Jump to content

Progressive Thoughts On Happiness/unhappiness


JosephM
 Share

Recommended Posts

Just a few of my own views on the topic.....

 

What is it that makes us unhappy with life? It seems to me unhappiness is a feeling. A feeling that is perceived or may even be imagined concerning some phenomenon. Unhappiness to me is not the experience caused by the phenomenon or any phenomena. It seems to me it is my response or reaction to believing an event is 'bad' or should not be as it is at this moment. Even fear of unhappiness seems to create moments of unhappiness. I would sum up unhappiness perhaps as believing things should, at the moment, not be as they are. That to me is not to preclude seeing the need to improve or change things that wisdom dictates is beneficial to ourselves and others. Change happens in the space of time and fully accepting each moment as it is at the time without internal resistance, perhaps even as an opportunity to effect change seems to me a most favorable position. Happy to me seems like a most natural state when one recognizes the difference between the things that one has the power to effect a change and the things which are beyond ones control.

 

If taken in a particular light, i think the following quote is meaningful. "Happy is what we are and what we’ll be if we don’t believe we are wrong to be as we are." - Bruce Di Marsico

 

How can we be loving if we are unhappy? Are the two not connected? Is happiness something we can search for? Certainly it seems to me we can search. But isn't the search for something that is available now not a denial of sort that it is available even now? What makes you happy?

 

Your thoughts welcome...

Joseph

 

PS Not meant to be a debate but will move if it goes that direction. JM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think happiness and unhappiness might be one of the most difficult to understand of human range of emotion and experience. And not surprisingly, at least to me, is a personal synchronicity in you bringing this question up just now as you have, for it is a matter much involved in some serious personal concerns I have myself right now.

 

I've come to accept there is an extremely complex interplay of mind-body connection involved on whether we feel happy or not, or just how much we experience happiness or unhappiness. I am perhaps more acutely aware of this for my own family history of mental illness and mood disorder, and my own experience as one that has evidence of mood disorder in myself. How much is related to our biology, and how much can we really influence psychologically, in how we think, seems such an elusive matter.

 

I know that my life experience with both people and animals has shown me something of a continuity of a basic tendency toward happiness or unhappiness, just as toward boldness or fearfulness, calm peaceful nature or temperamental prone toward anger. Happy babies really do tend to grow into happier adults and unhappy babies into less happy adults. And that external circumstnaces most often seem to simply moderate, rather than dictate, both.

 

Other than perhaps in some particular cases in which medications might have some effect upon the biology, we are left with pretty much only the psychological as a means of trying to deal with and moderate how happy we or any might be.

 

Out of all this arises so much in my present concerns for a loved one, a member of my family, about what may be happening to that person, and what, if anything, might I or any other do to help that person. I've in fact just emailed the 1st chapter of Paul Tillich's "The New Being' to that person, in hopes it will be read, and perhaps help that person in what is going on. My deepest fear in this case, however, is what may be the emergence of a "family pattern" in the situation, one that breaks that normal pattern of happy baby, happy adult. For this person was a happy baby, and for most of life, a happy person. But I and others have watched that happiness grow dim over recent years, and more frighteningly, tipping over into deep despair, unhappiness, and yes, even stated expression of 'hating life.' And ghosts of past haunt, as the coincidence of age in this to some others whom I've observed experience similar changes is alarming, perhaps more than any other aspect of it.

 

In having tried to examine periods of relative happiness and unhappiness in my own as well as others' lives, in attempt to define just what it is in our lives, our circumstances and experiences that seem relative to our state of happiness or unhappiness, some things do emerge as seemingly relevant. And while it is true that nothing external can "make" us happy, it is not equally true that nothing external can "make" us unhappy unless we let it. There are circumstances that are going to make us miserable no matter how determined we might be to not let it happen.

 

I try to see, to understand, just how any and all of that may relate to this present matter of concern, the deepening state of unhappiness I see enveloping another, someone i care about. I struggle for how I might in any way affect the growing sense of loneliness this person expresses, and my own and others' natural confusion in that, as it is from our perspective, it is this person that has and is withdrawing from us, closing us and others out, not we from this person.

 

In this, there seems to emerge something crucially important that involves relationship, connectedness, with others, in this matter of happiness or unhappiness. The sense of acceptance or rejection, seems so very relevant, and yet, confusing, in that our perception of being accepted or rejected may or may not seem relevant to whether or not we really are, in actuality, being accepted or rejected by others.

