My thoughts on the happiness thing…….

 

I remember something I overheard my grandmother say in a conversation when I was just a child:

“Life is not about being happy, it’s about being content.”

I remember thinking how sad a statement that was and how strange it was that my Grandmother who never complained about anything would say something like that.

Today, I am closer to understanding what she meant, closer to understanding and closer to agreeing.

Freud wrote: “Happiness is from its nature only possible as an episodic phenomenon. When any situation that is desired by the pleasure principle is prolonged, it only produces a mild feeling of contentment. We are so made that we can derive intense enjoyment only from a contrast and very little from a state of things”.

Maybe it’s semantics. But somewhere along my way, I was implanted with the ‘the goal is happiness’ virus. Life should be happy. At first it was a passive thing, as if happiness was handed out by some godly figure (and obviously he had forgotten about me), later it became an active thing, I just had to think happy, do happy things, be happy.

There is no doubt about the fact that since I’ve taken the happiness goal into my own hands and have taken more responsibility in what kind of day I have, that life has improved a lot for me. But I still wouldn’t call it happy. At the same time I wouldn’t call it unhappy either. Am I content with my life? Yes. Am I proud of what I have achieved? Yes. Do I have goals that I want to reach, places where I want to grow to? Definitely. Do I feel a sense of gratitude for life’s miracles and gifts? Every day. So with all that, what do I need happiness for? Why can’t I just enjoy those precious moments of feeling so happy that my eyes fill with tears when the occasion is right? Why can’t I react sad, mad, hopeless, afraid when other moments arrive? I am smart enough to realize when feelings victimize me, sometimes I do something about it and other times, it might take a little longer. I love life. And I trust that wasting it, is not to be found on any of my ‘To do’ lists. But even there….. I am not perfect. If I needed to be perfect to live this life, I would. Everybody would.

When I walk through the self help section in a library or a book store I am amazed at all the number of books that promise a world of happiness. I am also amazed by the amount of people who tell us what to do to be happy, from Yoga, to Meditation, to Positive Thinking, to attend seminars, write journals, sit under a tree. And I ask myself whether we humans ever going to learn not to be such damn totalists. We just always need to have it all, no matter what it is. And the effort with which we stride along to get it, the determination we have to run our heads against a wall, or the depressing frustration we fall in once we realize were not powerful enough to get through or over it eats us up alive.

You may accuse me of settling. No worries, you’re not the first one. I’ve accused myself of settling many times. But honestly I am tired for fighting for a goal that I wouldn’t really want anyway. Happy all the time? That just takes the ‘happy’ right out of life. Oh ya, and should I ever suggest to you to be happier, please smack me.

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~ by spasmicallyperfect on July 24, 2007.

9 Responses to “My thoughts on the happiness thing…….”

  1. Hi, I think the best description I ever read is from a book called:”Live the life you love and stop just getting by”, author: Barbara Sher. I am typing it as it is written: “I’m very suspicious of the desire for bliss. This is earth. Heaven comes later. On earth you’re not supposed to float around beaming at everyone. You’re supposed to live your life, fight your fights and laugh and cry. If we were meant to live in heaven, we wouldn’t have been born onto the earth….Fun is going after what you want and meeting new people and making discoveries and fashioning things never seen before and learning things you didn’t know. That’s exciting. And excitement is half joy and half fear – that’s the way it is. It’s like skiing or diving into a pool – a little scary but lots of fun.”
    I liked you’re story above and it showed me that I am not the only one that is searching for answers!

    Oh-oh, Barbara Sher! I have a friend who keeps bugging me whether I’ve finally read one of her books….. I like the bit that you shared, thank you. Who knows, maybe this will inspire me to read one of her works. In the end, my quest for authenticity is greater then the one for happiness only. What makes me happy right now is that you’ve stumbled on to my humble blog and decided to leave your marks. Thank you and welcome Linda 🙂

  2. Hi,
    there are a lot of thoughts in this post, of which i thought several times too. More and more i think about this happiness thing, more and more confusing it is. So i tend to live a life which is sometimes happy and the rest of the time is still fine. It’s even a good life without having goals and visions. Life itself is enough.(as you said on your about page,”we are”)
    Kind Regards

    Welcome! Or should I say ‘willkommen’?
    Yes, based on a brief visit to your writings it seems that you tend to spend some time thinking about things like this. And I do agree that there has to be moments of shutting the door on those noisy questions, or else there will be just more and more. Thank you for visiting and would be nice to see you around some time again.

  3. Hola Spanishmicallyperfect.

    It’s funny. One form of Irish Servicemen’s irony is to take a word and then give it an exactly opposite meaning. For example, happy was used in the World War II to signify complete misery, shell-happy replacing the old shell-shocked. Here is a passage from an Irish soldier’s letter to his wife written after the terrific struggle round Caen (France).

    “Can’t say much about what goes on here now. When things get straightened out I’ll tell you all about it. The Germans here are not the surrendering type. For some reason they are prepared to get killed – and that’s what will happen. They must be pretty shell-and-bomb happy by know. A bomb- or shell-happy case is so bad that to see one almost makes you feel as bad…”

    Just when my grandfather had read this letter a soldier back from Burma started to talk to him about men who become “jungle-happy”, by wich he meant overwhelmed by heat, loneliness, and pests of all kind. Sand-happy was similarrly used of men who have been affected by the deserts of the Middle East. There is a certain parallel here with the use of “punch-drunk” to mean half-stuned by a blow. The dictionaries give “slightly drunk” as one meaning of happy.

