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Fake It 'till You Feel It

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I just came across this article about how to become "happier".

http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/health/10-w...-happier-295265

Reading it, I was amazed at the anti-intellectual, anti-mind approach to psychology. Exercise more, repress anger, lower standards in your life, and fake happiness until you feel it, are the many pearls of wisdom Gretchen Rubin has to offer. Buy her upcomming book to learn how to delude yourself in greater detail. :dough:

If modern psychology resembles this checklist for suicide at all, I've been severely overestimating the level of rationality in our culture. The branch of science that is supposed to explore and develop our knowledge about how our minds work give us the remarkable fact (according to Rubin) that, 40% of our "happiness level" is in our control.

Please tell me that she's just a kook and the state of psychology isn't as bad as this. In the meantime, I'll be off in the corner, faking it 'till I believe it. :P

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Dude, reading that list had me nodding quite a lot, as most of those are good common-sense suggestions. She does not, as you claim, tell people to "repress" anger, just not to express it by, say, bitching at people and shouting. This is an *excellent* suggestion, as you will feel *much* better about yourself if you wait for your anger to dissipate and *then* pursue a rational course of action regarding the problem. Very often you'll find that it wasn't as big a deal as you thought it was at the time!

The whole "fake it 'til you feel it" thing is simply a reference to how you approach different activities. If you view little things as a chore and bitch and moan about having to go grocery shopping, then, yes, it's going to suck and you're going to be miserable about it. If you *decide* beforehand that you're going to enjoy it even though it's a chore, it makes a big difference. This is just the way that you program your subconscious.

While the article (and perhaps the book) are *shallow*, I'd hardly say that they're wrong and evil.

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I just came across this article about how to become "happier".

http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/health/10-w...-happier-295265

Reading it, I was amazed at the anti-intellectual, anti-mind approach to psychology. Exercise more, repress anger, lower standards in your life, and fake happiness until you feel it, are the many pearls of wisdom Gretchen Rubin has to offer. Buy her upcomming book to learn how to delude yourself in greater detail. :P

If modern psychology resembles this checklist for suicide at all, I've been severely overestimating the level of rationality in our culture. The branch of science that is supposed to explore and develop our knowledge about how our minds work give us the remarkable fact (according to Rubin) that, 40% of our "happiness level" is in our control.

Please tell me that she's just a kook and the state of psychology isn't as bad as this. In the meantime, I'll be off in the corner, faking it 'till I believe it. ;)

Myself,

I agree with Jennifer, this is not the awful anti-man tripe you make it out to be. As a graduate student in Psychology (not clinical though), this is generally good advice. Several of her points recommend doing things for physiological well-being, like eating well and exercising. These are known to improve mood, and it makes sense in an objectivist framework. You must take care or your more basic needs before you can expect your higher level cognitive functions (such as happiness) to be attainable. As far as her attitude advice (like not nagging, not venting, and acting positively even if you don't feel it), this isn't so much about pretending in order to be happy, its about the fact that dwelling on negative emotions is often not productive and just leads to a cycle of more negative emotions. This again is not at odds with objectivism, we know that happiness comes from taking action, not self-pitying. Her points one and seven also have to do with viewing the world realistically, setting out to achieve a goal you aren't prepared for or always searching for something better at the expense of what is present is self-defeating.

These tips should only be viewed as a very basic small start that people can make. Clearly, after these minor things have been addressed it puts one in a better position to pursue more important aspects of happiness such as self-purpose and productivity.

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She does not, as you claim, tell people to "repress" anger, just not to express it by, say, bitching at people and shouting.

I agree. I had a habit of letting tense situations blow my top but I am getting a lot better now at simply biting my tongue and not allowing things to escalate by making myself immediately realize that nothing good will come from me losing my temper.

its about the fact that dwelling on negative emotions is often not productive and just leads to a cycle of more negative emotions.

That definately applies to me. More and more now I find myself saying "Spilt milk, Kevin" because I sometimes will dwell on regretting bad decisions I've made rather than just recognizing they were bad and why and then moving on. Now I just say "spilt milk" because there is nothing I can do to change the past, and focus my thoughts instead on how I am going to proceed in the future. because, after all, there is no use in crying over spilt milk... it could have been whiskey.

