Why (And How) Do We Long for Utopia?


From Psychology Today: A new wave of positive psychology scholarship emphasizes the dialectal nature of wellbeing, arguing that well-being does not only comprise happy or positive emotions but also dysphoric feelings like sadness. This new wave also considers the dialectal nature of many emotions, such as love and longing, that can be conducive to wellbeing.

“A particularly interesting item is Sehnsucht. Often translated as ‘life longings,’ its etymology is revealing, implying a craving or addiction to longing. Not pining for a specific person or place per se, but rather a predisposition towards yearning generally, a trait-like utopian dreaminess. The concept is also notable in that–unlike many others in my lexicography–it has been explored through factor analysis. And it was found to comprise six components: a utopian notion of personal development; a sense of life’s imperfection; a blended focus on past, present, and future; ambivalent, bittersweet emotions; a tendency towards deep reflectiveness; and a mental life imbued with symbolic richness.

Such is the character, it seems, of a diffuse, generalized longing, a ‘sweet-bitter’ dreaming cast of mind. I’m sure that many of us may be familiar with that state, even if we previously lacked the word to articulate it.”

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