Happiness lessons from the Roman God Janus

Happiness lessons from the Roman God Janus

by Dr. Happy from this morning's free eNewsletter

According to that great source of information, Wikipedia, the Roman God Janus was

… the god of beginnings and transitions, thence also of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time. Most often he is depicted as having two heads, facing opposite directions: one head looks eastward and the other westward. Symbolically they look simultaneously into the future and the past, back at the last year and forward at the new.

Other references state that Janus also represents good and bad; the light and dark we all have within us. 

How is Janus relevant to happiness and positive psychology? 

Unfairly, in our opinion, positive psychology is too often confused with pop psychology and accordingly, seen as an overly optimistic, unrealistic approach that denies the bad that goes on in the world. Those who've not properly read the works of the great positive psychologists sometimes criticise the body of work by saying that life has problems; it's not possible to be happy all the time; we need to be realistic and face up to the world as it is.

Well, I couldn't agree more BUT that's exactly what positive psychology is about and exactly what it has always said. Life is difficult; there are problems; misery and distress are normal. BUT life is also wonderful; there are many great things going on; and happiness and joy are also normal human emotions.

The question is on what do we want to focus mostly on.

Positive psychology does not recommend avoiding problems or pretending they don't exist; it doesn't say that one should blindly focus only on the good at the expense of the bad. Rather, real hapiness comes from actively looking for and savouring positives whilst also facing up to the cold hard realities of the day…in a constructive way. And we're more likely to be constructive if we can also be positive.

So what does this have to do with Janus? Well maybe the two headed approach is what positive psychology is really about; maybe happiness comes to those who're able to balance looking foward and backward, seeing good and bad in the right way, acknowledging what's working and what's not working at the same time. 

Practical applications

So, how might this work in practice? Are there ways we can use the concept of Janus to boost our happiness and wellbeing? In short, yes, and here's how…

  • remember that there are no rainbows without the rain

  • every pearl has grown from grit

  • from the dark we can see the light

  • whether we like it or now, "negative emotions" are normal and often, appropriate

  • all things shall pass, so as best you can appreciate the lessons in tough times

And we're sure there are many, many more ways in which Janus can teach us a lesson or two. What do you think? 

What do you think? 

Many have, over the years, written about how we need the dark to enjoy the light; how pain can enhance pleasure; how sorrow can facilitate joy.

So what do you think?

As always we'd love to know your thoughts…on the concept of using Janus as a symbol for happiness in positive psychology; on the need for light and dark; on the role of "negative emotions" in experiencig real happiness.

Post your thoughts and comments or questions and concerns…HERE ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE