Translating Happiness: A Cross-Cultural Lexicon of Well-Being

Translating Happiness: A Cross-Cultural Lexicon of Well-Being

by Tim Lomas

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Overview

How embracing untranslatable terms for well-being—from the Finnish sisu to the Yiddish mensch—can enrich our emotional understanding and experience.

Western psychology is rooted in the philosophies and epistemologies of Western culture. But what of concepts and insights from outside this frame of reference? Certain terms not easily translatable into English—for example, nirva?a (from Sanskrit), or agápe (from Classical Greek), or turangawaewae (from Maori)—are rich with meaning but largely unavailable to English-speaking students and seekers of wellbeing. In this book, Tim Lomas argues that engaging with “untranslatable” terms related to well-being can enrich not only our understanding but also our experience. We can use these words, Lomas suggests, to understand and express feelings and experiences that were previously inexpressible.

Lomas examines 400 words from 80 languages, arranges them thematically, and develops a theoretical framework that highlights the varied dimensions of well-being and traces the connections between them. He identifies three basic dimensions of well-being—feelings, relationships, and personal development—and then explores each in turn through untranslatable words. Ânanda, for example, usually translated as bliss, can have spiritual associations in Buddhist and Hindu contexts; kefi in Greek expresses an intense emotional state—often made more intense by alcohol. The Japanese concept of koi no yokan means a premonition or presentiment of love, capturing the elusive and vertiginous feeling of being about to fall for someone, imbued with melancholy and uncertainty; the Yiddish term mensch has been borrowed from its Judaic and religious connotations to describe an all-around good human being; and Finnish offers sisu—inner determination in the face of adversity.

Expanding the lexicon of well-being in this way showcases the richness of cultural diversity while reminding us powerfully of our common humanity. Lomas's website, www.drtimlomas.com/lexicography, allows interested readers to contribute their own words and interpretations.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780262037488
Publisher: MIT Press
Publication date: 04/06/2018
Series: The MIT Press
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 652,165
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author


Tim Lomas is a Lecturer in Positive Psychology in the School of Psychology at the University of East London.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 Mapping Well-Being 1

Experiential Cartography 3

The Dimensionality Principle 4

The Boundary Principle 6

The Network Principle 7

The Granularity Principle 10

The Guidance Principle 11

The Impact of Language and Culture 12

The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis 13

Language and Culture 15

Borrowing Words 19

Semantic Gaps 23

Exploring Well-Being 30

Western Perspectives on Well-Being 30

Exploring Untranslatable Words 32

2 Feelings 37

Introduction 37

Feelings, Emotions, and Qualia 37

Theories of Feeling and Emotion 38

Emotional Granularity 40

Positive Feelings 41

Peace/Calm 41

Contentment/Satisfaction 46

Coziness/Hominess 48

Savoring/Appreciation 49

Revelry/Fun 51

Joy/Euphoria 52

Bliss/Nirvana 54

Ambivalent Feelings 56

Yin-yáng 57

Hope/Anticipation 59

Longing 60

Pathos 62

Appreciation of Imperfection 64

Sensitivity to Mystery 66

Summary 67

3 Relationships 69

Introduction 69

Relationships Promote Well-Being 69

Neglecting Relationships 72

Engaging with Relationships 73

Love 74

Nonpersonal Love 75

Caring Love 77

Romantic Love 79

Transcendent Love 82

Prosociality 83

Socializing/Congregating 84

Morals/Ethics 86

Compassion/Kindness 89

Interaction/Communication 91

Communality 93

Summary 94

4 Development 97

Introduction 97

Synthesizing Individual and Collective 97

Personal Development 98

Character 99

Virtue 100

Considerateness 102

Understanding 104

Self-determination 106

Skill 109

Spirituality 111

The Sacred 113

Contemplative Practices 116

Transcendence 119

Summary 122

5 A Map of Well-Being 123

A Cartographic Theory of Well-Being 123

Feelings 125

Relationships 128

Development 130

Limitations 133

A Research Agenda 134

Data-gathering 134

Applied Interventions 136

Glossary 139

Notes 161

Index 213

What People are Saying About This

Ethan A. McMahan

Lomas has done an admirable job of comprehensively discussing the importance of examining untranslatable words in order to enrich our understanding of the nature of well-being across cultures.

Endorsement

Lomas has done an admirable job of comprehensively discussing the importance of examining untranslatable words in order to enrich our understanding of the nature of well-being across cultures.

Ethan A. McMahan, Associate Professor, Western Oregon University

From the Publisher

I loved reading this book! Translating Happiness is generative in every sense of the word. The quest of Lomas to map well-being words from across the world and explore lexical gaps generates new insights, new methodologies, and new theories in psychology. The researcher in me geeks out at the scientific process used by Lomas, and the mother, wife, and friend in me melts at the shared humanity gained through his cross-cultural lexicography.

Lea Waters, Gerry Higgins Chair in Positive Psychology, University of Melbourne; President, International Positive Psychology Association

Lomas has done an admirable job of comprehensively discussing the importance of examining untranslatable words in order to enrich our understanding of the nature of well-being across cultures.

Ethan A. McMahan, Associate Professor, Western Oregon University

Lea Waters

I loved reading this book! Translating Happiness is generative in every sense of the word. The quest of Lomas to map well-being words from across the world and explore lexical gaps generates new insights, new methodologies, and new theories in psychology. The researcher in me geeks out at the scientific process used by Lomas, and the mother, wife, and friend in me melts at the shared humanity gained through his cross-cultural lexicography.

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