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Do we really want or desire happiness? At the first glance, this question seems contra-intuitive and meaningless to ask as we assume that happiness is what we want and desire the uttermost. According to Lacan, our fantasies have to be unrealistic. Because the moment, the second that you get what you seek, you don’t, you can’t want it anymore.

In order to continue to exist, desire must have its objects perpetually absent. It is not the “it” that you want, it is the fantasy of “it”. So, desire usually supports crazy fantasies…

According to Pascal, we are only truly happy when daydreaming about future happiness. Meaning to say, ‘the hunt is sweeter than the kill’. Or, be careful what you wish for, not because you will get it…but because you are doomed not to want it once you do.

So the lesson of Lacan is: Living by your wants will never make you happy. The scientific word for this phenomenon is “Hedonic adaptation”: you quickly get used to better circumstances (your ‘perfect’ partner, your new job and promotion, etc…), losing the capacity to enjoy them.
Recent research points to four strategies that can help us not getting used to it, our perceived happiness:

1. GIVE IT UP AND REVIRGINIZE YOURSELF
Jordi Quoidbach, one of a recent study in Social, Psychological, and Personality Science, recommends a ‘temporary-deprivation strategy, f example committing yourself going without your favorite food or activity (shopping) for a few weeks’.
What you get: this will help you to savor and appreciate it more when you have it and you will be way more grateful for it than before leading to greater happiness!

2. REVISIT YOUR LIFE without what you think you desire and for the brave, going one step further: Try living as you did before having all your desires fulfilled! Research has shown that we tend to take things and people around us for granted. Meaning to say, we quickly adapt to the ‘new norms’ and launch new rockets of desires just as quick… Because we take things for granted: Try to picture your life without an improvement!!! In her book, The Myths of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky advises: Try living as you did when you were a starving and poor student, going without ALL your electronid gadgets, without phoning your best friend, without indulging in all your comfortable activities. Your reward: You will learn to appreciate you, your life and your good fortune all the more!

3. TAKE A BREAK- INTRODUCE INTERVAL THINKING
In order not to get used to your happiness or adjust to quick to something good, by interrupting a pleasurable activity, even for a minute or so, will make it more enjoyable!
This applies to everything from massages to TV-shows…. Even time-off! Hot tip: Try multiple short trips rather than one long, suggests Quoidbach. Your reward: You will hold on to that happy feeling longer and perceive a much greater sense of happiness than without taking breaks! You will now be in a lower risk of adapting to your happiness!

4. RELISH AMATEUR STATUS- Don’t be an expert of anything! New research indicates that if you consider yourself an expert of anything-from gourmet food to traveling- you will savor it less! So, don’t take yourself to seriously, take a chill-pill  You will be rewarded with a burst of happiness before you know it…

So, now you don’t have to try to be happier, but you can be Happy

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

*see for the theme of hedonic adaptetion also Psychology Today, December 2013

Check this very interesting article by Clifton B. Parker which shortly describes a project carried out at the University of Stanford on the key differences between lives of happiness and meaningfulness.

“While lives of meaningfulness and happiness overlap, they are distinctly different, according to Stanford research.

In a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, Jennifer Aaker of Stanford Graduate School of Business, along with colleagues, found answers about life in how people spend their time and what experiences they cultivate.

Happiness was linked to being a taker rather than a giver, whereas meaningfulness went with being a giver rather than a taker,” Aaker said.

The researchers surveyed 397 people over a month-long period, examining whether people thought their lives were meaningful or happy, as well as their choices, beliefs and values. They found five key differences between meaningfulness and happiness:

Getting what you want and need: While satisfying desires was a reliable source of happiness, it had nothing to do with a sense of meaning. For example, healthy people are happier than sick people, but the lives of sick people do not lack meaning.

Past, present and future: Happiness is about the present, and meaning is about linking the past, present and future. When people spend time thinking about the future or past, the more meaningful, and less happy, their lives become. On the other hand, if people think about the here and now, they are happier.

Social life: Connections to other people are important both for meaning and happiness. But the nature of those relationships is how they differ. Deep relationships – such as family – increase meaning, while spending time with friends may increase happiness but had little effect on meaning. Time with loved ones involves hashing out problems or challenges, while time with friends may simply foster good feelings without much responsibility.

Struggles and stresses: Highly meaningful lives encounter lots of negative events and issues, which can result in unhappiness. Raising children can be joyful but it is also connected to high stress – thus meaningfulness – and not always happiness. While the lack of stress may make one happier – like when people retire and no longer have the pressure of work demands – meaningfulness drops.

Self and personal identity: If happiness is about getting what you want, then meaningfulness is about expressing and defining yourself. A life of meaning is more deeply tied to a valued sense of self and one’s purpose in the larger context of life and community.

One can find meaning in life and be unhappy at the same time.

Aaker points out that this type of life has received less attention in the media, which has recently focused on how to cultivate the happy life. Examples of highly meaningful, but not necessarily happy, lives may include nursing, social work or even activism.