 

No, not an easy matter to understand at all.

 

Jenell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think there is a huge difference between "feeling happy" and having peace of mind. I honestly do not think that people can choose to "feel happy". Happiness, to me, is an emotion. According to "The Happiness Hypothesis" there are some things we can do to increase feelings of happiness, and they are not what some people might think of (wealth, health, etc).

 

However, IMO, there are many things we can do to foster peace of mind, not the least of which is prayer (or some form of it). I think Western cultures often confuse happiness with peace of mind, and they are not the same. At this point in my life, I could not say I'm happy, absolutely not. And if I told anyone who knew me well that I was, they would know I was not being completely honest. I can, however, say that, for the most part, I am enjoying an unprecedented peace of mind. I think that peace within ourselves is what is required to be loving - for how can we love others if we cannot love ourselves?

 

Does that even make sense?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think happiness/unhappiness can also be simply a chemical reaction not neccesarily controllable for the individual. From my limited understanding of depression and anxiety, it would seem that people suffering these conditions do so predominantly because their brains are simply not producing enough seratonin, a chemical that helps us deal with situations/circumstances that might cause angst or despair. If the brain doesn't make/release enough of this chemical then the 'emotion' of happiness seems to be either limited or not controllable. Whilst Cognitive Behaviour Therapy might assist to some degree by helping the person think differently about the situation and thereby be more 'happy' with their circumstances, this does not seem to have the same effect as anti-depressants in elevated cases. That to me would suggest that we can't always 'choose' to be happy but are subject to our own individual chemical makeup and the effects that may have on our happiness.

  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is a chemical reward offered by the brain, but I see happiness as fleeting and a bi-product of something else, usually service of some kind but not always. This is what makes it so elusive, if you seek it you will not find it. If you try and bring happiness to someone else, you'll often find happiness for yourself as a bi-product, especially when not motivated to serve by your own desire for happiness, but out of a genuine want to make the other person happy. Tricky.

 

As said before in this thread a feeling of deep satisfaction or peace of mind is not happiness but is an attainable long lasting feeling which you can seek. Genuine happiness pops in now and then as a pleasant suprise. For me anyway.

 

Paul

Edited by Inthedark
  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I understand what you mean, Yvonne. No, happiness and peace of mind aren't the same thing, and don't neccesarily "go together." There have been times in my life in which there was at once not much happiness, even much sadness, and yet, there was peace of mind in accepting all what as it simply was, and even as it should or must be. And there have been times when peace of mind wasn't so good, and yet there were moments of happy distraction. Peace of mind for me seems to be in feeling I have and am doing all that I can, and accepting there are things I can't do anything about, or change. To me, peace of mind is summed up in the "Serenity Prayer", which I hold as one of my goals to live by.

No, I don't think we can "choose" to be happy. We can do things conductive or not conductive to it, facilitate it by monitoring and adjusting our thinking, but still we can't actually choose or make ourselves happy, or pretty much to express at will any other emotion, genuinely, anyway.

The brain chemicals is only part of the physiological factors. And actual data from research and studies reveal anti-anxiety and anti-depressants enjoy a much better repuation of success in the drug company ads and public perception than they do in reality. Counseling, therapy, have varying degrees of success, but there are so many variable there it is still hard to say anything in that is very consistent. Though studies do clearly show counseling and therapy actually have not only a better success rate in improvement than drugs, but an overwhelmingly better success at long-term improvement.

There is growing evidence that not merely chemical balances, but physical structures in the brain may play a signficant role in many kinds of mood disorders. And, as I've mentioned I know all too well personally, there are some pretty definite genetic factors.

 

I am thankful that I have been able to develop the aprarantly successful psychological means for coping with and controlling how mood disorder has affected my own life, but I had to have had the potential for it to begin with, and understand not all others do.

 

I does seem to me my happiest times in my life have been when I am most fully able to express myself, who I am, in my life situations, to be all I can be. Creating, accomplishing, achieving goals, being succesfully self-sufficient, all seem conductive to happiness for me. But I know I can't and won't always be able to attain those things in my life.

 

Jenell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One thing I have learned about giving, doing for others. First, it is a mistake to think we can make someone else happy. We can avoid making them miserable, but we can't make anyone else happy.

