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On Being Serious

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1965;12(5):520-523. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1965.01720350088012.
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Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal. . .


I  PRESUMABLY there is an optimum level of seriousness* on which one should deal with life. To be a jester arouses the suspicion that one is avoiding the consequences of his intended behavior or, worse, that he is attempting to ensnare others into playing his little game.2 To be optimistic suggests that one's superego is unrealistically friendly and protective; pessimism, on the other hand, alerts to oral deprivation.1 Certainly one should be realistic, and certainly life is in reality no overall laughing matter; yet we are made uneasy by "yon Cassius" with his "lean and hungry look," we reject Milton's "Il Penseroso" as possibly dyspeptic, and we may not linger overly long before Rodin's "Thinker." Excessive seriousness is not attractive to the healthy adult.Yet some people seem to


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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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