I recommend reading my first article on this subject, The Pursuit of Happiness, before beginning to read this installment. Or do whatever you like, I certainly can’t stop you.
Back in April, I wrote the article titled “The Pursuit of Happiness” which was my outlook on how happiness is acquired, or even if it can acquired after being lost. Safe to say it was pretty grim and depressing, though I still stand by what I said to some degree. A few months on and I think I have a slightly different state of mind going on, thus I want to write another installment on this subject to see if something different comes out. I find the best way to understand the inner self is to express one’s self and analyse that expression, in my case, I express myself through writing. It almost feels like a little experiment I’m doing on myself, I want to see if and how my outlook on happiness may have changed. I’m not sure how interesting this will be for you readers but I’m positively excited look over my ramblings. And with that I’ll begin writing.
Paths of Joy
There are many ways to bring happiness to one’s self, be it through the company of loved ones and feeling accepted or manipulating Dopamine levels in the brain through mind altering drugs. Both can be considered happiness-inducing, but are either of them true happiness?
It’s quite the philosophical and personal question, I think most people will have a multitude of different answers to the question, what is true happiness? Many answers will be in agreement with each other however. For example, I think part of true happiness is being accepted, and I’m sure a lot of people would agree with me on that.
On a more general scale though, I would sum up true happiness as having all my needs sufficiently met and a constant but intermittent array of some of my wants being satisfied. This sounds all well and good, but humans by nature always want more. As soon as we get what we want, we want more, we’re greedy and selfish at our core but that shouldn’t always have negative connotations. Being greedy and wanting more would work well in a Darwinian society (which would be brutal by the way) as we’ll survive if we keep all our food, water and tools to ourselves, survival of the fittest as Spencer would put it. In a more modern context, greed can be used constructively to propel yourself past life’s obstacles and generally making life better, often this is the case in the workplace.
Needs and Wants
If we take the idea that happiness is generally achieved through satisfying needs and wants, it’s only natural to look at a way in which this works e.g. Do some needs have to fulfilled in order to accomplish any wants?
Seen this before? Probably. This is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Abraham Maslow constructed this hierarchy to try to show what we must acquire in order to live the highest quality life and reach “Self-Actualisation”. This is supposedly when you reach a state of mind where you are at your full potential, able to do great things, the only problem is that all levels of the hierarchy must be met to advance up the ladder.
One would assume you would be happy at the top as all or most of your needs and wants may be met, but what I constantly hear of is really successful people with everything they want being depressed or unfulfilled. It makes it seem as if there’s more to it than a simple hierarchy with a set-out criteria.
To me, happiness has a lot in common with love, you can feel it, you know it’s there but we don’t fully comprehend or understand it. Both can also have pretty complex constructions e.g. No one knows the recipe for either of them, it just develops.
This is what makes happiness such an interesting thing to explore, is it just chemicals in the brain? Or is it much, much deeper than that? Most wouldn’t want to think it was just cold, hard biology but it could be argued.
My Change in Perspective
I still stand by the thought that true and pure happiness is only available during naive childhood. So many stresses are non-existent and you don’t care for superficial things like appearance and status. I guess you could say that this happiness leaves along with childhood innocence.
However we can be perfectly happy as adults when our needs and enough wants are met. There are more opportunities open for the older demographic and they are in charge of the direction of their lives. Happiness can be achieved through the right personal steps in life.
All in all, from the “Pursuit of Happiness” article to this one, I think I’ve become a little more open and less bleak to possibilities. Realising that just because humanity is a glorious accident of chaos doesn’t mean my life has to be. You can have happiness if you take control and ride the chaos out.
You won’t have happiness like you did at age 10 ever again though.