What is your Joy to Fear Ratio

What is your joy to fear ratio

A. Importance of Your Joy to Fear Ratio?

 Barbara Fredrickson researched specific and powerful negative emotions and specific and measurable positive emotions.  Dr. Fredrickson is a professor in the Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, 525 East University Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1109, USA.   She reported that individuals who flourished had a positive to negative emotion ratio of 3.2 to 1.  For languishing individuals, the ratio dropped to 2.3 to 1. People that were cascading toward dissolution had a ratio of 0.8 to 1.   This is consistent with the study by Baumeister R and Bratslavaky E, Bad is Stronger than Good Review of General Psychology, 2001. Vol. 5. No. 4. 323-370.

The bad news is that it takes 3.2 Joys to offset each Fear.   The good news is that Joys are fun, enjoyable, and healthy.  Therefore, actively seek out Joy every chance you get. 

What is a Countable Fear? 

Most of us know what constitutes a Fear.  Something that is perceived to cause pain, stress, or anguish.  But this Joy to Fear Ratio, it must be current and long-lasting.   A fear you had ten years ago is not counted unless you have it.  Also, the fear must be substantial.  The fact that you must stop at red lights may be an annoyance, but it is not significant enough to be a fear. 

Secondly, the duration must be perceived to be long-lasting, i.e., if left untreated, it has or will continue for a year or longer.  Worrying about passing an upcoming mid-term exam or worrying that someone will not go out on a date with you is not counted in this analysis.

What is a Countable Joy? 

What constitutes a Joy for this analysis is a little more complicated.   It must bring meaningful current pleasure to you.  Something pleasurable a couple of years ago may not be enjoyable today.  For example, bungy jumping off bridges may be exhilarating when you are in your 20s, but not so much in your 70s. 

Here is one way to determine if something is currently pleasurable.  Close your eyes and think of the Joy that you are interested in experiencing.   Next,  play your favorite song when you were a teenager.   If you experience similar feelings, then it is probably a countable Joy. 

An alternate way is to imagine if you could never experience that Joy again.  Did that make you feel sad?  If it did, then it is probably a countable Joy.

The Joy must also be experienced over the last year.   If you did not experience the Joy sometime over the previous year, it does not count.  For example, some Joys require daily encounters while others may only need one once during the year.  

B. How to Calculate Your Joy to Fear Ratio?

This is very easy to calculate.   Add up all of the Joys (positive emotions) and divide by the sum of all of the Fears (negative emotions) in the last quarter or month.   This results in a rough approximation. 

The rough joy to fear ratio used in this section does not consider differences in frequency, intensity, or remedial actions that restrict the effective magnitude.   It only counts the total number of joys and the total number of fears. 

You’re probably okay if your Joy to Fear ratio is above three.  If it is below two, you may need help reducing a Fear or adding more Joy.   It indicates that, in general, you need three times more Joys than Fears to maintain your happiness level. 

C. Can you have too many Joys?

The Fear & Joy ConnectionIs the girl in the picture having too much fun? 

This is the old half-empty or half-full perception argument. 

Here is a better example.  In 1960 a song came out about a couple of teenagers in love.  Their car was stalled upon the railroad tracks.  They both got out in time.  But the girlfriend returned to get her boyfriend’s high school ring and was killed.  Yes, naysayers would say that she was killed because of love.  But love did not kill that girl.  The death certificate said her death was blunt force trauma from being hit by a train. 

Whenever someone attempts to sidetrack your argument (Red Herring Fallacy) with “too much happiness is bad” or “love caused it,” pull out the big guns with evidence, logic, and common sense. 

Worrying that too much happiness is harmful sounds like a false negative thought.  If your happiness Cauldron over-fills, then:

Nothing Bad Happens. 

You will still be happy.