September 10, 2019 at 7:47 am #1679
A happy life is a full life
A happy life is a full life, which makes sense, it is an interesting life. That motivates, that radiates, that makes you want to live and share. Throughout this post, we will explain in depth the meaning or meanings that happy life includes, without magic recipes, or solutions for everyone. Which does not mean that there are no common meeting points and shared truths that help us travel together along that path to happiness.
But what is happiness?
Happiness is a state
The first thing that will have to be resolved is that happiness is not an emotion – contrary to what is stated in wikipedia. An emotion would be joy, something temporary and fleeting, that comes and goes for minutes or hours. Happiness, on the other hand, is a more lasting and stable psychological phenomenon. It could be admitted, however, that in a happy life, joy is a habitual or preferred emotion. Of course. But a happy life includes the whole emotional range, including negative emotions, such as anger and sadness.
Yes, you can be happy and get angry and cry from time to time. In fact it is inevitable not to do so. We would not be human.
Happiness is a state, a condition; there is even talk of eternal happiness, if it were an emotion it could not be eternal. It is a state, then, a condition in which one is happy. What kind of state? Happiness can be defined in a positive way and in a negative way, that is, for what it is and for what it is not. Fundamentally what is not happiness is “disturbance”, altered state of mind. For example if a person is agitated, worried, elated, elated, manic, that is not happiness. Neither that it is very high nor that it is very low: they are states contrary to happiness because happiness is a state of non-disturbance, of non-restlessness, of peace, serenity …
In that sense we could consider falling in love as a moment of happiness, but it is not so. Falling in love is exaltation, euphoria, caused by a temporary cerebral imbalance. We can think that it is about happiness because we imagine it as a permanent state (romantic literature contributes to that belief), but since it does not have much permanent, then comes disappointment when it ceases after a few months or two or three years. Happiness, on the other hand, is a state of brain balance that can last for much longer.
Happiness in the background is a more disappointing concept than one might wish.
A happy life is a full life
happy life is full life In Latin “happiness” comes from “fertility” and “abundance.” That is to say; fullness, creativity, everything that fills a void. Nothing is missing and there is nothing left. It is a thing that is complete.
To live a happy life is to live a full life. It is the opposite of feeling empty, which leads to anguish and often depression. Some people eat to fill the stomach and thus fill the anguish, it is a substitute for existential filling. It is filled with food that which cannot be filled with meaning.
And here we enter fully into the question of the meaning of life. In another post we talk about three conceptions for the meaning of life: as sensation, as direction and as meaning. In other words: the present we live and feel, the future we project and to which we are heading, and finally the meaning of our past, which tells us who we are, where we came from. Three senses to which we must respond:
- Present: does our life satisfy the senses? Do we enjoy our day to day?
- Future: Do we have a life project? Is the horizon we project full or empty?
- Past: Does our life have meaning? Can we trace a coherent story from our biography?
When people talk about emptiness, what they often refer to is the existential void, the absence of meaning: either as sensation, as direction or as meaning. To the extent that all these questions have an answer, we get the filling, the fullness, and then we are happy. Existential sense can give us happiness. Do not give how to give something, but how to find us happy, as the person who can look at his past life and finds it coherent, meaningful, and can accept that it is over and then feels that he has lived a happy life.
Happiness is not sought, it is found
Happiness is a result. It cannot be searched directly, because then a lack is revealed, something that is desired because it is not available. And that lack already neutralizes in itself the possibility of having a happy life, because the lack causes absence of fullness. Happiness must be a passive result, rather than active.
Patients often come to therapy looking for happiness. Well, bad approach, I tell you, because the therapist cannot provide happiness to anyone, not even himself. In any case, we can work on the different vital conflicts of the person and find ways of life that are more consistent with oneself. And who knows if after a while one looks back and realizes his state of fullness.
Happiness is not found, it is born, it arises, and the more you look for it, the less you find it, you frighten it, it cannot be searched, it is born from within, from your well-being, so you need to conform (take the form of what you have). You need not want what is outside of you or what is more than you.
A happy life is a responsible life
We associate a responsible person with a boring person, overloaded with obligations, who has lost that ability to be passionate about his surroundings, who no longer connects with joy or knows how to be surprised, who is no longer spontaneous or knows how to play. That is, the opposite of the ideal of happiness that is associated with a supposed perpetual joy.
Well, a happy life is not achieved without full responsibility to it.
We have said that happiness is the result of a full, coherent and meaningful life, and that it was a passive result. Which does not mean that one should be arms crossed. Quite the opposite. We must take the responsibility to make sense, and therefore build the conditions for a happy life.
Do I enjoy my day to day? Do I enjoy what I do? Am I fine with my relationships?
Where do I want to go? In what direction? What projects do I have?
and finally: who am I? What meaning does my life have?
Being responsible is answering those questions and committing to your answers. It is not about answers that have to be found hidden somewhere. They are not hidden because they do not exist. You have to create them. As we said on another occasion, life has no meaning in itself, it is we who give it meaning in every moment. A sense to our measure and our possibilities.
