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happienss addiction, Happiness, linkedin, My Voice, Search for love, social networking

Can Happiness be Taught?

The easy part is signing up – the hard part is learning the effective use of the social space after joining. It’s even more tenuous to connect your hopes for finding a relationship of value to digital hookups.  Knowing what I’m actually doing or more importantly Being when I fragment myself into selectable social bate for dating site consumption is so fascinating.  What makes this desire for understanding acceptable is the psychological uses of social media gained or else, why join in the first place.

So I decided to conduct an unscientific experiment to test a hypothesis: do inhabitants of social network responding to the question “Can Happiness be Taught” relate to the question with equal pleasurable experiences despite any confusion as to how happiness produces their ultimate personal telos – end. Not directly, implicitly an end speaks of views of those activities deemed important – like affiliation and community. I thought of this process very much like a situation given in a focus group.

I posed the question to the Linkedin network in general (aprox 9 million) under the category of Ethics, and my personal network within Linkedin (200 connections) in particular. The question was submitted to the general network in January, 2009 at the same time I sent a special email to my network – the answering process required that anyone that wished to answer would submit their answer sequentially, within 7 days of the question posting for all that wish to see and to take note. The response could take any form that answerer wished – they could write on both the possibility of teaching happiness as well as those comments that had been given before their answer.

Little did I know that three years later I would take those answers and relate them to my personal search for a relationship of value.  Because I’ve adopted blogging as my own form of confession (baring witness) – I think it so important in the process of outreach – building a “conversation” – that I am reposting it as a contribution in my search for love. – a relationship of value.  This is another test for deciding if a conversation formed around happiness can contribute to a ecosystem (prairie) of engagement.

What IS Taught?

The question was “can happiness be taught?”

What I have learned about happiness comes in two forms. First there is the word happiness – the overarching term that describes a whole panoply of goals within the discourses of philosophy, economics, religion and psychology. The word itself has a 3,000 year history that parallels theories of the good, pleasure and value inside these families of discussion by academics and consultants on list-serves and other social media venues (in contrast to experience or flow, which are quantifiable entities with respectable psychometric properties, i.e., they show some stability across time and reliability among observers).

Happiness like any collection of addictions is a term explored in terms of cognition, featuring styles of learning within learning theory. These terms name a field that plays an omnibus role in the theories within their respective fields. So I am simply going to scan for some likely observations. Part of this process means consideration has to be given to the learning itself needs some room for the technology and other fields contribute – ever the student.


Croesus, the fabulously wealthy king of Lydia, summoned before him the itinerant sage Solon, lawgiver of Athens and a man who had traveled over much of the world in search of knowledge. The Lydian king lacks noting, or so he believes, and attempts to convince Solon of the fact, dispatching servants to lead the wise Athenian around his stores of treasures so that he might marvel at “their greatness and richness. Needing nothing Croesus nonetheless reveals that he is in need, for he is overcome by a “longing” to know who the happiest man in the world is. Foolishly, he believes that this man is himself.

Solon’s answer, however, threatens to dispel this illusion. The happiest man, he claims, is not Croesus but Tellus, a father from Athens who was killed in battle in the prime of life. The second happiest men – two young brothers’ names Cleobis and Biton – are also dead, having passed away in their sleep after pulling their mother to a village festival, yoked to her cart like a pair of oxen.

Croesus like many of us that have put our faith in what we have accumulated thusly we want no part of Solon’s answer – we too would have had him hustled away, thinking him assuredly a stupid man!!  In truth, what Solon was telling Croesus was according to the thought of his day that it is his full life that had to be considered before such a pronouncement of happiness could be made – who wants to wait that long – surely not you or I?

The story of the boys that sacrificed their lives for their mother’s honor or the hero that saved the city only speaks to honors that others bestow on such acts of self denial not a common view today – ours focuses on the number of toys accumulated. Where the true question has continued to be asked is wither happiness can be only viewed in the sum of one’s life or in midst of the journey, the instant of a moment along the way- are all of these valid choices, if one is superior to the other which is it.

In this sense, happiness like many concepts in language demonstrates its most plastic nature. Words like happiness, addiction, evil and such expand and move with the needs of the times. Once you notice such wiggling and twisting lots of words can be traced back to different times or desires, but what is most striking is how we continue to haggle over some of the same ground. Rather than step through the lineage of happiness, I will simply assert the three basic concerns that seem to me to be at its core.

  1. Is happiness a product of a life or is it a experience in a life?
  2. Is happiness an external or internal event?
  3. Does “apparent” happiness tell us anything about the person’s moral value?

What I will also assert is that these same concerns echo within those in how addiction is read. The basic nexus of these terms is that the ends and access to life’s desire as acted out through such. Addiction simply meaning is the habits of life’s we formed has form around a point of excess. Of significance is the associative fact of the newest techniques of brain and genetic sciences have as experts focus on the pleasure zone to analyze for both happiness and addiction.

