Matt again here. One thing I’ve seen and read a ton of recently are articles and news reports about happiness. These reports talk about different ways to find it, how to know where it is and what things prevent you from having it.
while I think many of these reports might have validity, most of them really miss the boat completely. For instance, being grateful and optimistic are certainly going to improve the overall quality of your life. I think they’re essential to creating a perspective of looking at things in a positive way.
As mentioned in one article, I also think stress could lead to unhappiness just as setting high goals and being discontent in not achieving them can. I read a study recently that actually said that having children can lead you to being unhappy in your life. People feel increased stress and attribute that to unhappiness when they thought that having children (probably because the society said they should) would make them happier.
It sounds, more fundamentally, like there are strong attachments here which may be bringing the unhappiness that most of these reports are talking about. In the book “Spent” they talk about consumerism and happiness and throughout the book relate consumer behaviors to actions that are almost exactly opposite of the behaviors people take who are experiencing deep seated happiness and fulfillment.
We create expectations that certain things will bring us happiness when in reality the detachment from everything (especially our expectations of the things we think will make us happy) is the only thing that really allow those feelings to truly manifest themselves in any situation.
I once had my car stolen, which I am extremely grateful for (I know it sounds ridiculous but bare with me). It helped me realize that I was attached to it in an unhealthy way. My inability to let go of that attachment brought suffering into my life. This has been really powerful for me and has helped me tremendously in developing higher states of concentration, awareness, and fulfillment.
So, really, I don’t think that a big goal would create unhappiness anymore than a car being stolen would, or missing a reality TV show that you love to watch. What I think brings the unhappiness is our attachment to one or multiple outcomes, objects, or experiences. If you expect that you’ll reach your goal within a certain period of time or after some specific event, and it doesn’t happen, you’re likely to experience some suffering.
However, if you go in with the intention of reaching a goal, align your thoughts, behaviors and actions towards reaching it, and then you don’t reach it in the time or place that you had planned, you can be still be flexible if you’re detached from the outcome and decide on a new way, time period, etc. to reach your goal or align yourself with whatever it is that life is throwing at you that prevented you from initially reaching it. The difference is simply your expectations or attachments to certain outcomes.
One of the reports says that lethargy is a culprit. It sounds a lot like the studies that they do into the psychology of identity. If you want to have… even a productive study on identity, you would be better off talking to a philosopher than a social psychologist.
Now, obviously this is coming from me who has been studying and involving myself in this for quite some time now. Could we expect this understanding from the average person? I mean, one of the studies talks about how bringing yourself out of poverty brings you happiness. What it doesn’t talk about is how the poverty level in the US is dramatically higher than the poverty level in most other countries. In reality, the homeless here have it pretty good in comparison to others around the world (I’ve seen it).
But that doesn’t mean that they experience suffering any less than the people in poverty in any other country. Why? We have expectations and attachments to certain degrees of wealth in the United States. Its the same with people’s childhoods. You can talk to someone who grew up with two parents, in a rich neighborhood, with prosperity all around them and you may see the same level of suffering that someone had who was on the street with no parents, no money, and no education. They both may have a story of woe. They both may have felt neglected. Either one may have attempted to commit suicide. Trust me, I know, I knew lots of rich people growing up who hated their lives (and I still do know many). Heck, some of the worst suffering that I’ve experienced in my life was during times when I had a lot.
Why does this happen? If you grew up with nothing but didn’t know that others grew up with more than you, would it matter to you? How can people be happy in third world countries with nothing (which many are) when Americans can’t be happy in one of the most prosperous times the world has ever experienced? The answer, I believe, lies in attachment.
Until next time,
Live With Passion Now