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Posts Tagged ‘Unhappiness’

Don’t count on a professional degree to guarantee happiness.

According to recent reports, about 20 percent of all male lawyers report being depressed, which is nearly three times higher than the national average for men. Female lawyers fare a little better, but not by much.

What gives?

Some experts blame it on stress, long hours, and a pessimistic personality. Others attribute it to a profession that interacts with people in typically emotional or high-stakes settings, which can tax even the most psychologically stable individuals

Lawyers, of course, don’t have a lock on professional unhappiness.

Physicians often grapple with the same issues, and as a result many are searching for less demanding environments, such as administration, teaching or consulting.

As a society, we value professional achievement. It drives much of our behavior. But it doesn’t necessarily lead to a happy or satisfying life. Just ask any unhappy lawyer or physician.

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On average, happier people are more successful, do better in social relationships, and like themselves and other people more. They are also usually more creative and better able to cope with difficult situations.

However, there may be one area where unhappy people may have a slight edge — judgment and decision making.

It’s been called the “depressive realism” effect. Research suggests depressed people (at least in laboratory settings) judge their control over events more accurately than non-depressed people.

In research studying this effect, happier people have applied successful shortcuts they’ve learned in the past, only to arrive at the wrong answer. Furthermore, the research suggests people in a positive mood tend to use stereotypes more, to be less logical and to be more biased in their judgments.

Real-life, complex settings still probably favor the happier person over the unhappy person in the long run, but it is an intriguing thought — just because you’re happy doesn’t mean you will necessarily make the right decision or move. In fact, your positive mood may cloud your judgment, causing you to believe in a potential outcome that may be unrealistic or has serious “holes” in it. In other words, our positivism could blind us to realities.

Perhaps it’s okay at times to be skeptical, negative or be in a bad mood. It may just prevent us from making a big mistake.

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Another profoundly unhappy young adult or youth has caused unfathomable tragedy and sadness.

An individual or small group, almost always male, unleashes a torrent of violence and death that stretches far beyond the brief, but widespread notoriety that ensues. Left in its wake is the very simple observation — we seem to be at a loss as to how to stop or prevent it.

But there are clues, even if only breadcrumbs.

The Omaha young man was apparently depressed, and he had recently lost two important satisfaction resources — his job and girlfriend. There were also apparently familial conflicts and self-esteem issues. Life had no meaning. In other words, many of the things that help make the rest of us happy or satisfied (even if minimally) were missing — gone. Combine those elements with the desire for notoriety and the access to weapons and we have the perfect recipe for disaster.

Reasonably satisfied or happy young adults are less likely to randomly kill strangers. Perhaps that is where we need to look harder for answers and solutions.

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