I recently read and article that the pursuit of happiness was creating more unhappiness than actual happiness.
The premise being that we have developed an expectation that happiness is some optimal, endlessly sustainable yet elusive place. It’s as if happiness is an expectation rather than a part of the human ride. We’ve become increasingly unhappy about figuring out how to get happy.
This state of pursuit of happiness has both a productive and a destructive place in our life. Our need to seek circumstantial or situational happiness is irritated by ads with people who are perfect having perfect experiences to sell us stuff.
I think that there is a divide in the population about knowing or not knowing that this type of happiness is fleeting and unsustainable. Though it has a place, we can’t hold onto that happiness. I do feel concerned that the unhappiness people are talking about in the article is mostly based on this “outer” happiness.
This is a stark reminder that things don’t make us happy. It brings to mind a man I know who was newly divorced, pursuing “hot” women, the ‘lifestyle”, being told by other guys how hot he was and making choices that took him to extremes in the world of image and pursuit of “high end” experiences. He was diagnosed with a fast moving and debilitating illness the same week he lost his job. He went from Mr. It (who wasn’t happy, but was still fascinated by the shiny things), to fighting for his life without a job in less than 2 weeks.
Don’t get me wrong. Things make life nice, they are fun, it’s good to have goals and to appreciate good fortune, but things don’t cause happiness, which is why no matter how much someone has, if they are not happy inside, they want more stuff.
What to do about this?
Replace this idea of pursuing happiness, which is a peak emotional experience and therefore fleeting, with the experience of finding something wonderful in the moment. If you are struggling, be glad that you are conscious of it and can reach out and find help. If you are in a low energy place, you can set a goal, take steps to get to a better place. You can find your heart, your soul, your self love, your God, your ability inside of you at any time. These are empowering and sustainable because they are essential to your very existence.
It is os exciting to feel that you love yourself in the midst of an unhappy moment. The world is going to let you down sometimes. You can count on this, but you don’t have to ever stop loving yourself.
We all have concepts about what we are, what we should be, about how we are perfected and how we are good. Many people knowingly or not, fear a lack of perfection as it symbolizes non acceptance into God’s kingdom. Which depending on the culture you live in, can be the single driving factor of your life. In most others, it is a force, even if it is unspoken and about being seen as good by the neighbors. This is true in most cultures and religions. Some variations can also be: Hot enough to get the “best lovers”, Good enough to get the promotion, healthy enough to not get sick…It’s as if all we will keep all the choas and turmoil of being human at bay if we are good enough and happy.
So for some happiness is the new “goodness”.
Along with this idea of goodness comes centuries of guilty judgement that has been used to control and maniplate people into giving away their true happiness to be good according to the social standard! Ironically, very few people are made happy by destructive or harmful behavior. Most people are naturally inclined towards what we call goodness and other who are not, can be gently guided towards it. The rare exception of the person who is wired “wrong” or has a defeact and enjoys harming others. The rest of us naturally avoid these people. Of course there is a need for guidance. But this is not control. It teaching not punishiment.
So who determines what is goodness, what is happiness? and why do we not trust our natural goodness and happiness? Short answer is that we try so hard to please adults and our community that we shut out our own inner voice of happiness. The part of us that opens and feels happy naturally is over ridden by our expectations of joining the fun, or the need to work hard instead of the natural state of enjoying our work and therefore pouring hours of blissful energy into the work.
In the Pharrel song he says “Happiness is the truth”. This could be the most wonderful and true statement if you are true to what makes you happy. It could also be off base if you are trying to be happy by someone elses standards. Some would say a gardener is not a happy but a serious person. Some would say the extra special lovelies are the happiest because they have the most attention. But to a gardener, the joy and heart opening richness of the plant in their care flourishing, the hint of the bees wings against their flowering plants and the suculent flavor of a well tended veg is all the happiness you can imagine. If your nature is to get attention for your appearance, then being the hottie is the key. If you are seeking happiness in one of these, but it is not your nature, then you are not being your happiness. You are trying on someone else’s, and it won’t fit well.
You maybe trying on someone else’s because you don’t know or trust yours. Because you’re concerned that someone will think you’re a nerd for finding joy in knitting or cleaning or that building something is less cool than hanging out. Social pressures are also a form of Judgement that it take a good deal of courage to overcome. I know cleaning ladies who Love and enjoy thier work. It is their passion, their meditaion and their happiness. Maybe not thier only happiness, but it is something that brings them pleasure. My son LOVES techinal stuff. It makes him happy. I don’t get it, I don’t have to!
Happiness is when you are doing what is natural to you. Not doing it for another person, not to avoid judgement, doing it with no fear. It is when you have little or no reisitance to the action and feel your mind, body and soul insync.
To be happy, you must be real. You must ask yourself what is your motivation for action. Reflect on what’s behind your action. You must do it for yourself, no one else. There is a reciepe for happiness. It is uniquely yours. Be quiet when you ask, and know that happiness is in many forms. It can be big and robust or suble and tickling from inside. An introvet and extrovert may enjoy the same things in different ways, but they are equally happy in thier hearts.
Happiness can be letting go of expectation, even of expectations of being happy or of what being happy looks like.
Happiness is not about making others happy. Be happy in a genuine way and you will find others who share your happiness. And please don’t question others happiness or try to decide whose happiness is better!