Edited by KevinDW78
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Exercise more, repress anger, lower standards in your life, and fake happiness until you feel it, [...]

I can say that I tried this before, and it is a load of BS (except for the exercise part, that works amazingly).

And know many that have.

Recipe for suicide indeed. ;)

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I can say that I tried this before, and it is a load of BS (except for the exercise part, that works amazingly).

And know many that have.

Recipe for suicide indeed. :confused:

Did you actually read the article in question or any of the other replies in this thread?

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Let me make my post a bit better by offering WHY.

I was stupid for not doing so in the first place. :confused:

Anyway, exercise creates endorphins which make your mood and tolerance much better.

2. Do let the sun go down on anger.

I had always scrupulously aired every irritation as soon as possible, to make sure I vented all bad feelings before bedtime. Studies show, however, that the notion of anger catharsis is poppycock. Expressing anger related to minor, fleeting annoyances just amplifies bad feelings, while not expressing anger often allows it to dissipate. (See 16 Ways to Manage Your Anger from Real Simple)

You need to vent your anger or it'll build up and explode by you punching a wall or telling your friend/parent/family member to "fuck off" for some minor reason. I know this from experience.

3. Fake it till you feel it.

Feelings follow actions. If I’m feeling low, I deliberately act cheery, and I find myself actually feeling happier. If I’m feeling angry at someone, I do something thoughtful for her and my feelings toward her soften. This strategy is uncannily effective.

Faking it, once again, keeps your real feelings repressed and will one day burst out, making it much worse. Avoiding the problem won't make it go away. It's an evasion of reality, plain and simple. Instead of ignoring it, do something about it.

4. Realize that anything worth doing is worth doing badly.

Challenge and novelty are key elements of happiness. The brain is stimulated by surprise, and successfully dealing with an unexpected situation gives a powerful sense of satisfaction. People who do new things — learn a game, travel to unfamiliar places — are happier than people who stick to familiar activities that they already do well. I often remind myself to “Enjoy the fun of failure” and tackle some daunting goal.

Do I REALLY have to explain why this is horrible? I do the exact opposite, and I am very happy. I focus my time and energy on a few things, and excel in it.

For example, right now it's exercise/MMA/jiu-jitsu and philosophy. I try my best to do those things to the best of my ability. I work out every day, cardio AND weights (this also makes my mood magnificent compared to before which is why I agree with #8.), and learn as much as I can.

Some I agree with (especially 8, 9, and 10), but the ones I quoted are certainly recipes for suicide. I would know. :P

Bottom line: live in reality and your life will be much better. I'm a living example of that, as are many on this forum.

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You need to vent your anger or it'll build up and explode by you punching a wall or telling your friend/parent/family member to "fuck off" for some minor reason. I know this from experience.

I've heard that physically venting anger (the whole "punch a pillow" thing) can actually make someone MORE prone to violent outbursts, not less. Forgive me for not being able to cite the exact source right now, but I saw this on an episode of Penn & Teller's Bullshit on anger management.

Faking it, once again, keeps your real feelings repressed and will one day burst out, making it much worse. Avoiding the problem won't make it go away. It's an evasion of reality, plain and simple. Instead of ignoring it, do something about it.

I agree feigning happiness is foolish, but it could be, as the other posters mentioned, a way to get you to do things that you *know* are going to benefit you, even if its like torture to get yourself to do them. I know getting into a regular cardio routine was horrendous for me, but I knew the effects of it were worth going through with it. Now I love jogging.

Do I REALLY have to explain why this is horrible? I do the exact opposite, and I am very happy. I focus my time and energy on a few things, and excel in it.

For example, right now it's exercise/MMA/jiu-jitsu and philosophy. I try my best to do those things to the best of my ability. I work out every day, cardio AND weights (this also makes my mood magnificent compared to before which is why I agree with #8.), and learn as much as I can.

I don't necessarily take this as meaning to scatter your interests in a meandering, unfocused way. I think its referring more to the idea that its mentally stimulating to change up your routine every so often. Think of it applying to weight training, would you consider it beneficial to just continually do the exact same exercises without ever changing them? How about if you ate the same thing for your meals every day without fail? You'd get sick of even your favorite foods very quickly.

