An Informal Poll

Image by Steve Snodgrass

I’m looking for your opinion today, friends, on the truth of an observation I made recently:

It seems to me that people who are happy are happiest when others are happy, while people who are unhappy are happiest when others are unhappy.

What say you, loyal readers: agree or disagree?

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19 responses to “An Informal Poll

  1. Based on personal experiences only I would agree. Although it depends on temperament. My best friend for instance is bi-polar so her moods depend on taking medication as well as occurrences in her life. Her manic highs or happy periods can be just as hard as her manic lows.

  2. I have certainly observed this to be true in my own life. Unfortunately (karmic-retribution-wise, which I think is a crapshoot) – it isn’t always the case that those who make others unhappy are, themselves, unhappy.

    That said, I believe the first part of the statement (re happiness) is more often true than the second. Anecdotally speaking.

  3. Right on the money!

    I have a friend who I really should be the best buds with: she’s willing to help, we share many many similar things in life circumstances, we live very close to each other. But her inability to be genuinely happy for the other’s good fortune keeps me at bay. I have learned not to tell her anything esp. Good things in my life. I feel sad every time I ponder our relation…

  4. Hmmm… interesting question. I can tell you this– I tend to be happier when those around me are happy. Otherwise, I can feel myself being dragged down. It’s hard for me sometimes to focus on making myself happy– I tend to gravitate towards making others happy, and that can breed resentment.

  5. I actually disagree. Mostly because my own happiness or unhappiness doesn’t depend on others’ fortunes (or misfortunes). I am happier when other people are happier. But sometimes, if I’m really down in the dumps, I just don’t care how happy or unhappy anyone else is. Clearly, I am a little bit too obsessed with myself!

  6. Oh, yes.

    Oh, yes.

    I am HAPPY and rejoice for others.

    But those who are basically unhappy seem to get a twisted joy by seeing others in misery, also.

    Just my take, is all.

  7. Perhaps “happy” is better gauged by our acceptance and love for what is (which sometimes is great, but other times terrible). In this sense “happy” might be re-framed in terms of “only connect,” provided the connections are authentic, reciprocal and nourishing? I have come to see schadenfreude (and negative or self-involved cruel behavior in general) as a by-products of fear, insecurity and shame (mostly set up in the first eighteen months of life). To individuate is to be conscious and true to who we are even when others are down, yet to develop the compassion to help, seeing our truest selves in the group and not our ego-selves. Life has pain, and growing up means accepting and dealing with this; suffering is the attempt to avoid pain, which often worsens and prolongs it. Or maybe not.

    • Happiness as acceptance and love for that which is; I like that. And I certainly see the truth in your observation that Schadenfreude is often the result of insecurity and fear. But as much as I intellectually understand that other people’s behavior is about them and not about me, I have a harder time remembering that when I encounter those who are hostile toward my happiness.

  8. Can we have a third choice.

  9. I’m not sure unhappy people are happy when other people are unhappy. I think they are less unhappy, because they don’t feel so bad about themselves. I tend to think that unhappy people are not like that by nature, but suffer from some kind of depression. Depression is often underdiagnosed because it still has such a stigma. And when you’re depressed, it’s really hard to be happy, no matter how much you try.

    I do agree with the other part though, kind of. Many studies show that helping someone out in one way or another makes us happy/happier, so it’s always a good way to lift up your spirits!

  10. When we are around happy and inspiring people I believe it lifts our spirits. 🙂

  11. I think B is true. (misery loves company.) but I don’t know enough happy people to know about A. It’s been my observation that happiness and misery are overrated. The scale of misery to happiness doesn’t really run from one to ten, but from about 4 to 6. If you’re a 5.5, you’re doing pretty good.

  12. I think when I am around people who are happy, I tend to be more happy. When others are unhappy, it tends to bring me down as well.

    It takes all kinds…I would rather be around the ones that make me feel happier, though…

  13. I don’t know. I consider myself to be more on the “unhappy” side (but many people see me as happy which I think is weird). I am definitely not a fan of being around unhappy people. Maybe that means I’m really not that unhappy. Why the poll? When you posting the results? 😉

    • I tend to get bogged down by sweeping generalizations, so I thought I’d try this one out on this group of smart, insightful people. And all of your comments have helped me see that, yet again, my conclusions might benefit from a bit more nuance. 🙂

  14. Well, I’m certainly happy for the others around me when they’re happy but I can also be happy by myself and for myself, even if my husband is having a rough day and my children are kicking up a fuss. However, if they rain on my parade enough, they’ll ruin my mood, I’m sure.

    However, I do agree about the miserable people. When bad things happen to the people around them it helps to confirm their predictions or their doomsaying or their pre-judgements, or whatever, and it does make them happy (in an unhappy, miserable kind of way!) Interesting question, Kristen!

    • Well said! I just spent a week around just the kind of people in question and felt that every inquiry was designed to either get me to admit that my (perceived) parenting problems are all of my own making or to admit that my parenting sucks. Neither of which is true, of course, but it seemed that it would have made the person feel better if I’d said that my child behaves “better” for other people or is growing up to be a weenie or whatever parenting disaster they were convinced was going to befall us.

      • It’s taken me awhile to realize how draining those kinds of relationships are. I’m all for commiserating with friends, but I can’t take the competitive spirit those conversations sometimes take.

        Thanks so much for stopping by Motherese!

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