On Happiness & Desire

Lately, I’ve been asking myself if I’m happy, and if not, why? What does that even mean? There is no simple answer.

And it’s a convoluted minefield. Because once I’ve “decided” that I’m unhappy or depressed (by sticking that label on myself), I further think & act along those lines and it’s mostly a constant downward spiral from there – unless I realize what’s going on & try to stop it.

It seems like the general definition of happiness consists in being satisfied with (or at least accepting of..) the state of the 4 areas of life:

1. Mental – knowledge, intellectual stimulation

2. Physical – health & fitness, living situation, possessions (clothes, transportation, miscellaneous)

3. Spiritual – existential perspective/meaning

4. Social – family, significant other (if desired), friends, other relationships

(5*) Occupational – job, skills, income

(#5 is more a combination of the others than its own category, but has such a strong impact on our lives that I decided to separate it out.)

Whenever I decide that I’m not happy, it’s usually because I’m not satisfied with where I am in one or more of these ares. But who sets the ‘boundaries’, outside of which I’m dissatisfied? Who writes the rules on happiness?

I’ve decided that the first question that needs to be asked when I notice ANY desire or discontent or ‘want’ is: Who’s writing the definition? In today’s culture, that often turns out to be one of two groups of people – advertisers or so-called experts.

The first are mostly just trying to sell you something and get your money, so they make up things to stimulate desire. One book has termed them “desire merchants”. Magazines & televisions have to constantly come up with ways to entice you to consume their products, so they get advertising dollars. To suck you in, they exploit ‘beautiful’ people with ‘beautiful’ possessions doing ‘exciting’ things. It’s close to the same with movies, with the exception that they just want your money directly, instead of getting it from advertisers. With books, the situation is a little more murky. The authors may believe they have something useful to say (at least in the beginning). But if they’ve devoted themselves to writing, then they too need you to buy their product to support themselves.

The second group, “the experts”, often turn out to just be telling us what studies have found to be the cultural norm. It doesn’t mean what exists is RIGHT, merely that it’s what most people are doing.

So it seems that most of what I may think I want/need/should have/be comes from people who are:
1. trying to sell me something or …
2. trying to make me believe that because it’s how the majority is living their lives, I should be emulating the majority. (…like if they all jump off a cliff…..)

They’re all telling me I SHOULD be unhappy with who/what/where I am, constantly striving for something better – and of course, who is writing the definition of “better”? (Round and round we go, where it stops we already know. Six feet under – walls of dirt and a bed of clay ; once we dreamed we were kings, but it was only for a day…)

More and more, I’m thinking we need to hop off this merry-go-round. We ARE what/where/who we are, we’re the sum total of what has happened to us before this moment. Except to the “desire merchants”, it’s not good or bad, it just is.

Perhaps the two most pernicious words in the English (or any) language are “I want”. If we could only stop *wanting* to be other than what/who/where we are and be content just BEING – well, maybe it wouldn’t solve all our problems, but I bet it would help a hell of a lot.

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