By Peter Van Dijk, Ode Magazine
French psychiatrist Christophe Andre, who has written some 15 books, including Vivre Heureux (“How to lead a happy life”) and L’Art du Bonheur (“The art of happiness”), answers some questions about the nature of happiness and provides interesting insight into how we can achieve this state.
Do you think people are naturally happy?
“We tend to be naturally gloomy. Melancholy is la condition humaine. Biologically oriented psychologists agree there’s a good evolutionary reason for this. When we were all still hunters and gatherers, a certain degree of concern was useful. It was prudent to remain alert to dangers and problems, which is why we’re geared to focus on the negative. It appears that the Christian church understood this early on: There’s no point looking for happiness on Earth; heaven is where you’ll find it. It is the reason why Sigmund Freud wrote: ‘Happy is not included in the plan of creation.’ It has also been proven that happiness and unhappiness are registered in different parts of the brain.
“And parents don’t often teach their children about happiness. Have you ever been on vacation and seen them stop the car, point and say: Look what a beautiful mountain valley. See that old tree and how beautifully it’s catching the light? They’re more focused on how well their children are doing in school.”
So you’re not a happy person by nature?
“There are people who are spontaneously happy. I don’t know many who are, but they exist. I’m more prone to depression than happiness; I’m more a pessimist than an optimist. I don’t have a happy temperament. My family background plays a role. My father was fairly violent. I’ve never taken anti-depressants, but I consider myself emotionally fragile.”