Einhorn’s 2x2

How to think about happiness?

There are many theories out there. I’m currently reading about a counterintuitive one: The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman. It offers a much-needed counterbalance to the endless advice for positive thinking. Ironically, chasing frantically after happiness can make someone miserable.

My own research on experience took me to another related notion. Hillel Einhorn, the late psychologist from University of Chicago, argued that when we think about happiness we mainly consider three categories:

Things that

  1. we want that we have (make us happy)
  2. we don’t want that we have (make us unhappy)
  3. we want that we don’t have (make us unhappy)

Yet we rarely take into account a fourth category: things that we don’t want that we don’t have (make us happy).

And he says, because this last category is huge and we usually fail to take it into account, “we are actually a lot happier than we think we are.”

We recently wrote more on this on Psychology Today. And here’s Einhorn, discussing the idea:

Originally published at behaviorstudio.com on July 5, 2017.