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Happiness and well-being – some discussion

July 15, 2013

According to C. Robert Cloninger:

“To be truly happy people must learn to live in radically new ways. Well-being only arises when a person learns how to let go of struggles, to work in the service of others and to grow in awareness. Prior approaches to feeling good have small or brief benefits because they separate the biological, psychological, social and spiritual processes of living that must be in harmony for a happy life. The introduction of modern drugs and psychotherapy techniques has not resulted in more people who are very happy with their lives than in the past. Psychologists know much about the psychosocial skills of people who are happy but know little about their biology or spirituality. Psychiatrists know much about the biomedical characteristics of people who are unhappy, but not those who are happy. No one has integrated the psychosocial and biomedical knowledge that is available about well-being in a coherent developmental perspective.” (p.v)

“‘Feeling good’ cannot be authentic or stable without ‘being good’ because happiness is the effortless expression of coherent intutions of the world. Authentic happiness requires a coherent way of living, [-p.vi] including the human processes that regulate the sexual, material, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of experience. Sex, possessions, power, and friendships can be self-defeating or adaptive, depending on how aware people are of their goals and values. The degree of coherence of human thoughts and social relationships can be measured in terms of how well our thoughts and relationships lead to the harmony and happiness of the good life.” (pp.v-vi)

“Within every person is a spontaneous need for happiness, understanding, and love, yet neither psychiatry nor psychology has been effective in understanding the steps that lead to such a happy life. In fact, these disciplines have almost exclusively studied the unhappy. In fact, these disciplines have almost exclusively studied the unhappy. Available treatments of mental problems are usually based on empirical discoveries that ignore the importance of growth in self-awareness for the development of well-being. Consequently, available treatments are palliative and incomplete, not curative.” (p.xv)

“…the science of mental health must recognize that individuals operate within the context of the goals and values of society. In turn, self-aware human beings evaluate society within a spiritual context that is ultimately non-dualistic. As people develop in maturity, they grow in the radius of their awareness of the many biological, psychological, and social influences on themselves and their relationships with others. The self-aware consciousness of a person progresses through a hierarchy of stages that leads to increasing levels of wisdom and well-being, as has been documented clearly in longitudinal psychosocial research. Consequently, the mental health field needs a method for describing self-awareness that recognizes its stage-like development.
In effect, the science of mental health has been stagnated by its division into two parts. The biomedical part studies the brain, whereas the psychosocial part studies the mind. Essentially these two approaches define two separate paraigms for understanding mental health and disease. The psychosocial approach is concerned with the paradigm of the person whose thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are understood mentally in terms of adaptive responses motivated by external and internal events. In contrast, the biomedical approach is concerned with the paradigm of disease categories, which are discrete entities described in terms of a set of causes, specific criteria for diagnosis, and predictable course of development. For example, in the first part of the twentieth century, psychoanalysis dominated the field of psychiatry based on its paradigm of the person. Later, the biomedical approach and categorical diagnosis began to dominate the field of psychiatry along with advances in basic neuroscience and psychopharmacology.
Unfortunately, each part of the science of mental health – that is, the paradigm of the person and the paradigm of disease categories – is an inadequate basis to understand the relations of the body and the mind.” (ppxvi-xvii)

Ref: (italics in original; emphases in blue bold mine) C. Robert Cloninger (2004) Feeling Good: The Science of Well-Being. Oxford University press: Oxford.

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