追求幸福≠生命的意义

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追求幸福≠生命的意义

帖子  Pao-西安 于 周四 三月 14, 2013 8:32 am

原文:

There's More to Life Than Being Happy

"It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness."

In September 1942, Viktor Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist in Vienna, was arrested and transported to a Nazi concentration camp with his wife and parents. Three years later, when his camp was liberated, most of his family, including his pregnant wife, had perished -- but he, prisoner number 119104, had lived. In his bestselling 1946 book, Man's Search for Meaning, which he wrote in nine days about his experiences in the camps, Frankl concluded that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing: Meaning, an insight he came to early in life. When he was a high school student, one of his science teachers declared to the class, "Life is nothing more than a combustion process, a process of oxidation." Frankl jumped out of his chair and responded, "Sir, if this is so, then what can be the meaning of life?"

As he saw in the camps, those who found meaning even in the most horrendous circumstances were far more resilient to suffering than those who did not. "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing," Frankl wrote in Man's Search for Meaning, "the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

Frankl worked as a therapist in the camps, and in his book, he gives the example of two suicidal inmates he encountered there. Like many others in the camps, these two men were hopeless and thought that there was nothing more to expect from life, nothing to live for. "In both cases," Frankl writes, "it was a question of getting them to realize that life was still expecting something from them; something in the future was expected of them." For one man, it was his young child, who was then living in a foreign country. For the other, a scientist, it was a series of books that he needed to finish. Frankl writes:

This uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love. When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the "why" for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any "how."

Viktor Frankl [Herwig Prammer/Reuters]In 1991, the Library of Congress and Book-of-the-Month Club listed Man's Search for Meaning as one of the 10 most influential books in the United States. It has sold millions of copies worldwide. Now, over twenty years later, the book's ethos -- its emphasis on meaning, the value of suffering, and responsibility to something greater than the self -- seems to be at odds with our culture, which is more interested in the pursuit of individual happiness than in the search for meaning. "To the European," Frankl wrote, "it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to 'be happy.' But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to 'be happy.'"

According to Gallup , the happiness levels of Americans are at a four-year high -- as is, it seems, the number of best-selling books with the word "happiness" in their titles. At this writing, Gallup also reports that nearly 60 percent all Americans today feel happy, without a lot of stress or worry. On the other hand, according to the Center for Disease Control, about 4 out of 10 Americans have not discovered a satisfying life purpose. Forty percent either do not think their lives have a clear sense of purpose or are neutral about whether their lives have purpose. Nearly a quarter of Americans feel neutral or do not have a strong sense of what makes their lives meaningful. Research has shown that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction, improves mental and physical health, enhances resiliency, enhances self-esteem, and decreases the chances of depression. On top of that, the single-minded pursuit of happiness is ironically leaving people less happy, according to recent research. "It is the very pursuit of happiness," Frankl knew, "that thwarts happiness."

This is why some researchers are cautioning against the pursuit of mere happiness. In a new study, which will be published this year in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Positive Psychology, psychological scientists asked nearly 400 Americans aged 18 to 78 whether they thought their lives were meaningful and/or happy. Examining their self-reported attitudes toward meaning, happiness, and many other variables -- like stress levels, spending patterns, and having children -- over a month-long period, the researchers found that a meaningful life and happy life overlap in certain ways, but are ultimately very different. Leading a happy life, the psychologists found, is associated with being a "taker" while leading a meaningful life corresponds with being a "giver."

"Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided," the authors write.

How do the happy life and the meaningful life differ? Happiness, they found, is about feeling good. Specifically, the researchers found that people who are happy tend to think that life is easy, they are in good physical health, and they are able to buy the things that they need and want. While not having enough money decreases how happy and meaningful you consider your life to be, it has a much greater impact on happiness. The happy life is also defined by a lack of stress or worry.

Nearly a quarter of Americans do not have a strong sense of what makes their lives meaningful.Most importantly from a social perspective, the pursuit of happiness is associated with selfish behavior -- being, as mentioned, a "taker" rather than a "giver." The psychologists give an evolutionary explanation for this: happiness is about drive reduction. If you have a need or a desire -- like hunger -- you satisfy it, and that makes you happy. People become happy, in other words, when they get what they want. Humans, then, are not the only ones who can feel happy. Animals have needs and drives, too, and when those drives are satisfied, animals also feel happy, the researchers point out.

