realistic. Yet some of the effect is not showing when people go to decide. It seems that happy people have the mechanism to self-delude continously, but switch to realistic mode when a decision comes. (This implies that it may not be good to stay in decision making mode much or the time).

what is the automatic side in Nozick?

T. said...

There is a lot to consider here. Does the adaptive unconscious benefit simply from being in the prescence of happy people? Perhaps cascades of positive illusions from (less realistic) happy people support motivation and persistence. What you have written about Barbara Frederickson's research is interesting. Not staying in decision-making mode for too long would calls to mind the so-called 'paradox of choice.'

Going back to an earlier post about Nozick's experience machine thought experiment, it seems that one would do well to reject the machine, since so much of mental life proceeds via automatic processes, which is partly social. Thinking of social networks, it seems being around positive people (and exposed their automatic mental processes), is adaptive, i.e., healthful.

i.c. said...

Though I agree to some extent (because I'm getting more and more sympathetic to "positive thinking" and all that - shit) there are some open threads:
* what do you do about your interactions with depressed people - do you imagine a split society?
* is it "too negative" if you think you cannot deal with depressed people (I admit that there are lots of degrees: and confronting a depression in others is tough, most of all because one is quite helpless - a point for your argument: that helplessness may draw energy...)?
* what about the world: it's not only sunshine+rain, for sure, maybe it is necessary + helpful to (learn to) deal with storms (whatever their status of reality is?
* also the partially automatic socially influenced processes mentioned by T. are a necessary part of the argument, but maybe there would be a way to turn it around?
* what about the level of society: should it be more positive or not, more "realistic" (whatever this is: Luhmann: "whatever we know about our society, or indeed about the world in which we live, we know through the mass media") or not?

Darshan Chande said...

I think neither depressed nor happy person is in the state called "truth". If one is happy then that means he is living on the surface of things. Because no one who went deep remained happy. Look at the philosophers, they are not mad.

You do deep and you know the reality, and that will make you depressed. That's, though, a state higher than happiness, but not an ideal state.

After depression if you don't give up you meet enlightenment where in you realize that happiness is actually NOT important. Important is contentment - a state where neither happiness nor unhappiness prevails. You are neutral then.

And only neutral person thinks wise and says wise, unbiased, truly reliable things.

Yechezkel Zilber said...


Interactions with unhappy people.
1) I was talking self-interest. Others' interests are a consideration. And as usual, there are many ways to handle it, whihc is a different issue.
2) Avoiding any toxin, creates higher sensitivity. There is a balancing question. I believe generally, in considering direct effects, rather than working on complex consequences. Because the clear effect is simple and known. The other aspects get you into complexity.
3) It is an important skill not to be affected negatively from people. It includes this specific case as well.

2) Is it negative to think you will be affected?
I was talking realism. As always realism is there and cannot be avoided for decisions making purposes. You do not cross a highway blindfolded for optimistic reasons.

3) Learning to handle pain etc. is crucial. Again, balance and complex calculus. You'd better learn to handle pain from happy people. They have pain too, but handle it in a better way.

4) Soceity.
I am against media etc. because there is an agency problem.
I will second Taleb in distinguishing between information/decision making and experience
Be realistic about investments, health, diet etc.
No need to be rational about experience. But you'd better not mix the two. Watching finance news for "fun" get you at risk. "learning" about relationships from movies/novels creates distortions.

Yechezkel Zilber said...


Why is contentment more important?

Yechezkel Zilber said...


I consider happiness in the sense of moments. How many good moments one has in life.

You (and many others) consider it as a permanent state. Permanent etc. stuff is a different matter. People crave permanence, but life is not stable. Why should permanent states be the goal of life? One can see it as yet another human craving, that has effects of human feelings etc. But still see subjective mopmentary experience as most important

Darshan Chande said...

You have misunderstood me. I DO NOT consider happiness as a permanent state. I know it is not permanent. Happiness is a momentary state of mind which takes place when the pain ceases. In that sense, happiness is a result of pain. And that's why I said happiness is not important. He who is happy has not reached summits of truth yet, because only where there is pain, there can be happiness.

And that's why, contentment is important. Because in contentment, pain can not be, and so happiness will not be. No need.

Hope you will understand now :)

i.c. said...

Probably happiness is a momentary state of mind - but I'm sure it is not dependent on pain (though the end of pain may cause happiness).

But I wonder if "counting" moments of happiness is a reasonable "goal"?

Generally, contentment seems quite a lot...

Anonymous said...

Zilber i think Darshan is thinking like me, you have to understand sadness in order to know happiness, happines it is a state known from the healed(in a general sense) and his desires before have it,i think Darshan is saying that after you know happines where came from then you will live in state of flow (not depressed not anxios)and your life become more conscious for you, in others words you become aware of life understaing, and that awareness is escential to be in flow.