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You need to vent your anger or it'll build up and explode by you punching a wall or telling your friend/parent/family member to "fuck off" for some minor reason. I know this from experience.

What is the distinction between venting and exploding? Isn't exploding a way to vent?

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What is the distinction between venting and exploding? Isn't exploding a way to vent?

It's more healthy because you do it more often (so that it is not very extreme) and in a controlled area. For example, might vent about the crap that goes on in school to my friends or people in Chat. But I don't want to do it AT school to my teachers. :confused:

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I don't think that the woman is saying to never express anger if you feel it. She said she used to vent it as soon as possible tho. I agree that sometimes you should just let it go. I often explode immediately when I feel anger and then later regret it because whatever it was wasn't really a big deal or I just overreacted. I think she is just saying to think your anger through before you express it.

Also, regarding the 'faking it'. I think she's just saying that you should have a more positive view on things (like grocery shopping?) that you normally wouldn't enjoy, and as a result, you might enjoy it a bit more or not be quite so gripey about it. Bitching about it doesn't change the fact that you have to grocery shop. She's not saying you should pretend your life is perfect and lie to yourself or something. :)

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The way to achieve your happiness is to live by man's life as the standard and clearly define your pro-life goals and values, and pursue them and earn them. The article in question does not recommend any of that, and so it comes across as folksy and non-philosophic. As to how to handle anger; well anger is the emotion resulting from thinking someone did you an injustice, so what you have to do is to check your premises and find out explicitly if someone did violate your justice. If they did violate your justice, then it is best to let them know that and seek redress for your grievances. Holding it in either via repression of something similar to that, is not a good idea, though venting is not a good idea either. The best thing to do is to seek justice rather than exploding at someone who did you and injustice. While I recommend letting it out, yelling at someone for a minor grievance is not the way to go, except for emergency situations -- i.e. someone ran a red light and you have to slam on the breaks to prevent a collision, then cursing them out as you hit the breaks is fine. But I wouldn't recommend tracking them down and getting into a fight with them, that is for the law to handle if you get their license plate number. Likewise, however, one shouldn't hold all the little angers in to be polite until one explodes at the next insignificant trouble that comes your way. The open expression of emotions is a good idea, but that doesn't mean one has to act on them.

I think when it comes to these kinds of issues, then one ought to make justice the ruling factor, and then take the appropriate course of action to rectify it.

As to doing chores, yes, they are a nuisance in a sense, but if you don't do them for you, who will? I don't like doing laundry, and don't have a washer and drier in my apartment, so it is a hassle, but if I want clean cloths then I have to do my laundry. Likewise with shopping, though I tend to know what I want ahead of time and go to the source, rather than taking delight in looking. I'll look for the best price for what I'm getting, but I don't take joy in shopping per se. But maybe that is because I am a guy and a hunter rather than a gatherer :)

The bottom line is that being independent requires you to pursue your rational values and to enjoy that process to the degree that you enjoy earning those values. I'd be happier with a washer and drier in my apartment, but I would have to move, so I have to weigh going to a Laundromat for laundry versus moving just to get a washer and drier. I'm undecided on that one, though the prices are coming down to more of my range for that convenience.

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"Faking it" or "Behaving 'as if'" is actually a technique in cognitive behavioural therapy. If you have picked up false negative assumptions and underlying beliefs which form the framework of your thinking then your behaviour and emotions will also be negative and wrong. Basically, the theory is that if you change your thinking to ignore these false assumptions and also change your behaviour to be more confident and productive then your emotions will also change.

I understand that you could think of this as repression but in my experience dwelling on these negative emotions is useless and does nothing to break the vicious cycles that underlie them. That's not to say that you ride roughshod over the emotions and don't identify them; you have to know what you are doing wrong before you can begin to know what to do right.

At least that is my understanding of it from reading 'Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness' by Gillian Butler.

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"Faking it" or "Behaving 'as if'" is actually a technique in cognitive behavioral therapy. If you have picked up false negative assumptions and underlying beliefs which form the framework of your thinking then your behavior and emotions will also be negative and wrong. Basically, the theory is that if you change your thinking to ignore these false assumptions and also change your behavior to be more confident and productive then your emotions will also change.

