THE SECRET OF HAPPINESS? ACCEPTING POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE EMOTIONS
“Happiness is not a state but an adventure. To meet him, we must put the sails” Boris Cyrulnik.
All humans share a complex and intense range of emotions in a natural way. This psychophysiological experience requires listening to and observing what is happening in our bodies and minds. Thus we can better understand how our tendency to move in certain situations unfolds.
Studies on emotions are numerous and manuals or methods of personal development are not lacking. Among the studies, the American Psychological Association conducted a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology on August 14, 2017. It concerns research findings in 8 countries that people can be happier when they feel emotions they desire, even if these emotions are unpleasant, such as anger or hatred.
HAPPINESS IS AN ADVENTURE
The researchers explain that happiness is beyond feeling pleasure and avoiding pain. Happiness consists in having experiences that are meaningful and valuable, including emotions that you think are the right ones to have. All emotions can be positive in some contexts and negative in others, whether pleasant or unpleasant.
The results come from an intercultural study that included 2,314 university students in eight countries: Ghana, Israel, Singapore, China, the United States, Brazil, Germany and Poland. This study is perceived as the first to define this relationship between happiness and experience of the desired emotions, even if these emotions are negative.
The 2,314 participants generally wished to experience more enjoyable emotions and less negative emotions than they felt in their lives, but this was not always the case. Interestingly, 11% of participants wanted to experience fewer transcendental emotions, such as love and empathy, than they had experienced in everyday life, and 10% wanted to experience more negative emotions, such as anger or hatred. There was only a small overlap between these groups.
For example, someone who feels no anger at reading the abuse of children might think she should be more angry at the plight of abused children, so she wants to feel more anger than she feel at the same moment. Another example is ” a woman who wants to leave an abusive partner but is not willing to do so, maybe happier if she likes it less, ” says the researchers.
“Giving meaning to the tragedy allows, very quickly, a resilient development” Boris Cyrulnik.
ALL EMOTIONS ALLOW US TO BECOME HAPPY
Participants were asked about the emotions they wanted and the emotions they felt in their lives. They also assessed their life satisfaction and depressive symptoms. In all cultures of the study, participants who experienced more emotions than they wished reported greater satisfaction with life and fewer depressive symptoms, whether these desired emotions were pleasurable or unpleasant.
“Many people, indeed, are sad after the realization of a project. The students, the day after an examination, say: I float, my day is empty. They quickly find something else to do because they are young and they have pleasures and worries: something to make a living. But many depress after an accomplishment. A friend, who had just made a very fine painting exhibition, told me recently: it is a happiness and I know that I will have six months of depression …. » Boris Cyrulnik
PEOPLE WANT TO FEEL GREAT ALL THE TIME
The study evaluated only one category of negative emotions, including hate, hostility, anger and contempt. Future research will try to test other negative emotions, such as fear, guilt, sadness or shame. The pleasant emotions that were examined in this study included empathy, love, confidence, passion, contentment and excitement. Previous research has shown that the emotions desired by people are related to their values and cultural norms, but these links have not been directly examined in this research.
“The study can shed light on the unrealistic expectations that many people have of their own feelings . People want to feel great all the time in Western cultures, especially in the United States. Even if they feel good most of the time, they may still feel that they should feel even better, which could make them less happy in general,” the researchers conclude.