The main message of the article is in its title: That people find happiness in loving relationships with others.
I think we can probably all attest to that.
What doesn't bring happiness, according to the article, is the acquisition of: 1. fame; 2. wealth; or 3. tons of sex with many different partners.
I can't personally attest to that, as I've never had any of those things.
But, while the development of the message in Mr. Brooks piece was both enlightening and uplifting, what I found most illuminating was his mention of a certain psychological test used to determine both happiness and unhappiness in people. The name of this test is the Positive Affectivity and Negative Affectivity Schedule test. What this test has confirmed, according to Mr. Brooks, is that unhappiness is not just the absence of happiness and the the two are not opposites. They're just different brain activities. He writes:
"Strange as it seems, being happier than average doesn't mean that one can't also be unhappier than average...So when people say, 'I am an unhappy person' they are really doing sums, whether they realize it or not. They are saying, 'My unhappiness is x, my happiness is y, and x>y'. The real questions are why, and what you can do to make y>x."
Brooks took the test himself and found that he was at the top of the happiness range. But he also got a high score of unhappiness, as well. He calls himself "a cheerful melancholic".
I totally got what he was saying. I felt like he was describing me. I, too, am a cheerful melancholic. Or am I a melancholy cheerful person? Or is it that whatever I feel, I just feel it greatly? Are we all that way?
I imagine each of us with an internal sliding scale with "unhappy" at one end and "happy" at the other. Our disposition is always somewhere along the scale, sometimes moving more in one direction, sometimes more in the other. Sometimes, due to circumstances good or bad, it can get stuck in one spot for a while.
But what about someone who's always at the "happy" end? Or always at the "unhappy" end? And what would you get if you crossed a perpetually happy camper, like my mother, with a chronic melancholic, like my father?
You'd get me.
To be continued tomorrow...