We sort of pass by the disease of addiction and happiness for it’s generalize mindfulness aspects. This provides a path for social interactions and interventions that treatment leaders need to know as well as advertisers, media purchasers and creative types. So what has to be answered from the cluster of questions implied in whether Happiness Can Be Taught must read as the social dynamics of ideas or memes in a social space interacting in a dance or sometimes even a war full of sound and fury – which signifies nothing.  It also has to be read from the stand point of personal involvement in the conspiracy of making reality.

As Kierkegaard in Purity of Heat describes for us in his reflections on personal responsibility when he states

Do you think the greatness of an achievement makes it unnecessary for it to ask about a trivial wrong, that is, do you think that a wrong might exist which would be something of no significance, although as an obligation it is infinitely more important, then the greatest achievement!

So what is important in happiness to be taught is the managing of experience in lives that form addictions: excesses. Simply, Addiction is one of the ways human life expresses itself in the context of experiencing happiness.

What is the experiencing of happiness offered: the Linkedin Test.

The sample size was 28 people. I will use a version of textual analysis to suggest telos – the ends or purpose.

Christopher said

Yes, happiness can be a “learned” behavior. There is plenty of research to back it up. Look at this website as a start and read Dr. Seligman book entitled “Authentic Happiness: –

Positive Psychology based on a secular interpretation of Aristotle eudemonia Virtue

Robert said

Happiness, as you know is an attitude, a way of being and the only thing we need to do is take a decision to be happy. This process of taking this decision can be taught. –

Our effort is enough to be happy echoing the truth of claim in Genesis “that they would be like gods”, or like to stoics who said that they could even be happy on the rack!  This view suggests that choice over experience makes all the difference in forming a life of happiness!

Ray said

No, it comes from your (inner) self, self-consciousness and being NOW –

The elect have and show it.

Matt said

I read recently you can teach yourself to smile more, and this has the knock on effect of making you happier, so you smile more ad infinitum…

Fake until you make it. Happiness is what is seen and your internal life is of no consequence!.

Malgosia said

When the happiness is achieved by a teaching method, it is not spontaneous and true. It gives only the imagination of “Happiness” but is not connecting the person with the inner self. –

If you fake happiness, you deceive yourself, because of that you do not feed the inner aspirations in the deeper part of yourself. Therefore something less than optimum takes place.

Raphael said

Happiness to me is an often changing emotional state that is driven by external factors (weather,
wedding, promotion, illness, stress …. you name it). As such it can be influenced and therefore taught. Of course being more of an optimistic nature makes it easier to be happy. –

The event of happiness repeats many times and each of those events are based in happenstance and because of this happiness can be taught – happenstance being easier to convey than the eternal features of happiness.

Sri said

…perception changes slowly (or not at all) while others more rapidly. –

Happiness is in the world view point that is randomly experienced.

Nhia said

Overly optimistic people may perceive or desire to perceive themselves as being happy, when indeed they are not. Pessimistic people may never admit to being happy, when sometimes, they are quite happy. –

Happiness happens when  our backs are turned; therefore our view of the subject is uninformed.

Henrik said

I really understood the importance – it is among the most important aspects of my life – and the way of getting there was really a learning process. –

I have happiness and I am fortunate to have had process already.

Mary said

Sure why not. –

Enough said

Tom said

Only if you want to learn –

Happiness is self evident with sufficient will.

Colby said

I believe that we can also learn how to be happy (same goes for grumpy). –

Happiness alone with other attributes is taught based on some choice we make between which can be adopted.

George said

Understanding what the root cause of our unhappiness, then putting a plan in place to change it. It may take you taking a part time job to get out of debt, it may be exploring other opportunities while you are in that dead end job. –

Happiness is how you make a living. The teaching of it is incremental to compensation and promotional opportunities.

Bryon said

The question remaining is the one which almost seems unworthy to be asked… What is
happiness? –

Happiness is not self evident.

John said

I’m not sure, but why would you want to? When people focus on the exclusion or expansion of one emotional state over another, they tend to lose touch with their here-and-now realities. –

Not wanting to disturb the current emotional mix that exist in Pareto like state, which if moved around tends desensitize the feel for the current reality – Don’t ask don’t tell

Ned said

You will be happiest when your truest self finds satisfying forms of self-expression. –

As you morph forms you will happen on forms that demonstrate happiness

Binish said

Yes it can be taught. Who knows maybe in future the corporate/business world might even put that on some certification or training course.

Happiness is a commodity that training has or will be developed to the point where bench marking and standards will be assigned for social and economic status.

What is the way to Happiness, given the above?

