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Are positive illusions a necessary condition for being happy?

Psychologists coined the expression "depressive realism", because most normal people (i.e. those not suffering from any mental disorder) look at the world and also at themselves through rose-tinted glasses: They believe that they are "above average" in most categories ; they do not think that certain risks apply to them , even if statistics should teach them otherwise ; they are inclined to see the future brighter than it is ; they consider themselves to be more attractive than others perceive them ... and so on.

There is only one type of people who view themselves and the world more or less like it is: those who are mildly or moderately depressive (not those with major depression, of course).

Therefore it seems to be true that we need a certain amount of positive illusions to lead a happy life. Those of us who adopt scientific evidence and nothing but scientific evidence as their personal yardstick of truth are dooming themselves to depression and hopelessness and a sense of all-pervasive absurdity.

As Albert Camus wrote: "Man feels within him the longing for happiness and for rationality. The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world” -

So, do we have to keep telling ourselves some edifying (but delusional) stories (whether they feature some supernatural entities or not is of secondary importance) to overcome the deafening silence of the meaningless world? I think so.

Matias 8 Apr 20

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Taoism basically states the opposite. You can look at the hard uglies of life but train yourself to see even the beautiful in that.. in the end, reality itself is a self made illusion. (Likely that makes no sense.. but im cool with that too lol )

It's a crazy way of practice.

If you look at it right. ; )

@Deiter " If that's the case, then why not choose the one that makes you happiest – in the deeper sense?"

Imo. Its all about balance.. love of self has to be balanced with love of the universe..
Everything in moderation .. be happy, but try not to cause harm..
IE: i like porn.. but 24 hours of porn a day would be extreme and harmful... 😈😂


I agree with your assessment. However, there is another "type of people" who view the world as it is (realistically), those people are we High Functioning Asperger's Syndrome persons. I find that "normal" people's view of life is distorted by their emotions.

So true. I didn't think of that and I'm one of them.


I would say I am a realist, I have been bumped and bruised by life. I've been clinically depressed. I don't think I look at myself with rose colored glasses. I have very few illusions. My experience is that things do tend to get better. My mantra is "this too shall pass" and of course that includes the good stuff too. I also acknowledge that life is a bitch, and dying takes a long time. However, life is what you make it. There are moments of absolute beauty and goodness in your life if you look for them.I think life has great meaning. I think it depends on what you choose to focus on. My outlook is we're here, sometimes it is going to be hard, and sometimes it is going to be amazing. Focus on the amazing stuff and deal with the hard crud when it comes. I think in the end there is more good than crap.

"Life is short, the days are long."


"So, do we have to keep telling ourselves some edifying (but delusional) stories to overcome the deafening silence of the meaningless world?" <-- We each create the meaning in our own lives, if your life is meaningless that is your fault and up to you to correct.

I see no reason for illusions, I see the world as it really is and I am not depressed in the slightest. I am quite happy with my life, myself, and enjoy spending my time striving to better myself.


Our reality is one big illusion IMO. Whether or not it is a happy illusion depends entirely on your habits of thought. A person can choose happiness as easily as flipping a switch. Life is inherently joyful, but by constantly dwelling on untrue, negative or judgmental thoughts a smokescreen can be created which obscures joy. Maintaining that smokescreen requires a lot of hard work, but being happy requires nothing.

We have this amazing gift of life, unbelievably valuable. Underlying reality might be a deep and dark mystery but it is a dazzling darkness, full of promise and hope.

@kodimerlyn Your assessment only. Why are you so sensitive about what I say?

@kodimerlyn I am sorry that you have the problem of depression. I am certainly not an expert in the field. Dr. Maultsby’s books worked for me in a dramatic way and I advertise that fact whenever the occasion arises. I must say however that my case was probably not as severe as what you describe.

I don’t think you can force your brain to do anything. What you can do however is to just observe in a detached way what you are thinking and feeling. Meditation trains you to note your thoughts and emotions without judgement and to turn gently away—over and over if need be.

Dr. Maultsby’s method requires that you sit down with pencil and paper and do an analysis of the thoughts that led up to mental pain. I learned that I was creating my own pain through the thinking of untrue things, and once I had it straightened out the pain disappeared. Specifically, it is analysis, NOT “positive thinking”. If a person has certain feelings, well damn it, that’s just the way it is—go with the flow.

I became convinced that our feelings are triggered solely by our thoughts. Those thoughts might be forgotten or suppressed however, and if so would be hard to ferret out.

Again, I am not offering this as some sort of expert. You have my utmost respect and I wish you the best of luck.


No, I think the more truth we know, the fewer lies we need.

skado Level 8 Apr 24, 2019

The older I get the more I am convinced that viewing the world "more or less like it is" doesn't have to result in depression, mild or otherwise, if you can truly expunge from your brain the notion that life owed you something it didn't provide, therefore, you should be disappointed. You can't mourn the loss of something that was never really yours in the first place. You can't bemoan the "silence of the world" as "unreasonable" if there's no basis to think it "should" be.

