Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"This Emotional Life "

January 4-6th PBS broadcast a 3 part documentary called "This Emotional Life". We tried to catch most of it and I am pleased we did. The documentary is supposed to run along these lines:

"What message does the Harvard psychologist and his production team ultimately hope to convey with the series? Says Gilbert: 'Here are the three important facts about happiness that have become the themes for each of the shows: 1) You can't be happy alone. Social relationships are the single most important ingredient of happiness. They are key. 2) You can't be happy all the time. We have to experience negative emotions as part of being human. But it's HOW we experience negative emotions that count. 3) You can be happier than you are. There are universal traits of happy people that you can implement to raise your happiness level.'" (

I would say most of the documentary did revolve around what the "author" of it describes above. It was fascinating to hear the different families, couples, therapists, celebrities, and scientists all taking a direct stab at the idea of happiness, what it is, what causes it, etc., and its interconnectedness with relationships.

There were a fair amount of interesting ideas and stories. One finding for instance, showed that people who are religious are, almost worldwide, more happy than those who are not. Another-- marriages with children tend to be less satisfying but more stable, whereas marriages without children tend to be more satisfying but less stable. Interesting.

The one thing that consistently bugged me throughout the documentary however, was all the references to "our animal natures' preconditioned responses and behaviours." There was really not enough emphasis, I think, on our ability to choose many of the aspects of our behaviour.

I think what I like most about this is the idea of talking about happiness and relationships more openly, intelligently, and comprehensively than what we get from daily conversation and tv. I think there are these canned ideas that we pick up off the shelf of life and freak out when we see someone making their own chicken soup and talking about the recipe, whether that yields a delicious or disgusting bowl of soup, it doesn't matter, we just don't want to talk about it unless its widely supplied and purchased.

So, instead of my unsolicited ramblings, go check it out and let me know what you think:

Here is one of the video clips:

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