Question: What is Higgins’ notion of happiness?
Higgins: Happiness is an emotion that feels light, one that cannot be fully achieved when one is weighted by worries or generally angry and displeased with life. All of you from time to time have break through moments of happiness when someone says something funny, for example. Or for others the birth of a child within the family can produce a sense of light-heartedness. Nonetheless, our description of happiness is a state of being rather than a moment in time. It is an emotional set-point.
To better understand an emotional set-point think of a person who is habitually depressed or one who seemingly is angry about something most of the time. These are emotional set-points, fall-back emotions that rise to the surface quickly and easily. We often call these emotions baseline emotions because they are so easy and quick to bubble to the surface and usually surface first. After consideration these people often see the humor in a situation or change their attitude but depressed, woe is me sort of responses or angry responses show up first.
So when asked our notion of happiness, we consider a person to be happy when happiness is the set-point, the baseline emotion that shows up first. These people tend to be light of heart, pleasant of word, creative in thought, inclusive and uplifting. It is not that problems do not pop up in the lives of happy people. Happy people simply do not perceive problems as the same sort of hurdle or inconvenience that depressed or angry people do.
A life lived from the set-point of happiness is extremely satisfying. Each of you has the capacity to achieve happiness but it can be a long and bumpy road from depression or anger to happiness. We encourage you to start the journey now. It is a rewarding road to travel.
Received October 4, 2012 at Lake Goodwin, Washington