That is of course devilishly hard in practice. It is hard to rise above the level of one's peers, or above the expectations parked in your brain during its formative years.

My other thought is that the objective should be not so much happiness, as contentment. Unhappiness is the impedance mismatch between what you expect and what you get. The only way to reduce that mismatch is to either improve your circumstances / situation or lower your expectations. Guess which is more likely to succeed? A person (or country, or family) of modest ambitions and desires can more easily succeed / achieve, and if you can be content with that rather than always restlessly escalating your endeavors, then while you still probably wouldn't turn down a winning lottery ticket or inheritance of miracle cure for whatever ails you or a better job, you can at least learn to rest in what you have rather than fuss about what you haven't.

As to telling yourself comforting lies ... if they are fairly harmless ones, I suppose so. There is much, short of religion, that once can do to trick one's subconscious into cooperating. I lie to myself all the time, and am fully aware that I'm doing it, but it still serves to motivate me. I tell myself when I set out on a walk when I'd rather not, that I'll reward myself for the exercise with some treat or other, then just as I get to the restaurant or kitchen cupboard I say, "nah, don't really need it". I do this to myself over and over and a part of me still believes my own bullshit. I do it because it works, not because it makes any fucking sense. The subconscious deals in symbols and ritual, but is highly credulous. Feed it a pleasing symbol and it stops resisting your volition, but doesn't seem to remember you always lie about the incentive.


Imagination can be healthy for keeping the mind active and even giving the idea of hope for the future. Living your entire life in a fantasy is not healthy.


If by "positive illusion" you mean hope, then yes, I think it is necessary. It should not be an illusion totally out of sync with reality ("tomorrow I will win the lottery and be endlessly rich" ), but having something positive to look forward to and work toward can certainly make life more meaningful.


That depends on a persons idea of what happy means. For me happiness is a hard one thing built from a foundation of isolation. When I was in elementary school I was an anomaly. I was not popular at all but I did not care about being popular. I refused to play the popularity game. I valued my own time and thoughts fare more then pretending to like people or acting a lie out to gain favor. So save for a few close friends and family I was alone and fine in that state. I have no illusions about my aptitude and in fact tend to consider myself less able then I actually am. I doubt and I fear and I make mistakes. I am human. To me it is sad so many people live in denial of the fact that we are all human and all share many of the same basic fears. Yet we deify others from pop stars, to athletes, politicians, religious figures etc.

Quarm Level 6 Apr 20, 2019

I have had a damn tough life, physically & mentally, and have just been able in the last 10-ish years to say I am truly happy. I question your premise that depressed people are the most realistic! I have time, friends, sufficient $$$ and most of my mobility, why Wouldn't I be happy?


I don't know if we really need delusions or illusions (although I am sure that at times some people may not have anything else to fall back on); positive thinking can also be honest thinking. Of course, very much depends upon the individual and his/her particular life circumstances and situation. I sometimes can help myself climb out of a depressed mood by purposely reflecting on what things in my life are good. I generally feel like I need positive thoughts to be genuinely true in order to be of help to me. I don't care for many inspirational quotes because they often are cliches, or are trite or superficial. But there is such a thing as honest positivity.


I think I'm a happy person. Maybe the low-resolution version of happiness is being content. I think it comes from feeling there is meaning in my life.


Blindness towards the view of the world is more then happiness, it's a blissful ignorance.
True peace and happiness is found within your self, it's not tied to the world.

After all, each full meal is a dream to some. Yet a thought about such while eating that meal...?
Also, disagree with that qoute, many men do not search for such.


I'm not so sure being happy is very important.
Of course I prefer to be happy, but it seems to be an emotional phenomenon that for me doesn't necessarily match my circumstances.
It's just a brain state.
If being happy is so important I could insert a hot needle into your brain at just the right spot and you'll be happy the rest of your life.
Sometimes it makes me happy to be sad and bitchy.

I consider questions of happiness or unhappiness, joy or misery, to be considerably more than merely brain states. However, it is true that we certainly don't have to feel good or cheerful or relaxed all the time, in order to enjoy life and for life to be worth living. I think you made a good point with what you said about how being sad or bitchy sometimes makes you happy. It's just normal for people to have bad moods and express those feelings sometimes, and that's okay.


Happiness is not a delusion. Born an ebullient optimist, I feel happy despite injuries and traumatic experiences.

Exercise floods us with endorphins that make us feel happy.

We can choose our reactions and behavior. If I feel hurt by criticism, I try to listen for the kernel of truth, learn from it and let the bad feelings go.

Grudge-holding only hurts the person holding the grudge. As a forgiving person, I still set boundaries with people. And surround myself with positive people.

In the last photo, I was sick of him taking my photo. I set a boundary with humor.

