Anna Karenina Principle

Anna Karenina Principle

11thPost Challenge of 31

 Percival, a friend of mine, mentioned the “Anna Karenina Principle” to me today. I recalled a distant memory of it being about respecting all criteria when it comes to a family being happy or unhappy.

He then said to me, “All happy families are alike, Cressida, and each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. This is what Tolstoy wrote at the start of his novel.”

In other words, in order to be happy, a family must be successful with respect to every one of a range of criteria, including sexual attraction, money issues, parenting, religion, and relations with in-laws.

Failure on only one of these counts leads to unhappiness. Imagine what it must be like to fail on several or even all!


Aristotle’s version…

Again, it is possible to fail in many ways (for evil belongs to the class of the unlimited, as the Pythagoreans conjectured, and good to that of the limited), while to succeed is possible only in one way (for which reason also one is easy and the other difficult – to miss the mark easy, to hit it difficult); for these reasons also, then, excess and defect are characteristic of vice, and the mean of virtue; For men are good in but one way, but bad in many.


Psychology Today in the article “Positive Psychology and the Anna Karenina Principle”

argues that…

“…I prefer to regard the Anna Karenina Principle as a hypothesis to be tested. While it may hold in some cases, it likely does not hold in all or indeed most cases. If it did, then the factors that enable happiness (well-being) would – necessarily – be necessary ones, and that flies in the face of what the evidence actually shows. Conversely, the factors that make happiness difficult to attain would – again necessarily – be damaging and insurmountable in all cases. That too flies in the face of what the evidence actually shows.

“If positive psychology, not to mention common sense, teaches us anything, it is that all of us are a mixture of strengths and weaknesses. No one has it all, and no one lacks it all, except of course the boys who want to date our teenage daughters. And our daughters would beg to differ.

“We know that there are numerous contributors to happiness but that they rarely if ever exist at the same time for the same person. Nevertheless, most people are happy (Diener & Diener, 1996).

“We know that Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, and Steven Jobs, among many other well-known folks, all had weaknesses and flaws, yet each lived a life worth living and indeed a life that is widely acclaimed…”

Read the rest of the article here at Psychology Today.


Now, this is a big wonder…

If dictators, control freaks, go through life believing that every conceivable problem must be navigated, dealt with and expertly eliminated?


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