    Pero usted, mi querida Spasmically Perfect, no preste demasiada atención a esta historia semántica y filológica, ni tampoco a los soldados irlandeses, y mantenga firme su propio concepto sobre esta hermosa palabra.

    Happily yours,

    Paul

    Pues, I have to say, I am still getting used to your personality of writing, one thing is for sure one never knows what the next line will bring. Muchas gracias, la historia ‘semantica y filologica’ es interesante, y como todas las cosas interesantes, me encanta. ‘Mantener firme mi propio concepto’….haha…. una vez que mi barco ha salido del puerto, no para! 🙂 (Cuanto me falta la practica del espanol….horrible! Espero que usted me entiende……

  4. S-
    Freud was strung out on drugs most of the time so he had a lot of time to analyze every detail of human life when in fact it is questionable if he ever truly experienced it as most human beings do. (personal opinion of course)
    I’ve heard that expression my whole life about being content and I’d have to say that none of the people who have said it to me even seem ‘content’ with their lives. I’d have to say happiness is momentary, reality is always, that doesn’t mean that reality is a bad thing, that is where your perspective of it comes in. When things happen to us that are painful or annoying, etc.; it is our decision how we choose to deal with it, i.e. we can let it ruin our day or we can choose to move forward with or day and claim it a good one. I think it only gets scary when we start thinking of happiness as the big picture, the ultimate goal.
    It’s the day to day that matters for sure. They are no promises of tomorrow.
    Great post lady, got me thinking.
    kim

    Just on the side: Freud(e) in German actually means ‘joy’ which sort of goes hand in hand with happy, no? Thought that was kind of funny considering the whole post. Re content, if there is one person I’d associate with ‘content’ (in the good sense of the word) it would be my Grandmother. Yes, the people who tell other people how they should feel without truly accomplishing that themselves, don’t impress me much either. In their defense I would say that they probably have the best intention and might have a different view on themselves then the one that other see. I have a friend who continuously describes himself as positive and yet from my point of view he’s probably one of the more pessimistic people I know.
    Isn’t that the great thing of opinions? They all differ….. 🙂

  5. Great post.

    How about this thought?

    We are perfect the way we are, life is perfect the way it is and let’s get on with the business of living.

    Whatever we are going through is meant to be and we can be happy in this moment – we can also be sad and that is perfect for us.

    I totally agree that we have the power to be happy any moment we set our mind to be happy, and thankfully also ones that take us by surprise. I also agree that we are perfect if it’s taken from a sense of gratitude and not from the ‘I’ll ignore all the bad things that are going on’-view. My blog isn’t called ‘spasmicallyperfect’ for no reason.
    Welcome and thank you for sharing your thoughts RS.

  6. Hey Spaz,
    I’m not sure if it is semantics – happiness/contentment. Perhaps they are synonymous but maybe not.

    I think that happiness is the result of achieving your goals – but if you make happiness your goal you might end up getting confused or disappointed. The happiest people I know are those who are following their hearts and doing the things that they win at. Whether is is the simple life of staying home to raise the kids or climbing the corporate ladder and anything in between.

    I think too, Roobs is onto something. You kind of have to do what you’re doing while you’re doing – live the moment you’re in – engage in your life or it won’t matter if you’re happy or not, yes?
    WC

    Definitely Annie. I just sometimes get the feeling that there’s an expectation that one needs to be happy all the time or else one isn’t in control of life and I’m not sure I agree with that at all. But being authentically happy and living the moments as much as one can, that sounds like a pretty good life to me.

  7. i just read something that my friend nicole wrote (http://sometimeseverything.wordpress.com/2007/07/23/random-thoughts-on-a-monday/) and she used the phrase that she felt perfectly content with her imperfect life. it felt joyous to me and i was happy for her 🙂 i used to think content was settling like that was a bad thing but lately i see it as something deeper, a glimpse of being in a moment that is actually pretty close to pure bliss … happiness perhaps lies in that contented place of being engaged with your life right here and right now. my mind is sort of slippery today but i like what annie said 🙂

    Thanks for sharing that link. Yes, Annie is a smart cookie! So are you 🙂

  8. happiness is different and results are different. i think we feel happy when we reach some target we have set. i feel we must set targets and not be disappointed with results. only when this sense of disappointment is shed can we bring in our mind a frame of happiness. contentment is feeling proud of the whole hearted effort we put in towards these targets and not the result. this is the concept that bhagwad gita has taught. we need to aim high, work towards the goal and not give too much importance to the result. we learn a lesson and keep marching. i am happy when i have done some work constructively towards the goal.

    Welcome Priya and thanks for pausing here to share your thoughts. I will have to research bhagwad gita as I am unfortunately not yet familiar with those teachings. Thanks for the hint. I too believe in continuous strive for growth and that it’s this growth that’s important and not necessarily the levels we achieve. And you are perfectly right, having accomplished a good day’s of work/growth makes me happy too.

  9. Thank you. That helps.

    You are welcome. Glad I could help 🙂

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