On Happiness

From my life experience, it doesn’t seem like sustainable happiness is possible. I haven’t been successful at it for more than a few days or weeks, nor have I met anyone who never faltered. Those that seemed always happy, have always proven to end up ‘falling from grace’ sooner or later.

If this is true – why do we constantly seek the solution that will finally allow us to be happy? Pleasure is better than pain. In the scale of human experience, we just seem to be wired that way: there are certain states of emotion we prefer to others, and we have given them different tags, all falling somewhere in the spectrum between pain and pleasure. We may say some experiences give us both pain and pleasure at the same time, like sprinting towards the finish line in a race, but at a given fraction of a second we are either more conscious of the physical pain or the joy of finishing. We can’t experience two emotions at the same time. At most they can fluctuate like a fast electrocardiogram.

However, it seems positive thinking DOES work. My life certainly improved in many areas at a faster rate once I started devouring volumes of self-help classics. In retrospect, positive thinking has this effect for two reasons: it helps to rationalize bad into good, and it helps to focus on solutions rather than problems. The former is a way to move past emotional blocks (whether past or present), a requirement for personal evolution. The latter is a formula for success in any situation: whatever you direct your focus to, you will get more of, including solutions.

Success, however, in the broad definition of ‘getting what you want’, is not the same as happiness. Evolution has optimized us for survival, not happiness, which is a state of being: you cannot achieve it for an long period of time, in the same way that you cannot achieve always being awake. States of being, whether we tag them as physical, mental, or emotional, always fluctuate.

One can increase the hours of awaken time, and can do all sorts of things to increase the quality of the opened-eyes time, but the time will come where sleep just happens. Inevitably.

The world around us can and is shaped by our thoughts, and positivity and a happy attitude can help mold in a way that betters the quality of our lives (by enducing more of such states more frequently) – but it is a delusion to try and make happiness the eternal state. Your body is not one sided. Your mind is not lop-sided either. Your emotions have all been developped as necessary designs of evolution, not a menu of unrequired features in the human being. All emotions can be channelled to the purposeful accomplishment of some short, medium or long term goal. But every effort to deny the darker spectrum of emotion and worship its lighter one will result in an inevitable fall of angels. The maginificence of Life is this balanced continuum over time. Any effort to trick the system will be like trying to create a one-sided magnet: it doesn’t matter how many times you cut it.

In the words of Khalil Gibran “The deeper that sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain.”

Though every happy action carries the seeds of sorrow, perception is our reality, so as long as the predominant perception in the conscious mind is the happy thought and not the unhappy one, the prevailing experience of Life will be one of happiness instead of despair.

1 Reply

  1. Kathleen Reply

    I Love your reflection on happiness…
    At the end, we can choose to think positively, which will take us closer to the state of happiness, even when we inevitably fall from grace from time to time…