All of this contributes to feeling happy.


  1. Hiking in a heat wave (90s), I was thrilled to find a shady glade. Threw myself down on the moss, pack and all. Above Stevens Pass, WA.

  2. Delighted to be hiking a shady trail in a heat wave (90s). Chiwaukum Creek, Eastern WA.

3 & 4. Hiking to Ingalls Lake. Mt. Stuart is behind me. Eastern WA.


Coach what?



The only person I can control and change is myself.

As a parent, I was always conscious of being a role model for Claire. That was the hardest part of being a parent. We give messages with everything we do and say, and with silence and inaction.

Now Claire, 29, and I laugh about how similar we are. I realized she was actually listening.

@LiterateHiker Is that Montana?


Washington State. I live in Wenatchee, WA on the sunny side of the Cascade Mountains. Because of your question, I added the location where the photos were taken.


If fairies and fireflies make you happy - use them! Use whatever aid you need... just know that it's an 'aid' like training wheels. One day you won't need them any more. But if they are comforting and get you riding happy then why stop?


I disagree that we need those rose-colored glasses to be happy. Although it would be a stretch to say I'm a happy person, that's just my baseline personality rather than some consequence of seeing the world as it is. If being a realist about the world and one's place in it is bringing one down, that suggests a lack of full realism; we don't need to be smarter or stronger or more resilient than everyone else, but we can acknowledge the truth and understand that everyone is limited, and that our own efforts directly influence the quality of our lives and our degree of satisfaction. I'd also say that life isn't meaningless; we each have influence on the lives of others, the power to give aid and comfort, and as such our lives have inherent meaning. Eternal, cosmic purpose isn't required to have our lives matter.


I try and face the day with what is in it! I do hold the belief that I will find a way to solve most of my problems and at the same time I find the joy in being here and having people around me that accept me and enjoy my company and I enjoy them as well! Something to eat and heat to keep warm, because I am not good with cold!


Yes, we all need to have some positive illusions, especially in a time of crisis. But, we cannot carry that to an extreme in which we lose contact with reality.


Yes, we probably need optimistic stories. That's what video games and movies have built their industry on; people's need for constant positive stimulation.
The same inherent flaw organised religion capitalizes on.

I read every day, and imagine a better world. I don't delude myself any of it is real, but it improves my mood anyway.


I disagree with Albert Camus that life has no meaning.

Albert Camus was a French philosopher, author, and journalist. His views contributed to the rise of the philosophy known as absurdism and existentialism.

"In The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus described suicide as the most appropriate and rational reaction to the absurd — but admitted that this is not a very rewarding or worthwhile reaction.

Critics of absurdism tend to focus on two areas of the philosophy. The first is the proposition, as Camus described, that life's absence of meaning seems to remove any reason for living. Camus answers this with methods of living with the absurd: through coping or through revolt — and by pointing out that this lack of purpose presents humankind with true freedom.

"Others consider the theory itself to be arrogant, stating that although the purpose of life may not be apparent, that does not confirm that it does not exist."


I don't think suicide is morally choice-worthy. I agree with John Stuart Mill's dictum "do no harm" and that includes to one's self.

@Deiter I have yet to see a solid argument against Benatar's position, even though I don't agree with its conclusions. I don't think life can't be encapsulated in an argument, life is not discursive or dialectical, it simply is.

@Deiter The way you describe the Black Panther scene sound like Kanye's claim 🙂

"Because they knew death was better than bondage"
[funny, I lived in NH for 25 years, It's motto: "Live free or die"]

In order for a choice to be moral it has to be freely made, some one dying of cancer, in unbearable pain needs to be helped, and I agree with physician assisted death, euthanasia. Mill said that man does not have the freedom to surrender his freedom, as such this choice must be collectively agreed upon.

@Deiter We pretty much agree one everything except Kanye.

You said, "You wonder why more victims of the Holocaust or the Holocaust of the Middle Passage (African slavery) didn't choose suicide as an escape."

and Kanye said in regards to slavery: "That sounds like a choice".

Certainly not a choice I'd like to make, and perhaps not one they could not make; but ultimately he's right the choice is always there.


I would say positivity is a mind set that some people have and others do not. I think I see the world in a realistic fashion, I'm aware of my shortcomings and I'm aware of what's pretty crap about the world, I'm also aware of what is just amazing and a lot of stuff in between.

I am not mildly or modestly depressive and if scientific research suggest that I am because I'm a realist then I would challenge the validity of the research.


I do too, but I suppose it depends on whether or to what all extent all our realities ARE illusion. There is no better luck than to be born an optimist, but the other side of the coin is that a determined optimist may never experience the real lows that you need to offset the highs, and thus are reduced to an even tenor, albeit a cheerful one. I suspect that such a life does not preclude the search for meaning or utility, but it seems to make it a lot less likely.


Can’t disagree with that one, Matias!

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