You will do me the favor of be happy? ", Asked a few years ago a popular fortune teller from his insistent television ad at dawn. She asked for it with a mellifluous voice, but just today, the International Day of Happiness, society, more than asking, seems to demand it: happiness, say the Israeli sociologist Eva Illouz and the Spanish psychologist Edgar Cabanas in
(Paidós) -a book that has been a phenomenon in France-, has become "an obsession", "a poisoned gift". At the service of the current economic system.
"Happiness has become an obsession and a poisoned gift"
Especially since, they point out, in 1998 he was born in the USA. the science of happiness, positive psychology, which, well financed by foundations and companies, in a few years has introduced happiness at the top of the academic, political and economic agendas of many countries. A science perhaps not so solid, rather weak, or so new, say the authors -being of the psychology of adaptation or the culture of self-help-, around which flourishes a powerful industry with positive therapies, coaching services or applications such as Happify, which promises "effective and science-based solutions for better emotional health and greater well-being in the 21st century". A science and an industry that sell a notion of happiness, Illouz and Cabanas point out, "in the service of the values imposed by the neoliberal cultural revolution": there are no structural social problems but individual psychological deficiencies. Wealth and poverty, success and failure, health and illness, are the fruit of our own acts. We are forced to be happy and feel guilty for not overcoming difficulties. The authors acknowledge that putting happiness in question today is even in bad taste. But they point out that they do not write against happiness but against the reductionist vision of the good life that the science of happiness preaches.
A science in question
"The current notion of happiness is at the service of the values of the neoliberal revolution"
That happiness is omnipresent today is undoubted. If in Amazon there were a few years ago 300 titles with the word happiness now there are 2,000. The UN instituted in 2012 the International Day of Happiness. Even a stream of economists flourishes like Richard Layard who have proposed to replace a parameter as questioned as GDP by happiness indices. Indexes that Finland leads, and in which Spain is ranked 36 below Saudi Arabia. David Cameron, after announcing in 2007 the biggest cuts in the history of his country, decided that it was time to adopt happiness as an index: the British should not think only of putting money in their pockets, but in what makes them happier .
Cabanas, a professor at the Camilo José Cela University, points out that he proposes a happiness that is "a lifestyle that aims towards the construction of a very concrete, individualistic citizen, who understands that he owes nothing to anyone, but rather what He has earned it. His successes and failures, his health, his satisfaction, do not depend on social issues, but on him and the correct management of his emotions, thoughts and attitudes ".
The personal is political
"It is stated that 90% of happiness are personal factors, as if the social does not matter"
And he warns that "positive psychology has been saying for 20 years that they have discovered the keys to happiness, but they are yet to be seen. They even said that they had discovered the formula of happiness as if it were an equation. They affirmed that happiness in almost 90% is due to personal factors and circumstances do not matter. Class, level of income or education, gender, culture, do not matter. Circumstances do not make us happy, it's us, it's psychological. Many have fallen for that idea. "
And the psychologist points out that in this new science "it is not enough to not be bad or to be well, you have to be as good as possible, and that's why not only the bad guy needs an expert, but anyone to get the most out of it, Learn new self management techniques and get new tips to get to know yourself better, be more productive and be more successful. Happiness thus is a goal in constant movement, makes us run behind obsessively. And it always has to do with a look inside, it makes us be very self-absorbed, very controlled by ourselves, in constant vigilance. That increases anxiety and depression. They propose us to be high performance athletes of our emotions. Emotional vigorexia. Instead of generating satisfied and complete beings, it generates happycondriacos. "
"Workers with constant stress do not have it because they do not manage their emotions well"
Then, in the ideological field, it is a conservative psychology. "It proposes that solutions to structural problems have individual solutions. But the workers who live in a constant stress do not have it because they do not manage their emotions well, it is that the work situation is precarious, insecure and very competitive ". That is precisely why this positive psychology has entered strongly into business and education. "In the companies, they force to pass courses of resilience and mindfulness to learn that you are the one that has to find the way to be better in the work, of that the productivity depends. And in education it is said that the goal is to make the students happy. We would have to see what kind of citizen we want to build. Critical and focused on the knowledge of the world or an emotional student focused on self-knowledge. It is complicated that psychology, instead of being a tool, should dictate what education should be. "
"From this notion of happiness comes out; the good life is just, solidary, integral "
In addition, it deactivates social change. "They admit that circumstances do influence but it is very expensive to change them and it is not worth it. You must change yourself. They advocate little because the idea of a good life is related to a good collective life, "says Cabanas, and explains what happens when positive psychology attacks emotions such as anger. "Emotions are not positive or negative. They have different functions depending on the circumstance. And they are always political. Anger can be bad sometimes and good to fight to repair injustices. When you say it is toxic, you deactivate a very important political emotion. When we are outraged, we put the batteries. "
In that sense, he concludes that "today to declare that you are not happy is shameful, as if we had lost time, we would have done something wrong, we could do something and we do not do it, we are negative people. But the concept of happiness has not been the same in history. The current one has North American roots. And it does not have the keys to the good life. The only good news is that this notion of happiness comes out. And there are more important values: the good life is just, solidary, integral, committed to the truth. It is not being worried about ourselves all the time. "