"Happy people get a lot of joy from receiving benefits from others while people leading meaningful lives get a lot of joy from giving to others," explained Kathleen Vohs, one of the authors of the study, in a recent presentation at the University of Pennsylvania. In other words, meaning transcends the self while happiness is all about giving the self what it wants. People who have high meaning in their lives are more likely to help others in need. "If anything, pure happiness is linked to not helping others in need," the researchers, which include Stanford University's Jennifer Aaker and Emily Garbinsky, write.

What sets human beings apart from animals is not the pursuit of happiness, which occurs all across the natural world, but the pursuit of meaning, which is unique to humans, according to Roy Baumeister, the lead researcher of the study and author, with John Tierney, of the recent book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. Baumeister, a social psychologists at Florida State University, was named an ISI highly cited scientific researcher in 2003.

The study participants reported deriving meaning from giving a part of themselves away to others and *** a sacrifice on behalf of the overall group. In the words of Martin E. P. Seligman, one of the leading psychological scientists alive today, in the meaningful life "you use your highest strengths and talents to belong to and serve something you believe is larger than the self." For instance, having more meaning in one's life was associated with activities like buying presents for others, taking care of kids, and arguing. People whose lives have high levels of meaning often actively seek meaning out even when they know it will come at the expense of happiness. Because they have invested themselves in something bigger than themselves, they also worry more and have higher levels of stress and anxiety in their lives than happy people. Having children, for example, is associated with the meaningful life and requires self-sacrifice, but it has been famously associated with low happiness among parents, including the ones in this study. In fact, according to Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, research shows that parents are less happy interacting with their children than they are exercising, eating, and watching television.

"Partly what we do as human beings is to take care of others and contribute to others. This makes life meaningful but it does not necessarily make us happy," Baumeister told me in an interview.

Meaning is not only about transcending the self, but also about transcending the present moment -- which is perhaps the most important finding of the study, according to the researchers. While happiness is an emotion felt in the here and now, it ultimately fades away, just as all emotions do; positive affect and feelings of pleasure are fleeting. The amount of time people report feeling good or bad correlates with happiness but not at all with meaning.

Meaning, on the other hand, is enduring. It connects the past to the present to the future. "Thinking beyond the present moment, into the past or future, was a sign of the relatively meaningful but unhappy life," the researchers write. "Happiness is not generally found in contemplating the past or future." That is, people who thought more about the present were happier, but people who spent more time thinking about the future or about past struggles and sufferings felt more meaning in their lives, though they were less happy.

Having negative events happen to you, the study found, decreases your happiness but increases the amount of meaning you have in life. Another study from 2011 confirmed this, finding that people who have meaning in their lives, in the form of a clearly defined purpose, rate their satisfaction with life higher even when they were feeling bad than those who did not have a clearly defined purpose. "If there is meaning in life at all," Frankl wrote, "then there must be meaning in suffering."

Which brings us back to Frankl's life and, specifically, a decisive experience he had before he was sent to the concentration camps. It was an incident that emphasizes the difference between the pursuit of meaning and the pursuit of happiness in life.

Peter Andrews/ReutersIn his early adulthood, before he and his family were taken away to the camps, Frankl had established himself as one of the leading psychiatrists in Vienna and the world. As a 16-year-old boy, for example, he struck up a correspondence with Sigmund Freud and one day sent Freud a two-page paper he had written. Freud, impressed by Frankl's talent, sent the paper to the International Journal of Psychoanalysis for publication. "I hope you don't object," Freud wrote the teenager.

While he was in medical school, Frankl distinguished himself even further. Not only did he establish suicide-prevention centers for teenagers -- a precursor to his work in the camps -- but he was also developing his signature contribution to the field of clinical psychology: logotherapy, which is meant to help people overcome depression and achieve well-being by finding their unique meaning in life. By 1941, his theories had received international attention and he was working as the chief of neurology at Vienna's Rothschild Hospital, where he risked his life and career by *** false diagnoses of mentally ill patients so that they would not, per Nazi orders, be euthanized.

That was the same year when he had a decision to make, a decision that would change his life. With his career on the rise and the threat of the Nazis looming over him, Frankl had applied for a visa to America, which he was granted in 1941. By then, the Nazis had already started rounding up the Jews and taking them away to concentration camps, focusing on the elderly first. Frankl knew that it would only be time before the Nazis came to take his parents away. He also knew that once they did, he had a responsibility to be there with his parents to help them through the trauma of adjusting to camp life. On the other hand, as a newly married man with his visa in hand, he was tempted to leave for America and flee to safety, where he could distinguish himself even further in his field.

