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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra

The Confusion between being cheerful and being cheerful

Wed, 28 Aug 2019 09:47:00 +0000 Published in Alto Aragón Newspaper

Nowadays, many teenagers, young and not so young, say that they drink "combinados" (hard liquor) to overcome their shyness and to be cheerful in their moments and places of fun. As they seek to have fun "to the fullest", they also drink "to the fullest".

These drinkers often confuse "being merry with "getting merry". The latter is simple euphoria induced by alcohol; it is an apparent joy that always ends in disappointment and sadness. It is characteristic of revelry, which is characterized by excess and bustle among people who do not need to know each other; in revelry they coincide, while at a party they meet.

The aforementioned confusion stems from the fact that people tend to speak of joy very lightly, attributing this meaning to very different and opposite behaviors. It is called joy: to "joyful life," which is a partying behavior stimulated by alcohol and/or drugs; to laugh at everything with "silly laughter," something typical of frivolous people; to "feel satisfied" because certain things of subject material have gone well; to maintain a "happy mood" in spite of setbacks. The latter is the human virtue of joy, which is acquired by repetition of perfect acts of the will, like all virtues.

The prestigious psychiatrist Enrique Rojas maintains that the goal to be cheerful is not only for some people with good character, but for everyone: "If we are not cheerful by our nature, we can be cheerful by Education. Here joy as a virtue makes sense. If joy were only an artificial matter (to be joyful), or if it were only a psychological reaction to a good (to be joyful), many people would remain outside the realm of joy, and the Education would be left with very narrow margins."

Joy is a positive attitude that comes from within each person. It is necessary to have a reason to rejoice. Joy is not in the ephemeral, but in what remains; it is the consequence of a certain fullness of life that comes from union with the good.

Those who try to "get happy" immediately, resorting to the ingestion of some substances, make the mistake of looking for joy by resorting to shortcuts. Aristotle said that joy, like happiness, cannot be sought directly, because it is something that happens; it is something that accompanies the realization of some activities that excite us; it is something added, a consequence, and not something that is sought in itself.

When a person stops focusing on himself permanently, thinks of others, and strives to make them happy, he finds true joy.

As part of the preventive work of sadness, it is essential that children have frequent and real family celebrations from an early age, on the occasion of an event that will serve as reference letter for the future (a birthday, an anniversary, etc.).

 "The party is a meeting between people who love each other, on the occasion of some important event, with the purpose to communicate to each other their feelings. This meeting is source of joy." (J. Pieper: A Theory of the Feast).

It is necessary to know how to have family parties without the predominant presence of alcohol. To live a party well, the most important thing is that the attendees exercise festive attitudes: to be calm, to dialogue, to be affable, to be creative, to be cheerful.

The feast makes us more aware that a person's life is not limited to work. In addition to being an active being (homo faber), man is a receptive and contemplative being (homo sapiens), who is enriched by the selfless and peaceful attention with others.

One of the eminent figures of 20th century Spanish pedagogy, Víctor García Hoz, formulated an innovative educational proposal , that of homo gaudens, the man who lives based on joy. For this pedagogue one of the aims of the Education is to form homo gaudens, "the man who knows how to discover the positive aspect in all things, activities and relationships, and has sufficient willpower to maintain his positive attitude, of joy, in the face of any status in which he may find himself".

Some means to be content, according to the old and always current Hellenic culture, are: enough sleep, interesting readings, walks, friendly conversations around a glass of good wine. Plato spoke of the stimulating qualities of wine to search for truth. He added that "wine brings to light the secrets of the soul, infuses life into our hopes, impels the coward to fight and dissipates worries". To know how to drink or not to know how to drink, that is the question.