Happiness and desire
There are people who seek happiness through wish fulfillment. But a desire is always, by definition, something that does not exist. If it existed it would not be a wish. The problem that desire has is the conative burden that is hooked on desire, its surplus value. That deiderative part that is in that objective that once achieved is nonexistent.
Happy life is fertile life It is a great source of disturbance. Because we have put happiness in a non-existent dimension. We hope that thing will fill us, when it is we who are to fill that thing. The fullness comes from within, not from outside.
When you put your happiness out, you will never be filled. And you become insatiable. What does insatiable mean? “Unsatisfactory” you never have enough. And never having enough is where dissatisfaction comes from.
The satisfaction of desires gives us pleasure, but immediately the dissatisfaction returns because the pleasure is ephemeral.
There are interesting words. “Enjoy” comes from fruit. It is to get the juice from the fruit. You enjoy when you take the juice from the fruit. But the fruit runs out, it has an end. It’s over. It is destroyed. The more you put happiness in the material, the more disappointment it brings. Because in the world things are finite (unlike immaterial desires, such as knowledge. In the post Desire and need in the society of abundance we talk about it).
Human beings are subject to desire … animals do not happen that. Desire belongs to the world of the symbolic, to language, to thought. The human being must educate himself to be happy, but educate himself. It is a learning.
However, if there is something we can satisfy, we should even satisfy to have a happy life. It’s about the needs, which, yes, we share with the other animals.
To live happily implies to cover the needs
The needs are met … if they obviously know how to meet. Its not that easy. In our condition as symbolic animals, humans can confuse both concepts, consider some desires as needs and vice versa. Often, there are needs that we give up or refuse to see them as superfluous or threatening desires (like an anorexic girl in front of food), while we can give ourselves to desires that do not correspond at all to objective needs (such as the compulsion to eat of a boy bulimic with obesity). It is extremely important to differentiate needs from desires. It is not a simple task, however, and less so in a consumer society that seeks to confuse it as a marketing strategy.
So, the passage of covering a need to a desire, what does it depend on? Of satisfaction, of knowing how to say: I already have enough. And also to detect and adequately cover basic needs in oneself. And that is a matter of education.
Cover all needs and put a cap on desires.
In general, when resources exceed needs, as is the case in our society, it is the person who must learn to regulate, discipline, because there goes their ability to achieve a happy life. Your well-being in knowing how to regulate.
Being happy implies accepting limitations
With regard to the above, it is understood that a happy life has its nature inscribed in the acceptance of limitations. Limitations that do not affect basic needs, of course.
You find happiness in you, it comes from you. But for this there are conditions and happiness happens more to limit ambition, expectation, desire. Always be satisfied just because you are satisfied, never looking for what is not there, neither in the other, nor in general out there.
The truth is out there, said Fox Mulder in X-files. Well, in the matter of happiness, the truth is above all in here.
With the other you can share moments of happiness, a life of tranquility, fullness … but you should not ask him / her to fill it. Or mortgage all your relationships.
The issue of insatiability, of never having enough: in childhood is when you should educate. When a child does not conform to what he has, that is when he must be helped to conform. Another interesting word: “conform”: take the form: if you do not adapt to your shoe or your shoe does not adapt to you, you will suffer if it is bigger because it would fall and if it is too small it will hurt you. The child (and the adult) must adapt to what he has. To what there is.
In therapy you always come to that moment: what cannot be changed about oneself must be accepted, and thus be at peace with oneself. Stop wishing for change. Paradoxically, that opens the door to more changes, as Carl Rogers showed us well.
Happiness implies reluctance and a certain emptying
Unlike our ancestors, today’s society is full of stimuli, projects, readings and research, technological developments, social interactions, sexual opportunities, job changes, initiatives of all kinds, increasingly stimulating entertainment. It is a society saturated with inputs, as one patient of mine described well. Or tired, as the Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han would call him. Tired because he does not cease in his career towards achievement and performance, towards positivity, towards speed and vital intensity. A frantic self-disciplined rhythm, which inevitably leads to exhaustion and then to the most absolute void. They have talked about hyperactivity, narcissism, frustration, and depression and suicide. It does not seem a way to achieve happiness.
Happiness implies slowness, lightness and simplicity. It implies giving up or even defending ourselves from the excessive stimulation that floods our day to day. Given so many projects and opportunities, choose some and give up the rest. Given so much social openness and stimulating relational environments, we must narrow down and deepen, because interpersonal links imply time and stability to strengthen. And in the face of such positivity, rescue and legitimize negative emotions and feelings, such as sadness, pain, grief and depression, anger or frustration. Give them their own space, as parts of us that are present and deserve their expression.
(written based in part on the seminar Dialogues on existential topics, by psychologists Manuel Villegas and Pilar Mallor, Barcelona 2016)
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