An article in yesterday’s “Science Times” caught my eye: A Conversation with Daniel Gilbert: The Smiling Professor, by Claudia Dreifus (Published: April 22, 2008.)
A scholar who studies “the nature of happiness” at Harvard, Daniel Gilbert, found out and reported what I already knew: That most of us humans are unbreakable. Basically, we can adapt to anything. If you had asked me a few years ago if I could cope with all of the problems I have now, I would have said, “No way.” But it turns out I was wrong, and so are most people when they make such predictions. Prof. Gilbert writes:
“The truth is, bad things don’t affect us as profoundly as we expect them to. That’s true of good things, too.”
This last part is disappointing, but if it keeps us in balance overall, it’s worth it.
Gilbert writes that as a species we humans are generally “moderately happy”. On a scale of 1 to 100 most people rate their happiness level at about 75. So what happens when we are dealt a blow such as a serious illness or death of a loved one? Do we fall to pieces? No, says Dr. Gilbert:
“When those things happen, most people will return to their emotional baselines more quickly than we’d predict. Humans are wildly resilient.”
“People have a remarkable talent for finding ways to soften the impact of negative events. Thus they mistakenly expect such blows to be more devastating than they turn out to be.”
I can attest to that. When dear husband had a recurrence of the PC last year I thought I could not take another step, but of course I did. And we’re not in the clear either. I know that if DH will have to have hormone therapy or other difficult treatments in the future we will find ways to make it bearable. Based on experience.
I can’t end this without mentioning Dr. Gilbert’s prescription for happiness:
“We know that the best predictor of human happiness is human relationships and the amount of time that people spend with family and friends.”
Note that money, and even health, are not mentioned. Instead, Gilbert writes:
“You couldn’t pay me $100,000 to miss a play date with my granddaughters.”
So stop reading and start socializing. Although you’re already doing that in a manner of speaking.