Is realism really bad for you? A realistic response Neera K. Badhwar 25th november, 2007


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Neera K. Badhwar
University of Oklahoma
Abstract
I. Introduction 1.1 Realism about oneself and one’s circumstances has long been regarded as a hallmark of mental health and authentic happiness by philosophers and psychologists. It has also long invited skepticism from some quarters. Recently, this skepticism has found new support in the work of some social psychologists, who claim that far from being essential for mental health or happiness, realism can be bad for you. Certain positive illusions about yourself, they say, are more conducive to health and happiness than a high degree of realism. I will argue that, properly understood, realism really is good for you. I will begin by showing the importance of realism in psychological, philosophical, and everyday thought about health and happiness. 1.2 Most psychologists and counselors regard healthy individuals as reality-oriented, as “able to take in matters” they wish were different, “without distorting them to fit these wishes.”[1] In a Socratic statement, Gordon Allport declares that “an impartial and objective attitude toward oneself is … a primary virtue, basic to the development of all others. … And so … if any trait of personality is intrinsically desirable, it is the disposition … to see oneself in perspective.”.
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