Philosophy of how sadness and happiness are the same. - Social Anxiety Forum
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post #1 of 1 (permalink) Old 09-01-2007, 11:07 PM Thread Starter
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Philosophy of how sadness and happiness are the same.

...Or at least so similar that they are negligibly different.

I know that many of you already have a clear idea of what happiness and sadness is, but for the sake of argument I need to define them to ease confusion because of the way that I'm comparing the two.


pleasure, joy, exhilaration, bliss, contentedness, delight, enjoyment, satisfaction. Happiness, bliss, contentment, felicity imply an active or passive state of pleasure or pleasurable satisfaction. Happiness results from the possession or attainment of what one considers good

(I have bolded the important parts because all the other adjectives are merely describing very similar emotional states to pleasure)


Affected or characterized by sorrow or unhappiness.
Expressive of sorrow or unhappiness.
Causing sorrow or gloom; depressing: a sad movie; sad news.
Deplorable; sorry:
Dark-hued; somber.
Sorrowful applies to emotional pain as that resulting from loss

Now I will analyze happiness and sadness as objectively as possible:

I will assume that pleasure and pain are two very different feelings (excepting masochism which we will disregard). Because when we feel pleasure we want more of it. If it is pain, we want to reduce it.

*****So naturally, we assume that happiness is mostly pleasurable and sadness is mostly painful.******

Now I will provide an example :

A wealthy, successful, sociable man and woman who both love each other and live a pleasurable (happy) life because they have attained most of what is good to them. They grew up as mostly very happy children because they were well-liked and successful their whole lives. ALthough they have their rough days where they argue, and whenever stress rears it's ugly head---they usually feel happy. We will call this couple "WEALTHY-A".

A middle-class, lonely average, single man who is average in looks and mentally stable (doesn't want to hurt or kill himself nor others) and is working 40 hrs/week to pay the bills. He was an average child as he was growing up. We wil call this guy "MAN-A". This person has some stress from work and has many unfufilled desires such as wanting to have friends, a romantic partner and maybe a better neighborhood to live in. But he has some good days and savors them when they come--he is sad as much as he is happy on average.

Another middle class young man lives in the same area and has exactly the same circumstances and in life as the guy above does, we will call him "MAN-2". However, he is even more sad than "MAN-A" is. He has felt ugly and unwanted his whole life. He feels utterly negative about life and ponders suicide on occasion---but never attempted it because he absolutely loves to play video-games and play with gadgets.

Now, MAN-A is equally sad as he is happy (on average). He finds that romance is hopeless unless you have friends and meet someone at the right place and right time. But he has hope. He is not too pleased with his work but it gets bills paid. Yet, he continues drudging away. He then gets sick of it all and summons the courage to move to a better neighborhood in another state....he feels a momentary bout of joy and happyness that lasts for a couple weeks....then wears off as he realizes that he still doesn't have friends nor romance. He becomes sad again and says to himself "I want to feel the way I did when I first moved here, that was a good feeling. Im going to the bookstore to ask that nice girl out on a date" So he does, and she rejects him. He didn't stop trying though...He went to many other places asking girls out on dates...He finally succeeds and they soon get married and have kids. Now they live much like "WEALTHY-A" does, just simply not as rich, but they are mostly happy with a few obstacles and frustrations here and there. They eventaully become old.....their kids move out and they die of old age.

MAN-2 is sad all of the time, so he lacks the motivation to do anything besides play videogames. He finds that romance is hopeless unless you have friends and meet someone at the right place and right time. He is not AT ALL pleased with his work but it gets bills paid. Yet, he continues drudging away. He feels momentary bouts of joy that lasts for just a couple of hours each day whenever he does something magnificent in his videogames, or finds something interesting with his gadgets...these pleasurable feelings wear off very quickly as he realizes that he still doesn't have friends nor romance. He continues to work and live in the same area for the next 10 years. He really longs for companionship and a woman, but all he can really do is play videogames and fiddle with gadgets. The games and gadgets dont give him as much pleasure as they did before. So he tries to find other hobbies. He has been such a loner that he lacks the social skills to make friends or ask a woman out. He also feels very anxious around women. He now feels very sad, so sad he contemplates suicide for a few days per week. He never carries it out though; because somewhere deep inside of him, he feels that there may be hope to find a woman and a better job. So he tries to keep his mind on other activities and looses interest in each one very quickly. He feels so depressed that he doesn't care about anything so he lets himself go--gets fat, and doesn't have any motivation to go out. He was bitter and angry for mch of his life. He grew to hate society and people and wanted no part in it. Long story short-He eventually dies of a heart attack at the age of 58 yrs.....alone. But he never harmed a fly, and he never intentionally harmed himself nor attempted suicide.

