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Serious books inevitably start with an instigating question, and the question that Explaining Unhappiness answers is this: What are you afraid would happen if you weren’t unhappy? Why? Because this is the question that everybody asks all their lives, without ever fully realizing it. We are deeply engaged in the assumptions contained within it. What are we assuming when we ask that question? First, we’re suggesting that it is possible to be happy regardless of the present circumstances in which we find ourselves—that unhappiness doesn’t just happen, but that it may be self-imposed. Further, this chosen state may have less to do with what is happening in the present and more to do with warding off a fearfully anticipated future. Finally, we must also believe that, somehow, unhappiness pays off. We are forced to conclude, then, that we value unhappiness. Explaining Unhappiness was written for anyone who has come to realize that “realizing your potential” and “increasing your coping skills” have become old chestnuts that never really gave you what you really wanted—namely, a definitive answer as to why you need to believe that something is wrong with you.

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