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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. Her latest book is Hiding in Plain Sight: Exploring Scotland's ill health. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 26/09/2005

I dislike the present cult of personality. In fact I'd rather read a copy of Root Canal Practitioners' Weekly than Hello magazine. But I couldn't resist reading some of the coverage of Kate Moss and her dissolute lifestyle. If we need a mascot for our campaign for the importance of the insights and techniques of positive psychology then Kate Moss is it.

In many ways Kate Moss has it all. She is not only a famous celebrity, a household name, but an icon the face of a generation. She is incredibly wealthy and easily able to afford a glamorous and luxurious lifestyle. Her looks and fame could win her the attention of the world's most attractive men. And yet here she is pictured in the paper doing drugs or looking like any pathetic drunken girl in the street. You could almost see the vomit down the front of her dress.

As with the lives of Elvis, Marilyn Munro, Michael Jackson and countless others, we can find evidence in the sorry tale of Kate Moss of the meaninglessness of life dedicated to the idle pursuit of pleasure or glamour.

The inherent problem with pleasure is not new. In fact it was outlined centuries ago by no less than Scotland's most popular bard - Robert Burns. In Tam O'Shanter he writes:

But pleasures are like poppies spread:
You seize the flow'r, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white then melts for ever;
Or like the borealis race,
That flit ere you can point their place;
Or like the rainbow's lovely form
Evanishing amid the storm.

Pleasure is transitory. It doesn't last. It is no basis to build a satisfactory, or satisfying life. Nowadays psychologists call this effect 'the hedonic treadmill' to suggest the idea that pleasurable experiences lose their effect. We adapt to circumstances so what was very pleasurable for us at some point in our life becomes hum drum and ordinary within a short space of time. This is why we have to
keep looking for bigger and better thrills to get the same effect. A few decades ago a perk for successful footballers was the fact they could have sex with lots of different, beautiful young women. Now sex before marriage, and even one-night stands have become more
common, this has obviously lost its appeal for footballers hence the growing stories of gang bangs, if not outright rape. Presumably a similar process is at work in the fact that it is becoming more common
for ordinary people to become involved in public sex. Once this loses its pleasurable thrill what next?

Surely it is about time as a society that we realized that money, success, fast cars, promiscuous sex, drugs and drink don't lead to happiness - a realisation that would surely mean that we would bring our children up with different values. If you are unconvinced of the
need for such a step-change then I've only one thing to say - Kate Moss.

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