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Intelligence and Unhappiness?

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Indeed, anecdotally, it's long been established that such a connection exists, though only relatively recently have scientific studies tried to definitively prove it.
have read a few studies that are similar, it explains a lot though.
Over thinking leads to second guessing and this has been the element that has caused so many problems and contrary thoughts it makes it hard to see the real picture.
theres reading between the lines, then there's an over application of logic when sometimes the world and the people in it are simply random.
Chaos is beautiful to some but limiting to others.


Staff Alumni
What does intelligence mean? By intelligence, Hemingway was referring to people who successfully engage in intellectual pursuits. Are they the only "intelligent" people? I don't think so. I tend to believe that people considered intelligent by the standards of our society are in general unhappier due to a fairly simple explanation. It boils down to trying to find the answers to the puzzle of existence with the wrong tools. You don't solve emotional problems with logic and rationality. The left brain might be really good at finding the solutions of a mathematical equation, but not in those matters that mostly involve the heart. Many intellectuals have made a mess of their personal life because their single-minded obsessions and ambitions have wreck havoc on their relationships and been pursued quite egoistically to the detriment of personal values such as compassion.
I believe it is true to an extent. In my experience, some of my friends would bring this subject up and conclude that this applies to them. Usually, I am annoyed when they do that; however, this article had me consider the situations my friends find themselves in their lives.

My friends who do have varying (yet still considered above the norm) degrees of intelligence have difficulty communicating and handling problems, especially ones with people. Although it doesn't seem like a big issue to others and myself included, these issues cause them great distress. Sometimes that distress overwhelms them to the point where they despair and bury that shame of failure within their hearts. Other times they give up and become a hermit.

The reason I do not like hearing that intelligence and unhappiness have a correlation is because for me it appears to be a doomed existence for myself. Many times I have been told I was smart by my family, friends, and teachers. I have hear this many times throughout my life, and so I try to be the smart one. I am continuing my education, enjoy solving math problems (my major, actually), and read whatever topic interests me. I don't consider those things make me intelligent. Yet, when I was told I was my whole life, I believe it more than I wish I did. I do not excel like I think a real intellect could, which makes all the difference between the ideal intellect and me.

Because I feel like I need to do the smart thing, I over plan thing or over think them. There are times when I doubt myself. I try to think of how to be always right, than accepting that failure happens. Sometimes I feel like too many people expect me to possess a lifetime of knowledge when I am only 20. No one said that to me. I just think that they do. I am a downer to myself. Yet, I thought if I can say I am not smart, I can escape this "fate." Of course, this did not help my self-esteem.

I want to say I know better now. I want to fight this so-called "fate" that this idea forces on people who are intelligent. Really, I consider this issue a barrier for the intelligent because some accept it and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We should always remember that being content is still achievable, no matter what intellect or any other aspect a human being has. Also, we must keep in mind that people suffer for many reasons. Keeping that thought in mind when interaction with others may help keep another person from feeling isolated due to certain aspects the person has.

Thank you for sharing this article because it acknowledged the areas that many intellectual people lack in development that I have not considered, which may have contributed to their unhappiness.


Well-Known Member
Looks like an essay. Not sure how I judge the arguments because I didn't read it very closely. But intelligent means what? I assume it means people who can do your math homework, or sits at the computer rather than sitting with friends, or sits in philosophy class enjoying every minute, or that guy that played board games during recess instead of playing basketball, or the book worm - and they all tend to be unpopular because they lack strong social and emotional natures. To me, none of this especially says that they're intelligent. I've known many highly intelligent people with IQ's in the 120's or higher who could fit in socially and emotionally like it was second nature. I've also known many people with average IQ who're shy and withdrawn and have natures that seem to not bond well with most. (*) I'm thinking more along the lines of people who have aspergers or autism or who generally did not develop their social and emotional skills to an appropriate level while growing up. I don't think intelligent is hte right word for these people, but I will say that I am probably one of them. My IQ is average (1000 SAT). I was very unpopular in school and very shy. I was a nerd. 3.8 GPA. 4.0 here and there.

(*... I saw many people while growing up. Many different types of nerds or geeks. I don't want to classify them all under one title.)

I just have a lot of anxiety around people and become self-conscious. I've never been free. Hard to concentrate at school because my mind was on everyone else and how they might be perceiving me. I hated that so much. Got teased a lot until later on.

