[The Fountain] From euphoria to euthymia

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[The Fountain] From euphoria to euthymia

SHIM SAE-ROM
The author is a political news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

The hit American drama series titled “Euphoria” deals with the love and friendship of teenagers involved in drugs, sex and crime. Since Season 1 aired in 2019, it has set records for having the “second most viewers on HBO’’ and being “most mentioned on Twitter in 2020.” The drama was based on an Israeli series with the same name. Euphoria is a psychoanalysis term, which means “happiness and relief.”

Experts say that euphoria is an artificial sense of happiness, somewhat unstable and misaligned as in the temporary pleasure from drug use.

The American Psychoanalytic Association defines euphoria as “an elevated state of mood and happiness not reflecting the reality of the situation.” One may feel pleasant and triumphant, yet hardly natural or comfortable.

Recently, the term “euphoria” was used in Korean politics to criticize a state of being buried in extreme factionism. On Sept. 9, Kim Jae-won, a former member of the Supreme Council of the People Power Party, said, “Democratic Party lawmaker Kim Eui-kyeom is in a state of psychological euphoria due to the cheers from his supporters.” Kim, the former PPP Supreme Council member, claimed, “He is wandering in dreams with the conviction that he is engaged in a very righteous struggle.” Kim argued that even after the allegation that President Yoon Suk-yeol and Justice Minister Han Dong-hun enjoyed a drinking binge with 30 lawyers from Kim & Chang, a mighty law firm in Korea, at a bar in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, till dawn in October turned out to be false, Rep. Kim Eui-kyeom, who first raised the allegation, did not apologize but mentioned “a state of martial law” under the conservative Yoon administration, referring to his strict approach to abuse of power involving high-ranking officials under the liberal Moon Jae-in administration.

What would be the end of euphoria? Economic theory may give you a hint. Earlier, American economist Hyman Philip Minsky borrowed the concept of euphoria to explain the correlation between the speculative investment bubbles and a financial crisis. The “Minsky model” argues that people’s speculative happiness peaks at the climax of overheated moments just before the bubble bursts. Minsky saw that the fanatic happiness of euphoria comes at the end of the upward curve of “fever and greed.”

In his theory, after the onslaught of euphoria comes a denial of reality, panic and frustration in sequence. That’s is not so different from the aftermath of teenagers’ deviation or fandom politics. A solo song by Jungkook of BTS is titled “Euphoria.” At the end, the lyrics go, “Cross your dreams and go to the place where things become clear beyond the bushes.” What we need these days is not euphoria but euthymia: a normal, tranquil mental state or mood.
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