You've been duped about happiness. Here's the skinny
First of all, sorry Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa etc. I know my family likes to read my stuff, and I’m grateful for this but this one is going to get a little dirty.
Not because it’s necessary to my point, but just because I think it’s funny and I like dirty and shocking humor.
Don’t go on if you’re easily offended. You’ve been warned. And Mom, Dad, Grandma… I love you, but you know what you’re getting into. I don’t want any incredulous phone calls if you choose to read this.
I wrote about degrees of freedom in my last post (link) which is a concept I’m developing, and likely a core teaching of The Spot of Joe. But what does “enjoying the journey” mean when the word “happiness” has been overused like the trashy girl in the bar who lets herself loose and gets with any guy who remembers her name.
Some use it to mean the rush they get when they achieve something like a 200lb bench press they’ve been working towards for years.
Others use it to tip a hat to the comfort they feel in their lover’s arms. Cozy, warm.
Still others use it to refer to the exciting jitters the white powder gives them when they snort it from Grandma’s stash.
But without a steady definition, we can’t get a hold of happiness and we can’t measure it in ourselves.
How are we going to go about defining such a nebulous concept as happiness?
There’s good news in this. Happiness has been a focus of many societies and many philosophies. More than many… arguably all we do is in pursuit of happiness.
It’s been coded in the founding of The United States, how in The Declaration of Independence a key assertion was
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
~The Declaration of Independence
that we all have the right to our own unhindered pursuit of happiness.
Rather than keep it vague though, let’s define it for ourselves, and offer useful concepts to reign in the ideas and hone our understanding of the word “happiness” to a perfect t.
So I would like to do a lot more in depth, and maybe in future posts I will, but for now I’m going to have to give you a couple-paragraph crash course in several philosophies of thought which have centuries of content, writings and wisdom.
*Stretches arms back…. audible crack…*
*Does that finger accordian thing… several more cracks…*
Let’s do this.
Humanitarian Psychology (the only one without centuries of content)
A la Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and self-actualization as a pinnacle of development, when we fulfill our lower need of security, love and community, we free ourselves to actualize our true potential.
This fulfillment of our needs enables us to move and evolve freely. This is one understanding of happiness.
It’s funny I’m writing about this. A true taoist would know that it cannot be written about or conceptualized. In fact, “The Tao that can be understood is not the Tao.”
The whole idea is that just like the sun cannot shine on itself, just like the wind cannot blow on itself, just like the prostitute cannot pay for herself, the mind cannot think about itself.
Any thought about itself is actually a thought about an image of itself, and it is still thinking about something outside itself… because that’s what it does. It thinks.
The idea is that happiness comes from the flow inherent to existing without reciprocal self-consciousness. “Just living” or “letting loose” or “going with the flow.”
This doesn’t mean being passive or doormatlike - since while acting naturally you might be inclined to assert yourself, or take action towards your desires - but rather allowing yourself to act as you would naturally, without getting in your own way by analyzing yourself.
This uninhibited, relaxed flow is one notion of happiness, and it’s important enough to include here.
Happiness is not a value in stoicism.
Yet acceptance of suffering is!
In pure Buddhist style, accepting that life is suffering, and deciding a life of acceptance of this fact is virtuous brings us another concept of happiness.
Happiness in this right is acceptance of suffering, pursuit of mastery and goals and an internal evaluation of oneself.
Similar to Stoicism in the acceptance of suffering, and similar to Taoism in the elevation of flow and present mindfulness, Buddhism, besides bringing to mind thoughts of really fat dudes sitting in silence and ringing bells, provides us a perfect philosophy on happiness.
Happiness here is the achievement of Nirvana, a state of peaceful presence and non-resistance.
We’re only here on this earth for a moment, right?
Might as well live it up.
Bring on Grandma’s stash! Bring on the prostitutes! Go to Vegas! Take a body shot off that cute girl’s cleavage! Steal a car!
We’re all gonna die, none of it matters, so let’s live it up while we’re here on this crazy rock hurtling through space we call the Earth!
Happiness here is acceptance of our mortality and the letting go of inhibition and release of our natural instincts.
