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A Possible Side Effect: Having a False Sense of Well-Being

I read a handout on a recent prescription and was warned of the following side effect: having a false sense of well-being.

Could be me. Seriously. How do I know if that good feeling I’m feeling is actually false? Will my good friends tell me? Isn’t that feeling a good thing? Is it optimism? Is it courage? false in terms of what? in terms of whom? If I believe it, it isn’t true? What facts will prove my sense of well-being is false, not true? I’m trapped in dualistic thinking, a side effect of reading prescription labels.


I knew as a child that I could develop a deep relationship with art and music, taste that richness, and the use of my mind was free. I joined libraries, read books. I walked in Nature, beach to mountains, waves to rocks, curbs to cliffs. I got a camera. I learned to draw.

I grew up with New England frugality – use it up, wear it out, do without. In the ‘70s I was attracted to the Society of Friends notion of Simple Living as a spiritual path. It was not-selling-out. It was bohemianism. It was and still is one of my art forms. It’s been liberating. A life lived at human scale – the scale of one-to-one. To have enough and not be dragging around baggage, which is close to garbage. I’ve been lucky in my friendships; it’s where my real wealth is.

One summer I considered the corn growing in the fields; it kept me centered all summer as I drove past the ripening corn, hunting for a job, feeling bad. My boogiemen were named laziness, sloth, and slacking, but it was simply me rooting, growing, reaching.

I recently read about Mullainathan and Shafir’s research:  “Poverty and all its related concerns require so much mental energy … there’s less bandwidth left to solve problems. Your cognitive ability starts to slow down.”

I also know the feeling when simple living devolves into a scary, complicated reality.

Also seen in the news: “The prescription for Facebook despair is less Facebook. Researchers found that face-to-face or phone interaction — those outmoded, analog ways of communication …. Direct interactions with other human beings led people to feel[ing] better.”

Duh. That old human touch: a visit, a phone call, a letter. Everything in 2013 is touched by electronics, including our hearts. “Text me, follow me, friend me,” my e-heart says.

But hugs given generously give me a sense of well-being, truly, that a tweet never has.

– Roberta Fountain

*Image © anita līcis-ribak, 2013

Features fragment of ‘Diary of Elizabeth and James Dixon’ by James Welling