Skip to content
Big Think+

The Tyranny of Positivity: A Harvard Psychologist Details Our Unhealthy Obsession With Happiness

Harvard psychologist Susan David says she worries about the message that society promotes about focusing on happiness — that it may inadvertently result in greater levels of unhappinessHappiness has become an expectation. However, we cannot forget that there is no one state of being that a person is entitled to experience. After all, as she puts it: life’s beauty is inseparable from its fragility.

In this video, David shares some of the experiences from her life that shaped her perspective on happiness. She says that humans must develop the skills and capacity to deal with difficult times not sweep it aside as a glitch in the smooth delivery of constant happiness. Sadness, heartbreak, and grief are not signs of weakness, and pretending these “ugly” emotions do not exist only hinders our authentic existence and how we experience life. Moreover, it lowers our resilience in dealing with future difficulties as well.

Happiness is not the goal, David says. If you build your life around things that you intrinsically value, happiness will be a beautiful byproduct of that focus.

Join the #1 community of L&D professionals

Sign up to receive new research and insights every other Tuesday.