 

And I'd learned, in some really hard ways, that we can't give what we don't have. We give best when our own needs have been met, when our own state of mind and mood is healthy and strong. Otherwise, we are depleting ourselves, burning the emotional, mental, and physical candle at both ends, so to speak. We might get a brief "feel good" by distracting ourselves from our own needs and problems by involving ourself in doing for others, but that's all it is, a distraction, an anesthetic, that helps us not feel or think of our needs. And that means we are also not dealing with them, meeting them.

 

We help others, do for others, best, when we are at our own best, in our strength, to have resources enough for ourself and to give away, whether those resouces are mental, emotional, or even material.

 

Jenell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Aside from positive motivational aspects of unhappiness (maybe not totally unlike pain), imagine a life in which there is no emotional variation. How would we be aware of bliss were there no experience of unhappiness.

 

George

 

Yes, without its opposite there might not be such a word for it to make it distinguishable yet It would seem to me to still just be the natural state of things when the mind is at rest and free from anxiety.

Edited by JosephM
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, without its opposite there might not be such a word for it to make it distinguishable yet It would seem to me to still just be the natural state of things when the mind is at rest and free from anxiety.

 

Good point. Is happiness/unhappiness a +/- emotion (one is either happy or unhappy) or is there a continuum with some middle-ground balance?

 

Also, I wonder if we don't enjoy experiencing unhappiness to a certain degree. As an example, sad, tragic movies and plays are often well received and elicit, at least momentary, unhappiness.

 

In the religious realm, passion plays seem to be popular (of course, there is, on the third day, a happy ending). In Shi'a Islam there is self-flagellation to simulate the pain suffered by Hussein. Other religions have rituals of walking on hot coals and the like. Fasting is not uncommon. These are not feel-good practices.

 

George

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To those who's views expressed a strong identification with the self as a physical and chemically controlled body would to me also make reasonable sense of those seeing happiness as such related. On the other hand a stronger identification more with consciousness/awareness itself perhaps might provide a different view or reality.

 

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To those who's views expressed a strong identification with the self as a physical and chemically controlled body would to me also make reasonable sense of those seeing happiness as such related. On the other hand a stronger identification more with consciousness/awareness itself perhaps might provide a different view or reality.

 

Joseph

 

I don't think this is an either/or thing. Recognition of the potential biological elements as a reality does not equate to identification with biological determination only, at the exclusion of also recognizing the psychological/cognitive elements. The connection to biological factors affecting cognition, mood, and behavior are both scientifically established, and aparant through common observation when we really think about it. The brain is an organic structure, and how the brain functions to produce cognition and mood involved the structure and functions of the brain.

 

A stronger identification with consciousness/awareness/cognition is only possible to the degree for which the organic structure and function of the brain allows. Organic dysfunction is, quite simply, going to effect cognitive dysfunction, to whatever degree it is present. It would at once be obvious that persons suffering some obvious traumatic damage to areas of the brain, whether through physical injury, disease/illness, or genetic flaws do not have available to them all the neccesary "hardware" for processing thought, or even simple unconcious controls of body functions, are at a definite disadvantage in effective mental function.

 

To fail to recognize and consider the real effects of organic dysfuntion is as great an error as to consider thought and behavior as being only the result of organic function in a fatalist kind of way. Failure in both directions have been and continue to affect how we think of and treat any thought/mood aberration or dysfunction.

 

People with organic based mental dysfunction, as well as their families and loved ones, have suffered from ideas that it is "all in their mind" and all they have to do is change their thinking and behavior, and that they can do so "if they really want to." Until recently, even "medical models" of such organic brain disorders as autism and schizophrenia were thought to involved thought dysfunction, atttitudes and beliefs that affected behavior, that can be "changed." Parents have suffered under ideas that it was their "bad parenting" that "caused" their children's autism or schizophrenia. Both disorders have commoonly been attributed to having "cold, unemotional or uncaring" parents, becasue both obviously involve deficits in cogntiviely/emotionally engaging with other people. It is not uncommon even today to hear the idea expressed that children diagnosed with autism are simply spoiled brats that can be corrected by proper parental discipline, beginning with a good smack on the bottom.

