Martin Seligman Quotations

-Lawyers are trained to be aggressive, judgmental, intellectual, analytical, and emotionally detached. This produces predictable emotional consequences for the legal practitioner: he or she will be depressed, anxious, and angry a lot of the time.

-A fight to the death is the quintessential win-loss game in evolution, and as such it arouses the panoply of negative emotions in their most extreme forms. Natural selection has likely favored the growth of negative emotions for this reason. Those of our ancestors who felt negative emotions strongly when life and limb were the issue likely fought and fled the best, and they passed on the relevant genes.

-[Barbara] Fredrickson claims that positive emotions have a grand purpose in evolution. They broaden our abiding intellectual, physical, and social resources, building up reserves we can draw upon when a threat or opportunity presents itself.

-Not only do happy people endure pain better and take more health and safety precautions when threatened, but positive emotions undo negative emotions.

-When we are happy, we are less self-focused, we like others more, and we want to share our good fortune even with strangers. When we are down, though, we become distrustful, turn inward, and focus defensively on our own needs. Looking out for number one is more characteristic of sadness than of well-being.

-Stories like Ruth’s have led psychologists to wonder if each of us has our own personal set range for happiness, a fixed and largely inherited level to which we invariably revert. The bad news is that, like a thermostat, this set range will drag our happiness back down to its usual level when too much good fortune comes our way… The good news, however, is that after misfortune strikes, the thermostat will strive to pull us out of our misery eventually. In fact, depression is almost always episodic, with recovery occurring within a few months of onset.

-Another barrier to raising your level of happiness is the “hedonic treadmill,” which causes you to rapidly and inevitably adopt to good things by taking them for granted.

-There is only a moderate negative correlation between positive and negative emotion. This means that if you have a lot of negative emotion in your life, you may have somewhat less positive emotion than average, but that you are not remotely doomed to a joyless life. Similarly, if you have a lot of positive emotion in your life, this only protects you moderately well from sorrows.

-The human brain has evolved to ensure that our firefighting negative emotions will trump the broadening, building, and abiding– but more fragile– positive emotions. The only way out of this emotional wilderness is to change your thoughts by rewriting your past: forgiving, forgetting, or suppressing bad memories. There are, however, no known ways to enhance forgetting and suppressing of memory directly. Indeed explicit attempts to suppress thoughts will backfire and increase the liklihood of imagining the forbidden object…This leaves forgiving, which leaves the memory intact but removes and even transforms the sting, as the only viable rewriting strategy.

-…there is no positive emotion on the list of essential components [of gratification]. While positive emotions like pleasure, exhilaration, and ecstasy are occasionally mentioned, typically in retrospect, they are not usually felt. In fact, it is the absence of emotion, of any kind of consciousness, that is at the heart of flow. Consciousness and emotion are there to correct your trajectory; when what you are doing is seamlessly perfect, you don’t need them.

-Our economy is rapidly changing from a money economy to a satisfaction economy. These trends go up and down (when jobs are scarcer, personal satisfaction has a somewhat lesser weight; when jobs are abundant, personal satisfaction counts for more), but the trend for two decades is decidedly in favor of personal satisfaction.
Martin Seligman