If you want to be happy, be.
The Language Squishing Hypothesis
Lori and Reba Schappell are are conjoined twins. Conjoined twins are a one in a hundred thousand occurrence. Not only that but Lori and Reba are conjoined at the head. They share 30% of each other’s brain, they share an eye and one of them is 4 inches shorter than the other one.
Before you renounce about how brave they are and how bad you feel for them you should hold off for a minute because I haven’t even gotten to the interesting part.
Lori and Reba claim to be happy.
Now, how could anybody be happy if they are conjoined at the head one might ask? But who are we to say that they would be so much happier if they were separated? If they say they are happy can we honestly tell them otherwise? The answer is yes, yes you can tell them otherwise. Which is what I am going to do in this article.
What is True Happiness?
The first objection you will probably come up with when you listen to this is that they don’t know what happiness is. They were conjoined at the head their entire lives, how could they know what happiness is? They have never gone for a stroll down the park without drawing eyes. They’ve never done a cartwheel before. They haven’t had the same experiences us singletons have had.
If we gave them a present and asked them to measure how happy they are from a scale of 1 to 10 they might say they are an 8 happy. Well, their 8 may be our 4. Our happiness is subjective to our own reality. So therefore we can conclude that based on their past experiences happy for them may be sad for us. And happy for us may be euphoric for them.
This is called the language squishing hypothesis. It suggests that language gets ‘squished’ based on an underprivileged background. This squishing reduces the range of our verbs and restricts their range. It suggests that Lori and Reba may feel the same way we do but they will describe it differently. This hypothesis also suggests that given any moment we all feel the same exact way but we describe the event differently based on our background – Or based on our view of what happy, sad, excited or angry is.
So, am I saying that Lori and Reba’s language is ‘squished’ and they really don’t know what true happiness is because of their underprivileged background of being conjoined? Yes, that’s exactly what I am saying. But what I am also going to claim is that your language is also ‘squished’.
Why You May Not Be Happy
Lori and Reba may never have done a cartwheel before, and maybe they turn some heads when they go for some ice cream but we have never felt amazing the bond they must feel when they always know they have a companion by their side who is always there for them. Who knows exactly what they say or do and never judges. Someone who knows our hopes, dreams, goals, love and ambitions just as much as we do. The language squishing hypothesis is a two way street. If Lori and Reba has never shared our experiences we haven’t shared theirs either.
Are people who claim they are happy after being miraculously cured of cancer or been through rough times be taken seriously? Can we really believe that these people are truly happy despite what they had been through?
There was a study done which may shed some light onto this problem. One group of volunteers was shown questions which they had to answer. Another group of volunteers was shown both the questions and the answers. The group which was shown the questions and the answers thought the questions were significantly easier than the group who was only shown the questions. They cockily claimed that even if they weren’t shown the answers that they could answer the questions easily. The other group claimed that the questions were extremely difficult.
The group which was shown both the answers and questions automatically went “Oh, that was so obvious!”. These people can’t unsee the answer. They can’t look at the same question again through the subjective lense of the other group.
Just the same, when go through an experience in our life we can’t just ‘unsee’ it. We are all walking around with our own lens of the world. Our own lens of what happiness is. Once we have these lenses we can’t take them off. They’re not just glasses we can set aside. They’re more like contact lenses that are super-glued onto our eye balls. Once we have an experience we can only see the world through our own lense. Once we learn how to read we can’t look at words like just random lines on a page. Once we learn how to swim we can’t look at a pool of water and think of drowning.
So what is true happiness? How do you know you are happy? Is your happy the same as my happy? The truth is, nobody knows what true happiness is.
Have a great day!