 

On the other hand, those suffering organic based dysfunction have often been written off as hopeless, their fate sealed beyond what any can help, and shuffled off into lifetime incarceration in either insitutions or the family attic or basement. It is still common for people to express suprise and disbelief that there is anything psycho-therapy or counseling of any kind can do to "help" those dealing with such organic dysfunction as schizophrenia, or even Alzheimer's dementia. What they miss is that while what can be done to directly affect the organic condition may be very limited, there is still a great deal that can be done to help those people to use the cognitive capacities they do have, to cope as well as possible with the limitations and problems of their condition.

 

Jenell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It seems to me that happiness is tied and maybe a apart of being satisfied .... they might even be the same thing. Now I am not saying that one can not be unsatisfied with a certain part or event, but general happiness and general satisfaction seem the same.

 

I spend time with the mentally handicapped. They are almost always happy in fact the only time they are not happy is when they want something . For the lower functioning this might be a thing or an action. The higher functioning you get the more general satisfaction enters the equation.

 

steve

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Steve,

 

For me, It also "seems to me that happiness is tied and maybe a apart of being satisfied". Yes perhaps one is sort of a pre-requisite for the other. I cannot ever remember being happy without being satisfied with that moment.

 

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jenell,

 

I was not suggesting an either or thing if that is the way you saw my words. I was merely suggesting that from the perspective of the physical the biological/chemical view made reasonable sense to me. From the perspective of a stronger identification with consciousness/awareness a different view "might be" provided. That of course does not preclude viewing from both aspects and reaching ones own conclusions from a degree of both or that there may not be others ways to view this.

 

Joseph

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would agree there is a connection to experiencing happiness at once with satisfaction with that moment. Even when there are areas of dissatisfaction in our life expereince in the general experiences at the time, those moments of experiencing happiness do seem to involve, at least for those moments, a suspension of thought and focus on those areas of dissastisfaction. We've for at least that moment, "tuned them out" of our conscious awareness.

 

Jenelkl

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Joseph, thanks for clairfying that. Even if that were not how you see this, that kind of confusion is pretty common. There is a critical interaction between the two, the physiological and the cognitive. I see the goal as to perhaps attempt to use what resources one has in either one to help balance where they may be lacking in the other, may be the way you put it. That is, of course, the foundation for the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy.

 

I see it as kind of like working with, say, recovery from a traumatic phsycial injury, or even a congenital defect....ok, this is what you have physically, to work with, let's do what we can to address the physical impairment/limitation----in the physical may be surgeries and or physical therapy, while in the mental/cognitive, that may be medications----and once we've done what we might do there, we move on to, now, what can we do with what we've got to work with....occupational therapy in the physical, psychological "adjustments" in how we think about it, how we can best cope with it, in the cognitive in the mental/emotional.

 

Jenell

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Incidentally, for me at least, the two most significant factors in my having questioned and rejected very early the doctines of religion in even my childhood pertaining to the whole Christian salvation, heaven and hell thing were "opportinity" and "capacity/capability."

 

"Opportunity" in that I could not reconcile that God could/would send anyone to hell just because they'd never had opportunity to "hear the gospel preached" for mere reason of the time, place, and circumstances of their birth and life.

 

"Capacity/capability" in that even quite young, I had some awareness that not everyone had it all quite on the ball in mental capacity to be able to process and understand or think as efficiently as others, or, that it simply had not been presented to them in a way they could understand, and it seemed unfathomable to me that God would send someone to hell simply because they couldn't understand something.

 

Maybe some of that early awareness arose from my own frustration and even torment over pressure, and even feelings of being criticized, even "judged" as if it were my own fault, my own laziness or disinterest, for not being able to "get it" when it came to math, despite my having been recognized as quite gifted in some other ways. It wasn't until I went back to school in my 50's, and had to get through 2 levels of remedial math that I was able to not only master math above the basic level, but also to unravel some of the mystery of why I had so badly failed at it as a child....it had much to do with (according to my remedial instructor's estimation in it when we discussed it, everything to do with) some disruptive events in my early school experiences, in which it definitely was the adults in charge that had blundered badly with not onnly myself, but many other children. My having been recognized as "gifted" in other ways had actually, materially contributed to both the events and reasons involved. And I can relate that quite directly to how many may fail at or even reject matters of faith and spirituality because of how it was presented to them, a failure of the teachers, not the pupil.

 

Jenell

Edited by JenellYB
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

terms of service