But I wouldn't call this faking it or repression. If you have anxieties, the best thing to do is to be inductive and find out for a fact if such and such a situation is for or against you. I used to be enormously shy about expressing myself, but as I became more and more confident of the rightness of my stance thanks to Objectivism I became more outspoken and realized inductively that if I spoke my mind the whole world wasn't going to collapse on top of me like I thought it was when I was shy. The false assumptions that might be at root of your negative emotions must be challenged, but one does not do that by remaining in one's own mind and merely thinking it through. One technique I have discovered is that of hero-worship whereby I act more like my heroes in similar situations; and The Romantic Manifesto was very good at affirming for me that this was the right approach.

So, it is NOT faking it to check your premises and acting according to reason instead of acting according to your emotions; but I don't think the original article was recommending thinking it through and acting accordingly. One can change one's underlying emotions, but this does not require faking anything -- it requires being rational and acting accordingly and realizing that emotions are not tools of cognition. In other words, by being objective, one can overcome negative emotions and learn to enjoy oneself more and gain confidence in pursuing one's values.

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But I wouldn't call this faking it or repression. If you have anxieties, the best thing to do is to be inductive and find out for a fact if such and such a situation is for or against you. I used to be enormously shy about expressing myself, but as I became more and more confident of the rightness of my stance thanks to Objectivism I became more outspoken and realized inductively that if I spoke my mind the whole world wasn't going to collapse on top of me like I thought it was when I was shy. The false assumptions that might be at root of your negative emotions must be challenged, but one does not do that by remaining in one's own mind and merely thinking it through. One technique I have discovered is that of hero-worship whereby I act more like my heroes in similar situations; and The Romantic Manifesto was very good at affirming for me that this was the right approach.

So, it is NOT faking it to check your premises and acting according to reason instead of acting according to your emotions; but I don't think the original article was recommending thinking it through and acting accordingly. One can change one's underlying emotions, but this does not require faking anything -- it requires being rational and acting accordingly and realizing that emotions are not tools of cognition. In other words, by being objective, one can overcome negative emotions and learn to enjoy oneself more and gain confidence in pursuing one's values.

That's true. Perhaps I misunderstood what the author of the article is getting at and judged her method to be better than it actually is. I agree with this line: "Feelings follow actions. If I’m feeling low, I deliberately act cheery, and I find myself actually feeling happier." But you are right in saying that it is only really effective in the context of a rational philosophy, and it isn't very helpful without knowing more about psychology either. The other thing she says is rubbish though: "If I’m feeling angry at someone, I do something thoughtful for her and my feelings toward her soften."

One technique I have discovered is that of hero-worship whereby I act more like my heroes in similar situations; and The Romantic Manifesto was very good at affirming for me that this was the right approach.

That's a good recommendation.

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The article in question does not recommend any of that, and so it comes across as folksy and non-philosophic.

Yes, yes it is--but folksy suggestions aren't necessarily bad, they're just *shallow* and frequently the person making the suggestion has no idea *why* they work, only that they do.

Someone like me, reading an article like this, thinks "oh, you were retraining your subconscious, that works" and moves on. It's not necessary to throw a screaming head-banging fit every time someone offers a few shallow common-sense suggestions.

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It's not necessary to throw a screaming head-banging fit every time someone offers a few shallow common-sense suggestions.

I agree, but I don't think this author understands the issues, at least not explicitly. For example, in Ayn Rand's works she has two people who make a turn-around by retraining their subconscious, in effect: Dominique and Hank Rearden. But Ayn Rand understands psychology much better than that author and walks you through the steps necessary to check one's premises in a rational manner without writing a psychological treatise on the subject of retraining the subconscious by observing the facts and acting rationally towards them. Whereas this author quoted would say something like: "Well, keep at it if the relationship isn't working out at the moment, you'll feel better about it in the long-run and your love will grow;" which doesn't give the right kind of rational advise. It's too woozy and non-intellectual, even though a lot of people can say that they were in rocky relationships that worked out well in the end because they kept at it. A certain precision is necessary to fully identify the issues involved, and the author does not have that, which is why the original poster was so frustrated with it.

