“The term happiness is used in the context of mental or emotional states, including positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. It is also used in the context of life satisfaction, subjective well-being, eudaimonia, flourishing and well-being.” Wikipedia
Happiness, then, if we accept this definition, is a state–a pleasant one, and because it often connotes a good feeling, it is something that we all pursue in one way, shape or form. However, in our pursuit of feeling good–which can sometimes deviate into unhealthy pursuits, what if it is our own minds, our thought patterns and processes that keep this fleeting feeling ever out of reach?
As a result of the chaos that has accompanied COVID-19’s macabre dance across the globe, we have all been given a Universal time out of sorts–extended lock-downs, stay at home orders, and the cessation of sanctioned social activity has given way to time, so much time, to ruminate, to consider, to wonder about what is next. For many, this uninterrupted period of solitude has been beyond difficult. Truly, who hasn’t, in these past 18 months, done battle with their shadow selves, at some point? Suffice it to say that the statistics have shown that the effects are only just beginning to be counted, and the picture that is coming into focus is far from pretty, but can beauty be discerned amidst the collapse of structured society as we once knew it?
While it is true that living through a pandemic has taken a toll on mental health, it is also true that some seem to take it harder than others. Events that could be taken in stride, shrugged off or otherwise managed can send those prone to negative thought processes careening into catastrophic imaginings that will only grow and add to their ongoing sense of ennui and malaise. The filter of gloom through which certain individuals tend to see the world can result in increased anti-social behaviours, depression, and even suicide.
In interacting with individuals who seem to have a permanently negative view of events as they occur, it seems apparent that these individuals at some point, begin to accept this as their reality. A question to consider: Is it possible to begin to see your thoughts as simply that? Thoughts, although powerful, are symptoms of imagination–arguably not even based in reality. Worry, a significant trigger for depression, and anxiety, its loyal counterpart, often help to keep individuals prone to these states constantly unhappy and malcontent.
Certainly, it can be argued that life is hard. Often beset by challenges, losses, and failures, some can get mired in their refusal to see that life is also about change. Constant, relentless, and persistent change. An endless sequence of choice after choice–and choice can only be evaluated in terms of resulting consequence–some consequences being ascribed to “good”, while others are better captured in the category of “not so good”. Consequence, simply put, the price that we pay for our decisions.
“You don’t get to choose not to pay a price, you only get to choose which price you pay”
― Jordan B. Peterson
What would change if we stopped considering happiness as a result of effort, chance or action? What if happiness were to simply be considered as one more choice? Not from the perspective of some of the more popular, new age concepts, but from a distinct decision, every day to just be happy? Jordan B. Peterson, eminent and, by-times, controversial philosopher, Canadian professor of psychology, clinical psychologist, YouTube personality, and author, has analyzed this topic from countless perspectives. He has argued, in his publication “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos” that life, in fact, is suffering. Is happiness, then, to be found in accepting this concept? If we accept that all of life will encompass suffering in some degree, does this provide a platform off of which we are able to simply begin to see, even the smallest things as a potential for happiness? An absence of suffering, even if only temporary?
“Perhaps happiness is always to be found in the journey uphill, and not in the fleeting sense of satisfaction awaiting at the next peak. Much of happiness is hope, no?”
― Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
Can we suspend suffering or at least buffer it by finding something meaningful to which we can anchor and move towards everyday? Peterson has said, yes. Some relief is to be found in passion and purpose. An interesting notion in a society that touts the meaning of life as being found in the pursuit of happiness. A notion that Peterson does not seem to agree with.
“It’s a luxury to pursue what makes you happy; it’s a moral obligation to pursue what you find meaningful.” Jordan B. Peterson
By now, some will have given up on this topic as my fondness for the brain that lives within Jordan B. Peterson is not shared by all. To this end, I will add some tips shared by Psychology Today, that may help to facilitate the choice(s) that leads to a happier being in yourself. Until next I write and you read, keep going–one step, one foot in front of the other and remember, your next choice could always be happiness–choose it, find the meaningful pursuit that renders your personal suffering bearable, and remember that in suffering, you are not unique (another Petersonism). After all, it has been said, misery loves company.
–with files from Jordan B. Peterson, and PsychologyToday.com