I never thought I was superior. That's not why I kept to myself. I did because I was afraid. I never seemed to say things right even if I felt comfortable. And my fascination with computers did not help my image. It worsened it. Maybe it's genetic; my dad is similar.

My life fell apart. I gave up. I quit trying to complete school. Quit looking for work. I hate myself now. I got good grades in school and behaved well (i failed to a few times), but that's not what makes a successful or productive person. It's more complicated than that.

It's not about being smart so much as it's about not quitting. What makes people quit? Is a more important question.
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Well-Known Member
have read a few studies that are similar, it explains a lot though.
Over thinking leads to second guessing and this has been the element that has caused so many problems and contrary thoughts it makes it hard to see the real picture.
theres reading between the lines, then there's an over application of logic when sometimes the world and the people in it are simply random.
Chaos is beautiful to some but limiting to others.
I can state confidently that I've been there. I actually enjoy to take things apart in my mind. I don't do it unknowingly! But be careful with how you frame it. Sometimes over-thinking is what happens between (?) and (!).

Look at this:

Whenever I've seen branches on a tree, it looked random to me. Psuedo-random numbers look random too.

Of course, the kid did a lot of field work and observation. But still, there was a lot of thinking going on in his head.

The real question, to me, is not whether thinking is bad, but whether it reflects reality or not.

That and wading into the unknown produces a lot of failure. That's why people like to stay in the light.
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In regards to this subject nobody said it better than Schopenhauer.

"Nature shows that with the growth of intelligence comes increased capacity for pain, and it is only with the highest degree of intelligence that suffering reaches its supreme point."
Arthur Schopenhauer

As far as intellectuals go this truth has been known for thousands of years. If science wishes to catch up with a study about it, it requires only a simple study.

Most people here have above average intelligence. The correlation with intelligence and pain is clear. The more one knows the more one sees the sufferings of the world. If one has the wealth to do so it is easy to live a life ignoring reality and existing in a bubble. If one is of low or mediocre intelligence it is easy to exist without ever knowing the world outside of a few basic connections to people around them.

No, it is only us few who ponder the greater questions who see the true suffering of the world and come to the quick conclusion upon studying it that there is far more suffering than there is joy. That almost every moment of life is spent in suffering trying to obtain some goal only to realize upon attaining such a goal that it failed to live up to the expectation we felt it had as we worked so hard toward it.

There is no doubt life is almost entirely made up of suffering with a few brief moments of true joy splashed in between it. One may argue that only the stupid and ignorant are truly capable of attaining any level of consistent happiness. And even though they may experience happiness it is on a basic animalistic level that we can all enjoy but few of us intellectuals find even worth enjoying.

That kind of happiness is basic and worthless to anyone who can comprehend the greater questions of life. Sex, food, sleep, they are the joys reserved for animals and people of lower intellect who are content with never going beyond the basic physical aspects of life.


Well-Known Member
One may argue that only the stupid and ignorant are truly capable of attaining any level of consistent happiness.

And the religious - I seem to remember they did a study of the level of endorphins and serotonin/dopamine etc. in a Buddhist monk whilst he was meditating and the levels equated to someone undergoing great joy.... I can't remember WHERE I read it but maybe a google search will find it.

The mystical religious from Rumi to Teresa of Avila to Sri Ramakrishna --- all they EVER talk about is this depth joy and love and ecstasy that they experience over and over and over again when in "union" with their Beloved.

They all describe their experience using very similar metaphors despite all being from different parts of the world, different times in history, different religions, different genders....

(Not that I am suggesting people should take to religion to be "happy" - I think one should become religious only if your prompting comes from deep within and not for a "goal" but simply out of love. Not out of fear of hell, not out of desire for heaven but simply out of love - because one cannot think of anything else that one would rather do than love God, praise God, worship God in and of and for its own sake)
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he is called matthieu ricard

this is a reference to the study - and a link to it in the Wikipedia blurb.

The link doesn't seem to be very clear so here is a summary of it:

The bell curve of the MRI measurements fell between +0.3 (a Sylvia Plath acolyte, no doubt) to -0.3 (Richard Simmons, perhaps?). But Ricard alone achieved an astonishing score of -0.45 – a level of joy so far above the others that his score was nearly off the chart.
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