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Yes, yes it is--but folksy suggestions aren't necessarily bad, they're just *shallow* and frequently the person making the suggestion has no idea *why* they work, only that they do.

Someone like me, reading an article like this, thinks "oh, you were retraining your subconscious, that works" and moves on. It's not necessary to throw a screaming head-banging fit every time someone offers a few shallow common-sense suggestions.

I'm amazed that most of the people here haven't picked up on how truly awful her advice is.

Let me ask you a question, Jennifer. If you had a broken leg, would you just take a bunch of painkillers and hobble along, or would you take the time to find out what's wrong with your leg and fix it?

You feel emotions for a REASON. If you're not happy, you're not happy for a reason. If you're angry, sad, joyous, burnt out, or dead inside you have a reason for feeling that way. That reason is reality. The reality of your own life. Any time you try to manipulate yourself into feeling ANYTHING you're training your subconscious to stop evaluating that reality. I called that article a checklist for suicide, because that's what it is. You can only evade reality and your emotions for so long, before the root causes you were trying to cover up force you to deal with them. By that point you may not be able to.

Here's my advice: listen to your emotions. You shouldn't want to feel happy all the time, every second of every day of your life. Why? Because you won't always have a reason to. If you're stuck in a hellish marriage, in a dead-end job, with friends who don't understand or care about you, with every day a struggle against tedium -- WHY would you want to pretend you were happy? Change the facts of your life, or they'll change you.

The other thing nobody picked up on is her claim that you're in control of 40% of your "happiness level". Do you really believe you're only in control of 40% of your own life? But, that's not the worst of it. She cited that as a good thing, because people assume that they're genetically determined to either be morose or upbeat. I'll ask again -- is this what psychologists are telling people? To chin up, because they're 40% in control?

Emotions should be honest. I'd rather be depressed and understand the reason for feeling that way, then force myself into feeling upbeat when I shouldn't. The entire premise of the article isn't just folksy and shallow, but wrong.

Edited by Myself
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Point #3 in that article is made so briefly, that it's hard to say what qualifications the author would have made if allowed to expound on just that single point.

I think the major point she's making is that not only can emotions make us act a certain way, but the process works the other way around as well. [Dan speaks about this here.] So, as rational beings, we can sometimes use this as a useful technique -- say to calm down so that we can think rationally.

Of course, if the author indeed meant that every negative emotion should be met with faking, she would be wrong.

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3. Fake it till you feel it.

Feelings follow actions. If I’m feeling low, I deliberately act cheery, and I find myself actually feeling happier. If I’m feeling angry at someone, I do something thoughtful for her and my feelings toward her soften. This strategy is uncannily effective.

I think this is the worse part of the advise. Granted, if one is feeling depressed or sad for some unknown reason, getting up and out of one's apartment to do something of value is good advise, and sometimes this requires projecting what it would be like to actually achieve happiness rather than wallow in misery. But acting as if you are happy when you are not sounds like an attempt to not introspect and find out why you are so unhappy. "Put on a happy face" is not good advise when things are actually bothering you to such a degree that you are feeling sad much of the time -- and I even disagreed when Dan recommended this, even if I didn't say anything at the time.

The key to achieving happiness is to discover what your actual values are and to pursue them and earn them. It might be true that making a smile or doing some sort of activity will make you feel better because it releases endorphins into you blood stream, but that is only short-term and does not get to the root of the problem. And more often than not, the problem is that you are not pursuing and achieving rational values. Now, this may not be true for people who are clinically depresses, because they might actually have a chemical problem in their brains not allowing them to feel happy, but if that is the problem then medication is the solution and not faking it.

So, the author is wrong on several accounts, primarily because of the wording that she uses such as "Fake it til you feel it." If she actually means faking it instead of achieving a value, then that is bad and is self-deceptive. I mean, if that is all she has to say about happiness, then why not advise taking an upper in order to feel better? I'm against this, by the way.

I think overall she is trying to reverse cause and effect, because her folksiness prevents her from getting to the root of the problem. Yes, man is not a vegetable, so vegging out on the couch all day will not bring happiness, unless one is watching some romantic realism movie, and that ought to motivate you to go out and to become a hero.