What’s constant in all this?
It’s funny… Even in seemingly opposite philosophies of Hedonism and Stoicism, acceptance and, as a result, non-resistance, is a key component of happiness.
What do I mean by non-resistance?
First let’s define resistance…
There’s stuff in reality, in your life that is. That means if you look around, you’ll see it. Your room might be a little dirty, you might be lying to yourself about how you feel about your lover, you might be telling yourself you’re straight when you really love having a dick shoved in your ass, or you might have a coke problem.
In the end, these are hard facts about your current situation. And they can be denied, lied about, run away from etc, but they’re still there.
The funny thing is that the more you resist them, the more powerful they become.
Whether you want to grow past them or not, your current state of happiness is grown from accepting that they are true and moving forward.
If you want to stop snorting coke so much, denying the fact that you have a problem will only solidify it. You won’t be able to control it, and you’ll know you’re lying to yourself. At a deeper level there will be a conflict inside you which has the potential to rip you in two.
You might think you love your lover but in reality you’re really into guys. You’re ripping yourself in two underneath.
But erase the resistance, be honest with yourself in a compassionate way… No need to put down your iron fist - that’ll just create more resistance - and you’re resistance against the reality in front of you will dissolve.
Like the Buddha said, pain is not a choice. But suffering is. If you accept pain in your life, it’s not pain. What does that mean about the nature of pain?
Pain isn’t defined by an unpleasant sensation. Rather pain is an internal resistance to something in your life. A conflict inside you.
This is why a lot of therapy is geared towards resolving inner conflicts. Once the conflict about something is gone, you’re free to integrate that part of yourself into your psyche, into your self-concept. The more you push away your desire for dick the more you build that conflict inside yourself (no pun intended.)
But the moment you accept it, you allow yourself to enjoy an awesome, congruent new kind of relationship which is more fulfilling to you than you’ve allowed yourself to experience.
The more you push away your uncontrollable desire for cocaine, the less you own it, and the less you can control it. The moment you integrate your desire for cocaine into your concept of yourself, the more you can control it since it’s a part of your identity.
I may be getting this totally wrong, since I heard it from my wellness mentor a while ago and I don’t remember it perfectly (my interview with him is linked here) but there was a meeting between eastern and western minds.
The concept they spoke about was happiness.
Western minds claimed happiness was pleasant feelings.
The joy of loving your lover. The joy of making money and achieving success. The joy of helping your family.
Negative emotions were unpleasant feelings like sorrow for your coke addiction, grief for a lover dying, guilt for you manipulating your family.
But Eastern philosophers thought about this completely differently.
Positive emotions were emotions which allowed you to see reality clearer. Mindfulness, presence, alertness.
Negative emotions were anything which clouded reality. Excessive happiness, anger, and anything which distorted your perception was deemed negative.
Anything which offered resistance to what is.
Why does this matter?
The more you cloud you fight your reality, the more you tie yourself in knots, diffusing your energy into fighting your current conditions.
But if you allow yourself to be more like water, to accept everything, but at the same time have a direction and flow (goals, desires etc.) the more you allow yourself to move towards them without resistance, and build more and more momentum, achieving more and more of what you want.
I’ll leave you with a piece of artwork and a story to illustrate this in analogy… Then a quick comment question for y’all:
I once dated a gorgeous Arab-Israeli girl I met while I lived in Florida.
She was an interesting girl, brilliant, great at Chess, and funny as all hell. She thought differently than almost anyone I’ve met before. She liked petting bees, and she called them her “fuzzy babies.”
I was fascinated by her love of bees, and her absence of fear… her absence of resistance. So for Valentine’s day I drew her a photo, describing the passion the bees gave her. The color flowing into her from the bees representing the enjoyment she got from nature, and how it filled her with passion.
The analogy should be clear - her non-resistance to the bee allowed what some would see as dangerous and anxiety-producing to instead fill her with passion.
And here’s your question for the day, to complete in the comments below:
What are you resisting right now that would clear you to move forward if you let go? And what would moving forward look like?
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