I admit it. I've become a bit of an addict when it comes to consuming coverage about the royal wedding. I, too, wonder about the dress Kate Middleton's going to wear. Will it really be as modest as they say? And I worry she'll eventually be gobbled up by the vicious paparazzi, held responsible for the fatal car crash that killed her fiance's mother, the late Princess Diana.
But I'm not planning to lose sleep in order to catch the wedding live in the wee hours of Friday morning. And after reading about Americans who've flown to London to stand in the throngs outside of the church or a Cape woman's plans to have her own royal wedding party -- with everyone decked out in bowlers and white gloves -- I can't help but wonder whether some of us commoners are taking things just a tad too far.\
I ask Boston College psychologist Joseph Tecce whether we're setting ourselves up for unhappiness by living too vicariously through the royals.
Probably not, he tells me, at least for most folks.
"There's a Freudian theory called identification," Tecce explains, "that says whenever we identify with someone of a higher social standing than we are, we feel good about it."
Can't get much higher than the Queen of England and her grandson. "Identifying as part of royalty, part of the bridal group can help us temporarily forget about the stresses of everyday life -- like the taxes we owe or a flat tire," Tecce says.
But Harvard Medical School psychologist Ronald Siegel tells me whether the royal wedding boosts your mood or lowers it depends on how you view celebrities. "If you think the only people who matter are those who are famous, then the wedding may remind you of how much you don't matter, and that will get you down," he says.
On the other hand, if you see the wedding as a cool cultural institution, like the opening of a new public park or museum, you might feel like you're sharing in the event, which can make you feel happier.
You'll be able to appreciate the pageantry of the bridal outfits, horses, and music as a breathtaking aesthetic experience, Tecce points out. Plus, you might feel a little lift if you're the sort who gets a little verklempt at weddings -- and the idea of two young people making a happy life for themselves.
"That may not work, though, if you've had a bitter marriage yourself or if you dwell on all the divorces the royals have been through," says Tecce. Better to turn off the telly if you start to stew or ruminate over the impossibility of endless love.
The tipping point that you've gone overboard on the wedding hoopla?
If you, say, skip a day of work to watch the festivities -- without your boss's permission or forget to pick up your kids from school. In other words, getting so absorbed that you can't fulfill your daily responsibilities.
Overall, though, Tecce says we have a lot to gain from getting indirect pleasure from other people's happiness. "Sharing happiness is just as important as sharing sadness," he says.
In other words, being part of something bigger is a key happiness booster, says Siegel, while feeling isolated and competitive -- wishing, for instance, that you could marry a prince -- gets you nothing but self pity.
If you're just not into the royal wedding, perhaps you can get some vicarious joy watching the space shuttle launch instead on Friday morning. Congresswoman Garbrielle Giffords -- still recovering from a gunshot wound -- got the green light earlier this week to attend the launch and see her husband, who's captain of the mission, off into space. Let's celebrate her small victory too.
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