I don't know, it kind of reminds me of part of the sixties movement whereby people were suggested to wear rose colored glasses so that everything seemed rosy. It is pap and not good psychological advise.

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Let me expand on this a little more. My position is that your emotions do not tell you if something is good for you or bad for you, what you emotions are is an automatic psycho-somatic response to you subconsciously held premises. As such, they do not rationally evaluate the facts, for you can only do that with your conscious mind according to your consciously held convictions that can be rationally evaluated as being in tune with reality or not. So, trying to put on a happy face when something goes wrong or doing a kindness to someone who did you an injustice just because it makes you happy (read you get a positive emotional reaction) is not the way to go. What one needs to do is to rationally and explicitly evaluate the situation according to man's life as the standard. This is the root of the Objectivist rational method of evaluating something.

I'm not trying to say that emotions are contrary to reason or at conflict with reason, but rather that emotions are automatic whereas thinking is not. Thinking must be done volitionally of your own free will, and the way not to blow things out of proportion is to go by your conscious mind rationally, rather than blowing up because you want to express a strong emotional reaction. In other words, feel your emotions openly, but don't think that just because you feel angry at someone that they necessarily did you an injustice. The only way to know is to rationally assess the facts and evaluate them according to a rational standard. Were they actually trying to do you harm? Was it a mistake? Did they not understand your values and tread on them intentionally? All of this can only be answered consciously going by the facts. It cannot be done with your emotions. It has to be done with your mind.

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You feel emotions for a REASON. If you're not happy, you're not happy for a reason. If you're angry, sad, joyous, burnt out, or dead inside you have a reason for feeling that way. That reason is reality. The reality of your own life. Any time you try to manipulate yourself into feeling ANYTHING you're training your subconscious to stop evaluating that reality. I called that article a checklist for suicide, because that's what it is. You can only evade reality and your emotions for so long, before the root causes you were trying to cover up force you to deal with them. By that point you may not be able to.

Here's my advice: listen to your emotions.

This would only be true if emotions were tools of cognition, which they are NOT. Emotions *can be* useful if you're having a hard time explicitly identifying the nature of the things that confront you because your subconscious is very good at picking up subtleties. However, this assumes a perfectly-programmed subconscious, which most people *do not possess*. Emotions don't necessarily reflect reality or guide you in a useful direction, so sometimes you *have* to ignore them in order to function.

If I "listened to my emotions" all the time, I would literally *never* get out of bed. If I never made an intentional effort to self-talk and "look at the bright side" life would be pain-filled, meaningless drudgery for me.

Sorry, but I *refuse* to accept the emotional responses I have as the given and never strive to improve them. I'd like to actually accomplish *something* and be happy *sometimes*.

Edit: In other words, I pretty much agree with Thomas. No, it's not fantastic advice, because it *is* superficial. But it's not evil, either.

Edited by JMeganSnow
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The way to achieve your happiness is to live by man's life as the standard and clearly define your pro-life goals and values, and pursue them and earn them.

Thomas I think you repeat things that most of, if not everyone, who reads this is already bound to know. You need to think about your audience when your writing. I sometimes go through your posts and find lots of sentences like this so the entire post usually feels really repetitive because of it. I think if you keep in mind what your audience already knows, so you don't have to state it every time, then you shorten the length and improve the quality of your posts.

That might just be be though since I like to keep things short, nimble and refined.

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That might just be be though since I like to keep things short, nimble and refined.

The problem is that not everyone reading oo.net and participating is fully familiar with Objectivism, so it is not good to assume that the know some of the more subtle approaches of Objectivism, such as how to achieve happiness by pursuing life-affirming goals. When an issue is brought up, it is best to be explicit as possible. Besides, this is a web open forum, and anyone on the Internet can read it; so I don't just write to the person I am replying to, but also to any casual reader of this forum who may or may not know anything at all about Objectivism.

I mean, I'm sorry if it is repetitive to some readers, but the original poster to this thread did not present the Objectivist view of the achievement of happiness and left it implicit, which is not a good thing to do when discussing something one thinks is controversial. In other words, Objectivism is not common sense, and I don't assume just because someone is posting here that they understand Objectivism.

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