As Anna S. Redsand recounts in her biography of Frankl, he was at a loss for what to do, so he set out for St. Stephan's Cathedral in Vienna to clear his head. Listening to the organ music, he repeatedly asked himself, "Should I leave my parents behind?... Should I say goodbye and leave them to their fate?" Where did his responsibility lie? He was looking for a "hint from heaven."

When he returned home, he found it. A piece of marble was lying on the table. His father explained that it was from the rubble of one of the nearby synagogues that the Nazis had destroyed. The marble contained the fragment of one of the Ten Commandments -- the one about honoring your father and your mother. With that, Frankl decided to stay in Vienna and forgo whatever opportunities for safety and career advancement awaited him in the United States. He decided to put aside his individual pursuits to serve his family and, later, other inmates in the camps.

No Flowers On the Psych Ward The wisdom that Frankl derived from his experiences there, in the middle of unimaginable human suffering, is just as relevant now as it was then: "Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself -- be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself -- by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love -- the more human he is."

Baumeister and his colleagues would agree that the pursuit of meaning is what makes human beings uniquely human. By putting aside our selfish interests to serve someone or something larger than ourselves -- by devoting our lives to "giving" rather than "taking" -- we are not only expressing our fundamental humanity, but are also acknowledging that that there is more to the good life than the pursuit of simple happiness.


追求幸福≠生命的意义

高中课堂上,一名教授科学的老师解释说:“生命的进程就像是燃烧,这不过是一个不断氧化的过程而已。”话音未落,一名男学生立刻从椅子上站起来反驳道,“先生,倘若生命果真如此,那么,生命的意义何在?”
这是著名犹太精神病学专家和神经学专家维克多·弗兰克年少时亲身经历的场景。几十年后,当他以119104号囚犯的身份幸运地走出纳粹集中营时,才顿悟到生命的意义。

1942年9月,著名犹太精神病学专家和神经学专家维克多·弗兰克连同妻子和病人一起,被纳粹逮捕并押送至集中营。3年后,当他从集中营中被解救出来时,有孕在身的妻子和其他大部分家人早已不在人世。1946年,他用了9天时间写下了在集中营中的经历并出版成书,书名为《活出生命的意义》。1991年,美国国会图书馆和每月一读俱乐部将《生命的意义》列为美国最有影响力的十本书之一。这本书在世界范围内已发行数百万本。

可在二十几年后的今天,这本书的精华部分:对生命意义的探索、对苦难价值的体会、对超越自我之责任的承担,似乎都与我们现在的文化格格不入。与其思考生命的意义,我们现在更乐于追求个体的幸福。幸福的生活和有意义的生活有何区别呢?

幸福是什么?

研究者们发现,幸福的生活通常意味着感觉良好。具体地说,那些感到幸福的人觉得生活是安逸的,他们身体健康,能够买到自己需要的东西。当你囊中羞涩,你会感到生活缺少意义,幸福感下降。金钱对他们的幸福感有着重大的影响。而幸福的生活又可被定义为少有压力和烦恼的生活。

心理学家给出了进一步的解释:幸福就是满足欲望。如果你产生了一种欲望或需求,比如你感到了饥饿,你吃了食物,填补了饥饿感,于是你感到幸福。人们感到幸福,换句话说,就是欲望得到了满足。研究者还指出:人并不是唯一会感到幸福的物种。动物也有欲望和需求,当它们的欲望得到了满足,它们也会感到幸福。

在被关押期间,弗兰克生活在最骇人的环境之下,“在这里,从一个人最宝贵的生命到一件最微不足道的物品,一切都可被轻易夺走。”可以说是不幸到了极点。那么,物质极大丰富的现代人是不是活得很幸福呢?以美国为例,根据盖洛普公司的报告,美国人的幸福指数已经达到了四年来的最高纪录,近60%的美国人感到幸福,没有太多的压力和烦恼。 正如弗兰克在书中所写:“与欧洲文化不同,美国文化的一大特征是:每个人被不断催促着去追求幸福。但是,幸福是可遇不可求的。”

