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To me the notion seems somewhat counter intuitive to suggest a person who lives a normal life, is then placed in a situation where for example theyre subjected to constant abuse and fear, would adapt to have the same base level of happiness in both situations.

Therefore, I was wondering if professionals use it as more of guideline or if it is taken at face value to mean humans will always return to a baseline of happiness.

I found a paper that listed some situations where people supposedly don't return to a baseline happiness, although they seem quite specific.

In a 19-year investigation of representative German residents, Lucas ( 2007b ) found that those who had experienced a government-certifi ed disability during the course of the study showed a signifi cant and sustained drop in their level of wellbeing from before to after the onset of disability, even after income and employment were controlled. Participants from the same data set who were followed up from 15 to 18 years reported signifi cantly reduced well-being years after becoming unemployed (Lucas, Clark, Georgellis, & Diener, 2004 ), divorced (Lucas, 2005 ), and widowed (Lucas, Clark, Georgellis, & Diener, 2003 ). Notably, in all these studies, whether individuals had experienced disability, unemployment, widowhood, or divorce (all extremely negative experiences in the domains of health, work, and interpersonal relationships), their levels of well-being took a “hit” from the event and, on average, never fully recovered.

http://sonjalyubomirsky.com/files/2012/09/Lyubomirsky-2011.pdf

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