The Happiness Formula – Martin E.P. Seligman -in Authentic Happiness, through flawed spiritually, contributes a wealth of insights and facts alike. In his effort to counter some of the “repression” suggested by Freud’s use of “original sin” he also drops its religious implications. He is one of those that thinks he can crowd-out human need for meaning by fiat. I don’t agree and still think he much to contribute.

Positive Psychology takes seriously the bright hope that if you find yourself struck in the parking lot of life, with few if any ephemeral pleasures, with minimal gratifications, and without meaning, there is a road out. This road takes you through the countryside of pleasure and gratification, up into the high country of strength and virtue, and finally to the peaks of lasting fulfillment: meaning and purpose. We in fact agree that there is much about his use of virtues that fits nicely – instead of simply reading Aristotle if you so choose read Thomas Aquinas which will the make reading less onerous.
Seligman defines happiness thus

(H = S + C + V)

Where H is your enduring level of happiness (I’ve named this as thriving, of which I’ll get to later), S is your set range, C is the circumstances of your life, and V represents factors under your voluntary control.

H (enduring level of happiness) Seligman suggest that it is important to distinguish your momentary happiness from your enduring level of happiness. Momentary happiness can easily be increased by any number of uplifts, such as chocolate, a comedy film, a back rub, compliment, flowers, a new blouse, or a wink, flirt or some other type acknowledgement from a reasonable date site prospect – many of these can easily be associated with addictions.

The enduring level of a person’s happiness is stated by their frequently being cheerful, only occasionally sad and generally satisfied with his or her life – not usually associated with addictions. To which I add a spiritual element as derived from Simone Weil understanding of a society thriving and Cornel West’s use of tragic – the critical nature of these add-ons makes it even easier to relate happiness to addictions. So as I wrote in Authentic Leadership, I have to demonstrate in a fearless way a larger picture that includes concerns for ethics, social theory, maybe even a little theological theory in for good measure to tie everything together. What follows are some of the other meanings that inhabit this word happiness.

What Is Happiness?

And the answer is . . .

It depends. (Dan Haybron of St Louis University a philosopher.) What exactly are you asking? The word ‘happiness’ has lots of meanings, and this question probably means one of two things:

  1. What is this state of mind that so many people seek in life? (“psychological” happiness)
  2. What is it for my life to go well for me? (“well-being” or “prudential” happiness)

Psychological happiness

The most common usage and the one I and empirical researchers employ. Here ‘happiness’ simply denotes a broad psychological condition, resembling words like ‘depression’ or ‘tranquility’. It should not be confused with the emotion or mood of joy or feeling happy: many think we can be happy without feeling happy at all, say by being satisfied with our lives or achieving tranquility. And Aristotle had no theory of happiness in this sense of the term.

What is happiness in the psychological sense? Most writers identify it either with pleasure or life satisfaction (thus finding a relationship of value important to this end), or some combination (e.g., subjective well-being theories). I think ordinary usage centers on matters of emotional state (see below), but “life satisfaction” uses are also common.

Well-being (“prudential”) happiness

Here the word is basically a synonym for ‘well-being’, ‘flourishing’, or ‘welfare’, which are my preferred terms. It refers to those benefits a person is in her interest, or makes her life go best for her. A natural reading of talk about leading a happy life, as opposed simply to being happy. When people talk about Aristotle’s theory of
“happiness,” this is what they mean.

What is “happiness” in the well-being sense? This is a question of value, not psychology. Aristotelian thought focused on a life of virtuous or excellent activity, some think it is getting what you want, others simply value pleasure, etc. For an excellent survey of the literature, see:

The short answer, according to me

For me happiness is best understood how I push my buttons. It’s the catalysis I use to push towards my overall condition of thriving. This includes moods, many emotions, and a person’s mood propensity, or tendency to experience various moods (which vary considerably over time) along with is contribution to society’s thriving. To be happy is roughly for one’s emotional condition to be solidly positive, with a heavy predominance of positive over negative affect as experienced in society.

So this is my stand to establish a meme for happiness – it is gauged for use in charting ones way into the state of thriving.

What makes it all that more important is that for me to thrive I have find and nurture first with a love based relationship of value than extend that desire into acts that contribute to your general thriving as well.

About Reputationist

When I started this blog in 2007 the following is what I was up to - things have changed - some. I'm what my handle states - an Oldude. The problem with this acknowledgment is my thinking and ambitions have not quite got the message of my "oldness". I've started an online Coaching practice and my rant is about how to improve long term happiness - For the World. My thing, I believe I can change the world - isn't that a hoot. The way I intend to change the world is to foster a wider and deeper appreciation for "mindfulness": The daring, flair and grace of Jayz; the political savvy of Cornel West; the creativity of Mos Def with the business and cultural daring of Richard Simmons. I've thought enough - being a philosopher of sorts - and trained hard with some of the sharpest minds ever on the planet - Cornel West and Michel Foucault to know the total absurdity of trying to change the world - but I do and I will. There it is showing my age again.



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