Is Happiness a Mental Disorder?

Glass half full or empty

“We have a tendency to regard people in their ordinary moods as rational information processors, relatively free of systematic bias and distorted judgments… much research suggests that when they are not depressed, people are highly vulnerable to illusions, including unrealistic optimism, overestimation of themselves, and an exaggerated sense of their capacity to control events. The same research indicates that depressed people’s perceptions and judgments are often less biased.” Lauren Alloy

This idea actually has a name: depressive realism.

It’s a fascinating idea to me. The most realistic people among us are those we’d classify as depressed. The most unrealistic people are those we’d classify as optimistic. Ironically, reality doesn’t serve us well in this regard. It turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. But so does optimism. It all goes back to whether we see life as half full or half empty. The facts will usually tell you that it’s empty.

Depressive realism teaches us that while it serves a person well to be grounded in reality, a certain level of unwarranted optimism follows those people who prove to be successful. They don’t acknowledge (or realize) that their optimism and drive may not make even remote sense.

Happiness may actually be a mental disorder. But it proves to be a very healthy disorder.

Question: what is an area in your life where you have “unwarranted” optimism?

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Jeremy Jernigan

This is the personal blog of Jeremy Jernigan. Husband to Michelle and father to Gavin, Madsen, Adelyn, Aiden, and Abel. Author of Redeeming Pleasure and Lead Pastor at Abundant Life Church in Portland.

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