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This has sort of been obvious for a while, but it really crystalised in the last couple of months. My happiness function is different than Margaret's and a lot of peoples'. She describes some sort of composite happiness: if things are generally going well, she's happy; if they are not, she is not.

I sort of have that. however, for me, it's much more like I'm happy when there's no reason to be unhappy. If anything is going badly then it puts a significant cap on my maximum happiness. If I can fix it, then I become happy. If I can convince myself I don't care, then I can become happy, although that takes a bit longer than if I can just fix things.

Obviously this is a rough sketch of what's going on. I actually spend most of my time generally happy, so it's not like my world must be perfect for me to enjoy it. Also, obviously some problems effect me more than others.

Margaret has suggested that I change to a more normal outlook on happiness. I'm not entirely sure that's possible although I've had success with similar scale self-reprogramming in the past, so it's believable that it might be. However, at the moment I'm not at all sure I'd want to change. The goal isn't just to be happy: I'm sure with the right drugs I'd be happy all or most of the time. For me at least the goal is to have the prospect and actuality of happiness as a forcing function. It gives me a reason to fix stuff, deal with things and not let them pile up. I really like that I have fairly strong incentives to fix my problems. It does sometimes create stress, for example when it's important for me to try and work on something so I can be happy, but when the same issue is good enough for someone else who would need to work with me.

I suspect I will continue to ponder and refine over the coming months.


I think your happiness function is perfectly logical and fitting. I wouldn't suggest changing it as it does seem to result in a maximal amount of happiness. In general, you have very little control over "things going well" or not, and it makes no sense to have things out of your control affect your happiness. That some people ARE so affected (and I count myself among them) is a weakness, not something to be striven for.
Mine has small scale dependencies (must do a certain percentage of rote and manual tasks to be happy, must have exercise/transportation freedom) but my background function is similar to what you describe, with a high set point.

The hazard to a high set point is that stressors that would otherwise provoke recognizable symptoms such as suicidal ideation, can manifest very oddly. You have a higher bar of "knowing yourself" to overcome before you can get outside help for a real problem.

September 2019

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