Psychological Self-Help

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E is a single 1-10 rating of health, financial situation, feeling safe,
having choices, and friendships, and 
H is a single 1-10 rating considering self-esteem, ambitions,
support system, sense of purpose, and ability to get into “flow.” 
This formula produces a number (9 to 100) which defines a
person’s level of happiness but the total number is based entirely on
self-ratings. Self-ratings often have little agreement with ratings by
therapists, family, or friends or with objective and physiological
measures. However, we usually accept a person’s opinion of how
happy he/she is. Also, on the positive side, the formula clarifies the
several factors that these investigators believe contribute to
happiness, much in the same way Seligman (2002) does later in this
Many more people say they are happy than say they are unhappy,
maybe because it is more socially acceptable to be positive. It is also
quite possible that more pleasant than unpleasant events actually
happen. Most of us consciously try to find or arrange positive events.
In addition, there seems to be a natural tendency (except in depressed
persons) in our memory system to forget unhappy events faster than
happy events (Walker, Skowronski & Thompson, 2003). Many
cognitive researchers don’t believe, as Freud did, that traumatic
events are forgotten as a defense mechanism; they think unpleasant
memories are just remembered less negatively because that feels
better. So, from the cognitive viewpoint, the greater fading of unhappy
memories is seen as healthy coping. 
Another way to think about it is that being happy in a wealthy
materialistic society, like ours, involves putting your head in the
sand…and forgetting that a billion people go to bed hungry every
night…and need medical care…and need an education…and are
unhappy. So, some people would say happiness is a sickness or, at
least, gross denial. No wonder we don’t know how to measure it or
change it. 
Another theory that would seem to discourage trying to change is
the notion of individuals having a happiness set point (Lucas, Clark &
Diener, 2003), much like a weight set point. We will see over and over
in this chapter that both wonderful and awful changes in life
circumstances can make us delighted or really down for a while, but in
a couple of years our level of happiness is back to our old set point.
Such set-points may also influence how much our feelings change in
other situations. For instance, stable happy people may not react with
a big surge of happiness when they get married even if it is a
wonderful new relationship…but, in contrast, the usually happy people
might experience a huge increase in unhappiness if faced with a
divorce. Likewise, an unhappy, lonely person may be quite happy
getting into a good marriage but not be very bothered by a divorce
since their life-long set point is low. At least, that is a theory. And,
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