The WEALTHY-A, couple become really bored because they already have attained everything good that they wanted to obtain. They traveled, bought expensive things, did everything imaginable. Now they are bored and unsatisfied, empty. Their love isn't as strong as it once was because they are so focused on trying to fill their empty, bored lives. They were unhappy that they had absolutely nothing else to do. Soon they start experimenting, the man cheats on his wife because he thought some drama would spice things up between them. But the woman became very jealous and ran-over her husband with her Rolls-Royce in a jealous rage. He died, of course. The woman went to prison, and she was released at the age of 120. She was extremely depressed. She started doing heroine and pimping herself out on the streets. She eventually hung herself from a street lamp


Alright, so naturally when we feel pain, we pull our fingers out of the scorching fire right? MAN-A was in pain (sadness) so he decided to change the things that were causing pain/sadness. He succesfuly lived a life as pleasurably as he could.

MAN-A died happy and fufilled, even though he started out more sad than WEALTHY-A. This makes some sense because if you're sad you want to become happy. OK.

Well what happened to WEALTHY-A? We hear this kind of fall-from-grace over and over and over, so this is common. Why in the world did WEALTHY-A stick their hands in the fire to feel pain when they already have a good life and were mentally stable for most of their lives? Why did they want to ruin their happiness whether it was intentional or not? All they had to do was NOTHING in order to maintain their happiness, their joy, their pleasure. (as MAN-2 did).

Now it seems that Man-2 died a sad man because he didn't OBTAIN AS MANY GOOD, PLEASUREABLE THINGS. He lost interest in videogames but stil played them sometimes, yet still felt agonizing loneliness and bitterness.

So why didn't MAN-2 "pull his hand from the fire" and try to actively change his circumstances? If his sadness was so painful, it would seem logical that he would. Not only that, but his pain was even more extreme than MAN-A's was.

So what is going on here? Does this mean that MAN-2 wasn't ever really sad? Does this also mean that WEALTHY-A wasnt really happy? Is sadness really determined by the amount of pain (unpleasurable feelings) that we experience? Or the amount/quality of good things that we obtain?

Perhaps he had a much higher tolerance to pain?
Or maybe he had some mental illness that prevented him from acting on his desires?

Even if he had a high tolerance, no-one in their right mind would continue feeling PAIN/Sadess.

Ok, so if he couldn't act on his desires because of an abnormal mental state, and was still experiencing pain, why didn't he just end his life? He certainly had the mental capacity to figure out how to do that? He didn't fear death since he was so depressed after all.

The fact is, he didn't do very much at all to "lift his hand from the fire". Even though the pain was extreme.

There could only be one reason why he lived the way he lived---he was satisfied with his predicament JUST ENOUGH to NOT do anything to change it.

So he was sad, yet happy at the same time, this doesn't make sense.

This would only make sense if happiness and sadness were together- the same and beginning nor end to either of them.

This example shows how sadness does not neccesarily constitute the feeling of pain, nor does happiness involve strictly pleasure. WEALTHY-A was happy, but it became painful enough for them to become sad. MAN-2 was always sad, because happiness didnt seem all that pleasurable. They both go hand-in hand like the ying-yang. You cannot separate sadness from happiness because even though you search for happiness your whole life and attain it, it is inevitable that you will go back to being 'sadder' than than the 'happiest' period of time in your life.

Also, if you were only HAPPY your whole life(hypothetically), you wouldn't know sadness, therefore couldn't tell the difference between sad and happy. So you are actually both maximumly sad and maximumly happy since you are never happier than any other point in time: A constant state of mind that never changes.

I notice a lot of bias in the English language:

Being sad is a state of un-happiness: an opposite of happiness.

But the English language doesn't commonly describe being happy as un-saddened. Therefore, the culture that adopts the English language implicitly assumes that happiness is the ONLY 'NORMAL' state of mind that should be attained to live life. If you are sad, you must always try to become happy. But if you're happy you shouldn't even think about trying to change it because you wouldn't want to be re-saddened. It assumes that we are born happy (in a metaphorical sense)

This false dichotomy has a subtle, but significant effect on the attitude that we have towards people who are sad.

Society views lonely, "sad", quiet people who don't do very much to change their lives as 'mentally unstable' people and as undesirable misfits who are not fun to hang around. It's assumed that "sad" people are crazier/more looney than "happy" people. Yet, if we are consistently sad even when we are happy- we are actually very stable emotionally. Therefore, society is logically wrong to judge sad people this way. We are no different from happy people. Our negative attitudes on life are just attitudes--attitudes cannot harm anyone. Only actions harm living things. Negative attitudes should not be looked down upon because even people with a positive outlooks on life can commit atrocities. Also, people whom are sad are capable of contributing to society - such as great art. But that is another discussion.
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