Whether losing a limb or a lover (massive downside blow), or winning the lottery (massive upside windfall), Dan Gilbert (TED lecture) says that studies show that people return to a similar level of ‘happiness’ that they were at prior to the event after six months. Yes, either grieving the loss or celebrating the gift can throw things out of kilter in the near term, but core relationships, values and outlooks are not readily shifted by even these dramatic events.
Many would consider the ultimate loss to be ‘Locked In Syndrome’. It is beyond quadriplegia in that not only can one not move their body, they can’t even more their head or face beyond eyelid blinks. And yet, studies show that even in such dramatically difficult circumstances, such patients achieve happiness. MSNBC reports in its feature “Many locked-in syndrome patients happy, study shows”…
- “You are awake, aware and probably unable to move or talk — but you are not necessarily unhappy, says the largest study of locked-in syndrome ever conducted. A surprising number of patients with the condition say they are happy, despite being paralyzed and having to communicate mainly by moving their eyes.”
A riveting portrayal of this emotional cataclysm is voiced in the memoir (also adapted to a prize-wining film…see above) “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” by Jean-Dominique Bauby who concludes that “I decided to stop pitying myself. Other than my eye, two things aren’t paralyzed, my imagination and my memory.”
Happiness is a choice. If it can be for Bauby, then it’s hard to imagine anyone’s life that it can’t be.