11/16/16 - Invictus and the Science of Happiness
There’s a distinct problem with being a victim. While such status doesn’t come with many perks, identifying as a victim can actually feel good. I’d argue it’s why we do it so often. Of course, we’d all like positive outcomes from the get go but as we (should) know by now, life doesn’t work that way. When we don’t get a positive outcome, it flat out feels better to be consoled, given attention, and sympathized with. I know these reactions feel good to me, at least.
The trouble is what we trade in exchange for the “perks” of being a victim is control. You know, it’s the pomp and circumstance of the Invictus poem. We give up the entire, “I am the master of my fate” bit. We take a knee and hand over the clenched fist proclamation: “I am the captain of my soul.” With being the victim, we become deterministic, reactionary, and a product of the winds; fair or stormy as they may be. This view is debilitating.
Now, I’m hip to differences of opinion, so I won’t be too quick to judge the value of some feel good attention for the victim as somehow less valuable than what the pride of control gives us. However, I do want to point out some science. In fact, the very idea that we have some independent control over our being is critical to happiness. Without it, we have no hope. It’s mental prison.
You heard it correctly. Being able to, in some degree, control outcomes, how we react to them, and our state of being is tethered to our neurological ability to experience happiness. In fact, the peak human experience, called flow in academia, requires that the subject have some control over the outcomes he/she faces. Meaning your favorite point guard, can’t scientifically get in the zone if his actions don’t, at least in part, have some effect on whether the ball goes in the hoop. Happiness plays by the same rules.
Whether the benefits of being a victim or choosing a different reality might differ slightly based on opinion, one thing is true. You can’t experience happiness and give up control by being the victim simultaneously. Science says so. When it comes to our own happiness, we have a single choice: denounce being a victim, and claim some control.
In fact, the basic premise that we can opt out of being a victim of the millions of outside forces that often shape our reality is the source of happiness. The opposite is the stark realization that you can’t control who your parents are, what many of your physical attributes are, the million other cars on the road with you, the ill health of your family dog, and the State of the Union. If you believe that you are the external circumstances of your life, it would be quite inevitable to believe your fate is sealed in the stars, which for most is a sobering thought that would drive anyone into depression.
Let me ask you this. If you’re one awful first date away from out-of-control victimhood, are you really giving yourself a chance at a fulfilled life? Does the economy explain whether you’re successful or not? Are you really so fragile that a single bout with traffic can claim your happiness? Dare I wonder, is an undesirable outcome really the difference between you and your peak expression?
Harden up. It’s you’re only chance at happiness, anyway.
Compete the following for time:
100 Double Unders
10 DB OH Walking Lunges (50/30)
2 Bar Muscle Ups