Aversion to Happiness Across Cultures: A Review of Where and Why People are Averse to Happiness
- 3.3k Downloads
A common view in contemporary Western culture is that personal happiness is one of the most important values in life. For example, in American culture it is believed that failing to appear happy is cause for concern. These cultural notions are also echoed in contemporary Western psychology (including positive psychology and much of the research on subjective well-being). However, some important (often culturally-based) facts about happiness have tended to be overlooked in the psychological research on the topic. One of these cultural phenomena is that, for some individuals, happiness is not a supreme value. In fact, some individuals across cultures are averse to various kinds of happiness for several different reasons. This article presents the first review of the concept of aversion to happiness. Implications of the outcomes are discussed, as are directions for further research.
KeywordsAversion to happiness Culture Subjective well-being Happiness Western psychology Positive psychology Fear of happiness
We would like to thank Professor Bengt Brülde and two anonymous reviewers from the Journal of Happiness Studies; their detailed comments enabled us to greatly improve the original manuscript.
- Ahmed, S. (2007). Multiculturalism and the promise of happiness. New Formations, 63, 121–137.Google Scholar
- Arieti, S., & Bemporad, J. (1980). Severe and mild depression: The psychotherapeutic approach. London: Tavistock.Google Scholar
- Ben-Shahar, T. (2002). The question of happiness: On finding meaning, pleasure, and the ultimate currency. New York: Writers Club Press.Google Scholar
- Berry, J. W., Poortinga, Y. H., Segall, M. H., & Dasen, P. R. (1992). Cross-cultural psychology: Research and applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Braun, S. (2000). The science of happiness: Unlocking the mysteries of mood. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Bruckner, P. (2012). The pursuit of happiness. In S. Vandamme (Ed.), Geluk: Drang of dwang? (pp. 59–66). Gent: Academia Press.Google Scholar
- Bryant, F. B., & Veroff, J. (2007). Savoring: A new model of positive experience. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Chittick, W. C. (2005). Weeping in classical sufism. In K. C. Patton & J. S. Hawley (Eds.), Holy tears: Weeping in the religious imagination (pp. 132–144). New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Christopher, J. C., & Smith, A. (2006). A hermeneutic approach to culture and psychotherapy. In R. Moody & S. Palmer (Eds.), Race, culture and psychotherapy: Critical perspective in multicultural practice (pp. 265–280). New York: Brunner/Routledge.Google Scholar
- D’Andrade, R. G. (1984). Culture meaning systems. In R. A. Shweder & R. A. Levine (Eds.), Culture theory: Essays on mind, self, and emotion (pp. 88–119). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- De Vos, M. (2012). The unbearable lightness of happiness policy. In P. Booth (Ed.), … and the pursuit of happiness (pp. 181–204). London: The Institute of Economic Affairs.Google Scholar
- Ewen, S. (1976). Captains of consciousness. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
- Freedman, J. (1978). Happy people: What happiness is, who has it, and why. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.Google Scholar
- Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2002). Happiness and economics: How the economy and institutions affect human well-being. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Glück, L. (1996). Fear of happiness. Michigan Quarterly Review, XXXV(4), 579–585.Google Scholar
- Goetz, J. L., Spencer-Rodgers, J., & Peng, K. (2008). Dialectical emotions: How cultural epistemologies influence the experience and regulation of emotional complexity. In R. M. Sorrentino & S. Yamaguchi (Eds.), Handbook of motivation and cognition across cultures (pp. 517–538). Amsterdam: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Haybron, D. M. (2008). Philosophy and the science of subjective well-being. In M. Eid & R. J. Larsen (Eds.), the science of subjective well-being (pp. 17–43). New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Helliwell, J. F., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. (2012). World happiness report. Commissioned for the United Nations and published by the Earth Institute. http://www.earth.columbia.edu/sitefiles/file/Sachs%20Writing/2012/World%20Happiness%20Report.pdf.
- Hochschild, J. L. (1996). Facing up to the American dream: Race, class, and the soul of the nation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Holden, R. (2009). Be happy: Release the power of happiness in you. New York City: Hay House Inc.Google Scholar
- Joshanloo, M. (2013a). Eastern conceptualizations of happiness: Fundamental differences with western views. Journal of Happiness Studies. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10902-013-9431-1.
- Joshanloo, M. (2013c). A comparison of western and Islamic conceptions of happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(6), 1857–1874.Google Scholar
- Joshanloo, M., Lepshokova, Z. K., Panyusheva, T., Natalia, A., Poon, W. C., et al. (2013). Cross-cultural validation of the fear of happiness scale across 14 national groups. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. doi: 10.1177/0022022113505357.
