The Pursuit of Happiness and Its Relationship to the Meta-experience of Emotions and Culture

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In this commentary, I provide a brief background of the meta-experience of emotions, the philosophical and psychological literature on happiness, and further discuss the influence of culture on happiness. The meta-experience of emotions implies that there are primary and secondary emotions (i.e., emotions about emotions), similar to the concept of meta-cognitions. Primary and secondary emotions are closely associated with one's cultural background and happiness. Most scholars throughout history believe that happiness per se cannot be taught. However, it is possible to teach practices that lead to the path towards happiness. Promising strategies include loving-kindness and compassion meditation. These strategies are based on Buddhist teachings, which are deeply rooted in a collectivistic culture. This illustrates the close association among emotions, approaches towards happiness, and cultural background.

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