Is Thassa right in saying that we all have the ability to be as happy as she is?
In Paul's class on Thursday, we discussed human emotion and the possibility of being happy in the context of challenging events or disorders (like MDD). Throughout the novel, Candace and Thassa both assert that happiness is attainable regardless of the hand you've been dealt. But can we all escape the clutches of negativity, and is negative affect a result of choices in cognition?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is based on the supposition that our thoughts cause our feelings, and that by changing the way we look at things, we will then be able to control how we feel. Take, for example, the example of getting a bad grade on a test. You could think about the grade negatively (i.e. "I'm stupid," "I can't do this," "I should give up on school and join the circus."), thus causing increased sadness, anxiety, or some other uncomfortable, negative feeling. But if you thought about the grade positively or pragmatically (i.e. "It was just one test," "I have time to pull up my grade," "I'll talk to the professor and see what I'm doing wrong and if I can correct myself."), you have the opportunity to eliminate some of the negative feelings that come with the grade and to replace that negative affect with rationality or, even, positivity. Of course, CBT theories recognize that some negative emotions are a healthy part of the human experience and thus encourage the validation of negative feelings, but then refuse to let a person dwell on those feelings and the thoughts causing them, which risks a downward emotional spiral.
The idea that emotionality is a choice is uncomfortable for some (after all, doesn't the subject of Generosity - the possibility that we could choose to be happy - make us squirm?), but CBT techniques have proved extremely successful in treating a range of psychiatric disorders, especially anxiety disorders, like OCD. Given the success of this treatment, could we then say that Thassa and Candace are right in their assertion that happiness is a choice? And, then, what would it mean to give us agency over our own emotionality?