- Koo, J., & Suh, E. (2007). Is happiness a zero-sum game? Belief in fixed amount of happiness (BIFAH) and subjective well-being. Korean Journal of Social and Personality Psychology, 21(4), 1–19.Google Scholar
- Kupperman, J. (2006). Six myths about the good life: Thinking about what has value. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.Google Scholar
- Lao Tse. (2008). Tao Te Ching: Or the Tao and its characteristics (James Legge, Trans.). The Floating Press. http://www.floatingpress.com.
- Layard, R. (2005). Happiness: Lessons from a new science. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
- Locke, J. (1991). An essay concerning human understanding. Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
- Lucas, R. E., & Diener, E. (2008). Subjective well-being. In M. Lewis, J. M. Haviland-Jones, & L. F. Barrett (Eds.), Handbook of emotions (3rd ed., pp. 471–484). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
- Lutz, C. (1987). Goals, events, and understanding in Ifaluk emotion theory. In N. Quinn & D. Holland (Eds.), Cultural models in language and thought. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
- Lyubomirsky, S. (2000). In the pursuit of happiness: Comparing the U.S. and Russia. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology, Atlanta, Georgia. (Symposium titled “Happiness, Hope, Optimism and Maturity: Social Psychological Approaches to Human Strengths.”).Google Scholar
- Markus, H. R., & Hamedani, M. G. (2007). Sociocultural psychology: The dynamic interdependence among self systems and social systems. In S. Kitayama & D. Cohen (Eds.), Handbook of cultural psychology (pp. 3–39). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Matsumoto, D. (2001). Culture and emotion. In D. Matsumoto (Ed.), The handbook of culture and psychology (pp. 171–194). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Melka, S. E., Lancaster, S. L., Bryant, A. R., Rodriguez, B. F., & Weston, R. (2011). An exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis of the Affective Control Scale in an undergraduate sample. Journal of Psychopathology and Behavioral Assessment, 33, 501–513.Google Scholar
- Mesquita, B., & Albert, D. (2007). The cultural regulation of emotions. In J. J. Gross (Ed.), The handbook of emotion regulation (pp. 486–503). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Minami, H. (1971). Psychology of the Japanese people. Tokyo: University of Tokyo press.Google Scholar
- Moshiri Tafreshi, M. (2009). Evil eye: About contemporary society. Chista, 259, 108–116. [in Persian].Google Scholar
- Myers, D. G. (1993). The pursuit of happiness: Discovering the pathway to fulfilment, well-being, and enduring personal joy. New York: Avon Books.Google Scholar
- Peng, K., Spencer-Rodgers, J., & Nian, Z. (2006). Naïve dialecticism and the tao of Chinese thought indigenous and cultural psychology. In U. Kim, K.-S. Yang, & K-. K. Hwang (Eds.), Indigenous and cultural psychology: Understanding people in context (pp. 247–262). Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Safdar, S., Friedlmeier, W., Matsumoto, D., Yoo, S. H., Kwantes, C. T., Kakai, H., et al. (2009). Variations of emotional display rules within and across cultures: A comparison between Canada, USA, and Japan. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science/Revue Canadienne des Sciences du Comportement, 41(1), 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Sagiv, L., Roccas, S., & Hazan, O. (2004). Value pathways to well-being: Healthy values, valued goal attainment, and environmental congruence. In A. Linley & J. Stephen (Eds.), Positive psychology in practice. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Schumaker, J. F. (2006). In search of happiness: Understanding an endangered state of mind. Auckland: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
- Seligman, M. E. P. (1998). President’s column: What is the good life? APA Monitor, 29(10), 1–2.Google Scholar
- Shantideva. (1997). A guide to the bodhisattva way of life (V. A. Wallace & B. A. Wallace, Trans.). Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion.Google Scholar
- Snyder, C. R., & Lopez, S. J. (2007). Positive psychology: The scientific and practical explorations of human strengths. California: Sage Publications Inc.Google Scholar
- Suh, E. M. (2000). Self: The hyphen between culture and subjective well-being. In E. Diener & E. M. Suh (Eds.), Culture and subjective well-being (pp. 63–86). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Triandis, H. C. (2000). Cultural syndromes and subjective well-being. In E. F. Diener & E. M. Suh (Eds.), Subjective well-being across cultures (pp. 87–112). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Weijers, D. (2011). Hedonism. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://www.iep.utm.edu/hedonism/.
- Wilson, E. G. (2008). Against happiness: In praise of melancholy. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar