What if the entire history of mainstream psychology has been focused on the wrong element of the human psyche? To psychologist Tal Ban Shahar, that may be the case: all the famed psychologists of the past few years have been focused on mental illness and distress, while precious few have looked into a much more common and arguably more fruitful side of the human experience: happiness. Shahar has sought to correct this in his research, his popular Harvard class on happiness, and his books. In his conversation with Big Think, Shahar explained his unique approach to psychology and instructed viewers on practical tips they can employ each day to be happy—and he has an answer to those who might demean his work as self help.
To Shahar, his work is self help; he is proud of the categorization, if not of some other self-professed gurus that practice something entirely different from true self-help. Shahar offered several practical applications of his research: tips for overcoming hard times, improving corporate happiness, and avoiding the temptations that Facebook and Twitter present for falling prey to the danger of perfectionism.
We also asked Shahar if happiness was really the be all and end all of human experience: what about the great tortured artists of the world? Shahar argued that true happiness doesn't preclude unhappiness and that it was far from being just another opiate of the masses.
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Is it "perverseness," the "death drive," or something else?
- It's an all-hands-on-deck moment in the arc of civilization.
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