Thursday, September 13, 2012

TED Talks: Why are we happy? and The paradox of choice.

Hello Hello,

As you have probably noticed by now I love to learn, I love to research, and I love to share the knowledge I accumulate. Let’s face it, it’s kind of the point of this blog.

So last night I was doing something pretty rare for me. I was *gasp* watching TV. Okay, Netflix, but almost the same thing. What I was watching was excruciatingly interesting. Yes, excruciating. My brain was going so damn fast with the information I was consuming like a ravenously starved bear brain.
I was watching  TED Talks: Head Games.

The TED talks are riveting talks by remarkable people. They’re great talks that are designed to stir your curiosity, expand your perception and ways of thinking. I only watched about a dozen of these talks but two in particular stood out as relevant to those of us struggling with BPD. Now none of these are directed specifically towards people with BPD, but they do deal with subjects that I think we focus on and take to an even more troubling level.

The first is: Why are we happy?

Dan Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness, challenges the idea that we'll be miserable if we don't get what we want. Our "psychological immune system" lets us feel truly happy even when things don't go as planned. < ---- A lesson that can be especially important for those of us with BPD that are always terrified of letting go.

Turgid Truth

"The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another.... Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardour which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquillity of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice." 

-- Adam Smith

The second is: The paradox of choice

Psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice. In Schwartz's estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.

Especially this second one, considering the way I am often trapped and stuck when considering the nearly endless possibilities and results that could occur from any given situation, struck me as relevant. Because what I notice is it’s the anticipation, it’s the waiting, the period of interim, that is the time of peak anxiety. When a choice has been made, when I choice has been decided on and the path has been picked…  the majority of my anxiety disappears. Having made a decision, choosing a direction, letting go of the other paths, and having the limit of one path… things feel better.  Making a choice, limiting the directions my brain can whirl down, makes me feel better. I don’t know if you’ve had this experience, but I thought it was interesting to note. Especially since these are “regular” people. It’s not just us, though our BPD brains may take it to an elevated level with increased anxiety, but it’s all kinds of people, all over the planet.

So take a look. Give them a chance. They’re really interesting to contemplate.

And I have a bunch of fun posts coming up! 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. TED talks are pretty good. I used to watch them a lot, but I am buried in research lately.

  3. It is interesting because we have been discussing "free will" in Sociology. It was debated but the idea was that there really is no free will. That the "choices" we make are actually already pre-picked out for us and we think we have this free will to make the choices but we are just making the decisions on things laid out for us that are supposed to happen. This is all due to the outside world deciding our decisions for us. I just found it interesting discussing that and then reading this.

    1. Interestingly I think it has very little to do with the outside world, though I do thing our "free will" is limited. We can have free will, but it's dependent on whether we can overcome our internal chemistry. Our brains, our neurons, our chemical composition all determine how we respond to things.

    2. I can see both sides of what you two are saying, but I have to admit since I'm a Merchandising major at FIT that we as the consumer are playing into the retail industry's game as well as the advertising industry's wonderful persuasion. Conventional products are tailored and promoted so the industry's predetermined results can occur. There ARE a lot of choices but each of those choices lead to an avenue which place people into categories bases on the decisions they make. It's all very much thought out and purposely done from the outside in order for the illusion of free will to continue.

  4. Here is a quote from the Paradox of Choice:

    When people have no choice, life is almost unbearable. As the number of available choices increases, as it has in our consumer culture, the autonomy, control, and liberation this variety brings are powerful and positive. But as the number of choices keeps growing, negative aspects of having a multitude of options begin to appear. As the number of choices grows further, the negatives escalate until we become overloaded. At this point, choice no longer liberates, but debilitates. It might even be said to tyrannize.

  5. dude, its amazing the way that you described the waiting between choices or decisions. I feel the same way. This two particular TED talks gives us some king of light of how our brains work. Sometimes it feel really hard to stop the anxiety, but these talks gives a hint to understand why we can stop it.


Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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