For many years, a discourse has been spread according to which being happy is equivalent to “reaching” certain stages of life which consist in accumulating material and social goods.
On the one hand, earning enough money to buy things like a house you own, a car, certain types of high-quality clothing and accessories that are supposed to reflect the person’s worth, etc. On the other, the creation of a family on the traditional family model, with children and even, if possible, a pet.
which means The idea that happiness means the fulfillment of a series of requirements linked to the notion of “ideal citizen” has been defended. have emerged in wellness societies, which are based on consumerism and certain expectations associated with romantic love in heterosexual people.
This is already problematic in itself because it implies that a person cannot be happy if they do not meet these requirements, which is not difficult to see which does not correspond to reality: it is not uncommon to see people who have access to happiness despite not having a partner or children, or to live on rent.
Now… What happens when a person is not only far from this ideal of happiness, but also enters a phase of crisis that brings together situations that we actively associate with unhappiness? Can a person continue to be happy even though there is a complicated situation around them? Let’s see below.
Is it possible to be happy in the face of adversity?
If there is anything that characterizes the human being, it is his ability to change behaviors and the way of thinking and managing emotions to adapt to the environment. This extraordinary psychological flexibility is what has allowed us, among other things, to be one of the very rare species of large land mammals capable of living on all continents and in a wide variety of ecosystems, for example.
However, as animals capable of learning all kinds of things, this ability is not only reflected in how we take advantage of the resources available around us to meet our biological needs for short-term survival. In addition, we are able to learn to adjust our emotions to situations which, from the point of view of Western societies, may at first seem impossible to overcome.
For example, people who suffer from injuries or illnesses that are deprived of the ability to use any of their senses (for example, impairments that produce acquired blindness) or who suffer from limb loss, over time, are known to they are able to achieve levels of well-being and happiness comparable to those before this health problem.
And it is the same in many cases where the problem is not in the body itself, but in the context of the person’s life: whether it is the family context, the city where one lives, country of residence, etc.
The key concept to understanding why we are able to adapt to these types of situations not only in a practical or instrumental sense, but also emotionally and in terms of our ability to experience well-being and even happiness, is what in psychology we call resilience.
What do we mean by resilience?
Resilience is ours ability to surpass oneself psychologically in crisis situations, that is, the ability we have not only to prevent discomfort from paralyzing us and preventing us from finding solutions to a problem, but also to adapt to certain shortcomings and endure a certain level of ‘discomfort stoically, without focusing on whatever generates the discomfort. and not up to us, and focusing on what we can change.
Thus, having a good level of resilience means readjusting our expectations, accepting a certain level of discomfort from emotional pain and actively engaging in actions aimed at improving our situation (and / or that of the people around us. ), so that this project is, at the same time, a little able to stimulate us and make us feel motivated and excited by the advances that we can make in this regard.
For that, resilience is also known more informally as the “psychological immune system”: after a period of lag, it helps us to face adversity and to endure very complicated situations.
The ability to be a happy person is not lost
Resilience is not disconnected from our ability to be happy. In fact, playing this active role in achieving goals is a source of well-being in itself and even a means by which we can achieve happiness. Paradoxically, it may happen that a person feels happier soon after entering a crisis phase than when they perceive that all of their objective needs have been met. What is the reason for this?
The answer lies in this: happiness is not and cannot be the product of an accumulation of goods or of an easily determined social status. If so, there would be an instruction manual for achieving happiness, which would be like a shopping list.
Happiness is a psychological state that occurs when we get involved in projects that mean a lot to us and go beyond pain avoidance or even access to experiences that offer us comfort. And that’s why when we launch our “resilient mode” we can be happy.
Of course, this does not mean that it is useless to strive to achieve societies which guarantee the satisfaction and basic needs of the whole population, or that it is not necessary to fight against the poverty. Individual psychological processes are one thing, and social transformations can help people take control and make decisions about their lives. However, we must not forget that happiness is a process of construction in which there is no pre-established box of exit and arrival, and that is why it calls out to us all.
- Fuchs, E .; Flügge, G. (2014). Adult neuroplasticity: over 40 years of research. Neuronal plasticity. 2014: 541870.
- Richardson, Glenn E. (2002). “The metatheory of resilience and resilience.” Journal of Clinical Psychology. 58 (3): 307-321.
- Robson, Sean; Manacapilli, Thomas (2014), Improving Performance Under Stress: Stress Inoculation Training for Battlefield Airmen. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.
- Werner, EE (1989). Vulnerable but invincible: a longitudinal study of resilient children and youth. New York: McGraw-Hill.