Trying to make sense of life and to learn living it happily.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

Happiness Paradoxes

art by ~ManoWar100, manipulated by olgarythm

Happiness is one of the most basic concepts that we know from childhood. But it is in no way simple or straightforward. It is intricate and deeply individual, it depends among other things on personality, upbringing, habits, psychological and neurological processes, and who knows what else!
I also find that it is rather prone to contradictions. Here are some happiness qualities that appear contradictory:

1. Autosuggestion
In the recent years, the happiness field is getting increasingly researched, offering more scientifically-supported findings. Happiness theories describe general rules and behavior trends. Curiously, however, it seems that individual happiness is consistent not with the  objective findings, but with our personal subjective believes. Whatever we deeply believe in, works. If you sincerely believe that selfishness is the key to happiness, it will work for you. If you are sure that selflessness brings happiness to you, then it will. If you know that faith and prayer will make you happy, then they will. If you feel that children make you happy, then they most probably will. So even though there are happiness theories, everyone becomes happy in their own way.

2. Agreeing Is Not Necessary
It does not matter if you agree or disagree with the contents of this post or any other materials on the happiness subject. It is still beneficial to read it all, because contemplating different ideas helps understand your own attitude better, whether you agree or not. It helps you crystalize who you are, become more self-aware and eventually, happier.

3. Intensely Seeking Happiness Precludes It
Happiness is basically the state of being in a good mood. For some people, thinking about their happiness levels only brings them down and sours their mood. Sometimes bringing the happiness issue too much from the unconscious reactions to consciousness actually diminishes the desired happiness level. I think it happens because we stress ourselves too much over not being as happy as we want, and that makes us even less happy with ourselves.

For others, however, thinking about happiness and formulating what it means opens their eyes to it and helps them focus on the right priorities in life.

4. The More We Use It, the More We Loose It
"Love is..." cartoon
Too often we encounter banal phrases and corny images of happiness, goodness, kindness, love, etc. They dilute the true meaning of these important concepts. Gradually, we become cynical about love, kindness and happiness, seeking some vulgar meanings and ulterior motives in them or disregarding them as cliches.
Though we contaminate some important concepts by using the same words to express both superficial, fake feelings and true deep emotions, we need to dig deeper, distinguish between them, and not let the corny ones cheapen or obliterate the true ones.

5. Pure Contradictions
It seems that happiness requires us to embrace and unite contradictions. For example, the notion that we are born predisposed to a certain level of happiness but may change it anyway. To be happier, we are supposed to be mindful but not pay too much attention to details; to feel contentment but want something else and have worthy goals in life; to have relationships with others but be self-sufficient; to pursue happiness but not think about it (see item 3 above).

There is no clear solution to how to have both. I guess, it is something that each of us has to practice.

6. Negativity Is Easier Than Positivity
Due to emotional laziness, for some of us it is easier to stay upset when we consider our circumstances bad, than to stay happy when we consider the circumstances good.  To me, it is the ultimate paradox, but I see too often how people readily get angry or upset at the slightest trigger, but ignore nice things altogether. 

7. Outside-in Versus Inside-out
A lot of things make us happy:  a sunny day, winning the lottery, someone being nice, well-behaved children, loving spouses, comfortable living, achieving goals, etc. The paradox is that to become truly happy, we have to somewhat disregard whatever happens to us (and influences our mood) and focus of the internal state of happiness. We should practice the capability to be happy without any triggers or, at the highest level of mastery, even despite negative events.

Here is another contradiction to ponder: possibly, by writing this post I got to understand happiness a little better and also became more confused…

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps it is useful to distinguish between joy and happiness. I see joy as the underlying state and happiness more responsive to external events. If you are happy more of the time then your default position changes.