Being happy is a feeling that every human being yearns to have, and that is what we always look for either directly or indirectly in our daily activities. On the contrary, individuals dread being hurt by anything but this as well is inevitable, and they just have to cope with it because they cannot run away from every bad situation. Now the big question is, how do we find this happiness? In line with this, "The Futile of Happiness" by Gertner talks about the quest to find happiness and how people perceive the concept of happiness differently.
Gilbert and company through research have found that we are somehow always wrong about our feelings on something in the future. He further says that “we overestimate the duration and intensity of our emotional reactions” (Gertner, 444). This is with regards to what people consider being of happiness to them in future, as whether materialistic or non-materialistic. The gap between what they ultimately feel and the anticipated feeling has been termed as "impact bias.” In this case, the “impact” means the error we make while estimating the duration and intensity of our emotions and “bias” are just our tendencies to err. Gilbert further adds that people cannot always know what they truly want.
One of the studies to prove the wrong perception of our future feeling is based on the research that Gilbert did on transit riders who narrowly missed their trains. In the ordinary circumstances people tend to have an attitude of blaming themselves in future because of narrowly missing a train; however, the circumstance change when they realize that there exists other people who have also experienced the same occurrence. In which case, they ended up not blame themselves and saw it an inevitable occurrence. This shows the false in our future perception of our feelings about events.
All his experiments were based on the connections between the prediction, decision-making, and well-being. Regarding the transit experiment, there was a demonstration that we tend to err in the process of estimating our regrets over missed opportunities. George Loewenstein gives a summary of happiness as “Happiness is a signal that our brains use to get us motivated to do certain things” (Gertner, 444). Our brains most of the time tries to regulate us hence tend towards adapting to situations. In this respect, the tendency to adapting to the situation is so pervasive, and people do not realize how we tend to get adopted to pleasurable events and make them the backdrop of our lives. We just perceive it as ordinary and lose our pleasure.
This glitch also becomes significant in the event of an adverse outcome that we thought inconsolable such as losing a family member or a job. The defense taken is the powerful psychological defense also known as the psychological immune system that helps us feel better when bad things are happening.
The idea that individuals can have trust in other people to do what can make them happy becomes questionable when the very people do not know what will make them happy and give them pleasure. Loewenstein says that life that avoids errors would most likely be a more comfortable and better life. A deep understanding of biases on our actions, which is always a hard thing to do, will tend to lead us to invest the resources we have in the things that in the long run will make us happy. On the other hand, a better understanding of the empathy gap could save us from resorting to regrettable decisions in times of craving or courage.
Gertner, Jon. Fields Of Readings Motives For Writing: The Futile of Happiness. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006.