然而,在社会看来,那些一味追求幸福的人有一个显著的特点——自私。研究者们认为:“……只追求幸福的生活,通常意味着相对浅薄、利己甚至自私的生活。在这种生活中,一个人的各种欲望和需求总是能被轻易满足,人们总是逃避困难和负担,”他会只想“得到”,却不知“给予”。而具有讽刺意义的是,那些一味追求幸福的人,反而感到不幸福。近日一份研究显示,正如弗兰克所说的那样,对幸福的过度追求,反而阻挠了幸福的降临。

生命的意义

弗兰克说:“幸福只会伴随着某些东西款款而来,一个人必须要有一个“变得幸福”的理由。”在笔者看来,这个理由指的就是生命的意义。”

弗兰克在集中营中担任医生。在书中,他提到了集中营中两名想要自杀的囚犯。就像集中营中的其他人一样,这两人早已感到心灰意冷,生无所恋。弗兰克写道:“在这两个案例中,我需要让他们意识到,他们仍被某些人期望,他们仍有一个值得等待的未来。他们中有一人是一个孩子的父亲。他的孩子已经在国外生活。而另一人是一名科学家,他还有一套丛书需要完成。”弗兰克接着写道:

“当一个人意识到他是无可取代之时,他就会意识到自己身处于世所背负着的责任,他就会将这份责任发扬光大。当一个人意识到了他需要承受来自他人温情,当一个人意识到了他需要完成未竟的事业,他就永远不会放弃自己的生命。因为他已经知道了自己生存的意义,所以他能坦然面对前方的任何挑战。”尽管遭受不幸会使你的幸福感降低,但这却会使你感到生活的意义。即使在当下他们比那些没有奋斗目标的人感到不幸得多。如同弗兰克在他的书中写到:“如果生命有着它的意义,那么所经历的痛苦也一定是有意义的。”

研究已经证明:具有追求和充满意义的生活方式会全面地提升一个人的幸福水平和生活满意程度,并促进身心健康,提高恢复力,提升自尊,减少忧郁。心理学家则总结道:在幸福的生活中,“得到”更多;而在充满意义的生活中,“给予”更多。换句话说,当那些一味追求幸福的人正在忙不迭地满足自己无穷无尽的欲望之时,那些追求生命意义的人早已超越了自我。那些追求更高生命意义的人,更愿意伸出双手去帮助那些有需要的人。


从追求幸福到追求生命的意义

弗兰克被送往至集中营前的一段经历,恰当地诠释了追求意义的生活和追求幸福的生活是多么地不同。

在带到集中营前,弗兰克已经在维也纳和世界精神病研究领域卓有建树,1941年,他的理论在国际上引起了广泛关注;同年,成功申请到前往美国的签证。当他的事业冉冉升起之时,纳粹也正对他虎视眈眈。起初,纳粹的目标是犹太老人。弗兰克知道纳粹把父母带走只是时间问题。他也知道,一旦这样,他有责任陪着他们一起进入集中营,并帮助治疗他们在集中营期间产生的心理创伤。可在另一方面,他又想逃往安全的美国,在事业上大有作为。

弗兰克心烦意乱,取舍两难,他举步前往维也纳圣史蒂芬大教堂整理思路,祈盼上帝的启示。当他回家时,上帝的启示终于降临。他一进门就发现桌上躺着一块大理石。父亲告诉他,这块石头来自于附近一所被纳粹拆毁的犹太教堂的废墟。大理石上记着十诫中的一条片段——当孝敬父母。于是,弗兰克作出了决定,无论美国有多么安全,对他的事业多么有益,他都要留在维也纳。他把个人的追求放在了一边,服务家庭,在进了集中营后,服务那些被关押的囚犯们。

追求幸福并不能将人从动物中区分出来,这只是生物的本能而已。人的独特之处,就在于其对意义的追求。用当前在世的顶级心理学家马丁·塞利格曼的话说,追求有意义的生活,就是“用你的全部力量和才能去效忠和服务一个超越自身的东西。” 比如给其他人买礼物、照顾孩子、提出见解,这些都是追求更有意义生活的方式。那些生活更有意义的人经常会主动去追寻生命的意义,即使他们明知这是以自身的幸福作为代价。

弗兰克从他早年的经历和被关集中营时经受的非人折磨中学到了很多智慧:“人类生存在世,总是会向某个方向前进,这个方向也许指向了某个人,也许指向了某件物,但一个人的行动更多地是为了别人,而不是为了自己。也许是为了追寻某种意义,也许是为了遇见某个人。一个人愈忘我——为了所爱之人、所爱之物燃烧自己——那个人才愈加是一个真正的人。”

Pao-西安

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