The unhappy but meaningful life involves difficult undertakings and can be characterized by stress, struggle and challenges. However, while sometimes unhappy in the moment, these people – connected to a larger sense of purpose and value – make positive contributions to society.

Happiness without meaning is characterized by a relatively shallow and often self-oriented life, in which things go well, needs and desires are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided, the report noted.

And so, the meaningful life guides actions from the past through the present to the future, giving one a sense of direction. It offers ways to value good and bad alike, and gives us justifications for our aspirations. From achieving our goals to regarding ourselves in a positive light, a life of meaningfulness is considerably different than mere happiness.

“People have strong inner desires that shape their lives with purpose and focus – qualities that ultimately make for a uniquely human experience,” said Aaker.

The research team included Roy Baumeister at Florida State University, Kathleen Vohs at the University of Minnesota and Stanford doctoral student Emily Garbinsky”.

From https://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/january/meaningful-happy-life-010114.html

So, yet another year has come to an end. And our list of new years’ promises is breathing us in the neck, once again…
Though, one question disturbs us in the first morning of 2013 (as in every first morning of the New Year): how is it to have complete, total order in oneself, is that possible? And can we (do we have too!) bring ‘order’ in our life? Is the perfect order- meaning to say ‘the perfect life’ ever possible? That is, to learn the art of putting everything in its “right” place, where we believe it belongs, including ourselves! That is order.
Is it really?
Conversely, we can ask: what is disorder in our lives? Disorder can mean contradiction in oneself, thinking one thing, doing another, saying one thing and then do the opposite to what you have said, or being uncertain, not clear, contradictory, and so on.
Festinger’s (1957) cognitive dissonance theory however suggests, that we have an inner drive to hold all our attitudes and beliefs in absolute harmony and avoid dissonance (disorder).
For example, when people follow their own intuition (that wrenching ‘gut feeling’), ‘they are getting closer to the truth of who they are meant to be’. This behavior, this ‘being you’, on the other hand, is often not enough to be considered successful, attractive, appreciated, loved and so on…as we are continuously told. We are driven by a great deal of pressures from outside. But psychologically, maybe the greatest pressure is desire- the cultivation of unfulfilled desires- with most of us!
From this condition derives a conflict, or better, this condition is a conflict. A conflict which causes a great deal of anxiety in us, understandably so! It is this uncomfortable state of being and feeling that Festinger calls ‘cognitive dissonance’: a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors simultaneously present in ourselves. This ultimately produces that well-known feeling of discomfort, unease, which often manifests as a sense of restlessness (‘uro’) in us, which we just want to get rid of, and that preferably here and now. We want this ‘heaviness’- or maybe rather this ‘unbearable lightness‘ – just to vanish, to go away- we want it locked up forever so not even our memories can hold on to it anymore. This will of not to see it-meaning to say not to see the disorder within, the ongoing conflict- often leads us to an alteration of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance… On the other side, there is a price to be paid: being less true to ourselves. In this way another discomfort circularly comes up, creating a kind of loop…
So, at the beginning of each year, more precisely, the 1st of January, we again and again surrender to that feeling of discomfort caused by wanting to be ‘more or less’ of ourselves, confronted, at the same time, with being the same old version of ourselves… In truth (in case we choose to opt for our personal ‘Truth’) we still breath life into the same patterns of negative thoughts, indulging in unhealthy behaviors (at least that is what we are being told!), fighting against (or burning for) the endless cultivation of our unfulfilled desires.
So… Knowing consciously, aware that one is in ‘disorder’ psychologically, what is one to do? How is one to bring about order? Because without order psychologically – inwardly as well as outwardly- one must live in chaos…
The question then changes: Why is it so difficult to ‘see disorder for what it is and then accept it’? Why do we fear that ‘conflicting disorder’ in our lives (or in us) so much? What lies behind this fear of chaos?
Maybe the basic root of fear in which most of us live, is time. Chronological time as yesterday, today and tomorrow, and also the whole movement of our complex thoughts and emotions, our thinking, feeling and simply: being… Another factor in that can be the remembrance– the unending preservation of our memories. Often this is the memory of a past fear that we hold on to and project as a future fear.
Nevertheless, it seems that what we fear the most is that ‘disorder’ lies within us and is not something separate from us. If that is so, the ‘disorder’ that we perceive in our life is not longer something different from us, it is not ‘separable’ from us. How can we than do something about it? Will it suffice to change the patterns of our behavior such as do even more yoga, eat even more healthy, etc, basically move from one corner to another corner- or bring psychological order by suppressing, by control, by this and by that? Can we afford not to do something about it- can we afford not to cultivate the perceived disorder (the imperfect life) in our life?
But if the disorder is not different from me- which is a fact, that the disorder is me- then the problem arises, what happens then? Meaning to say we are that- we are conflicting beings, we conflict with the other, both outside and inside us… Maybe these conflicts are nothing else than our intact inner world where we can freely cultivate our unfulfilled desires, our dreams for who we could be and visions for our future: as it is our hope that we can will get better, we can grow and change…
So, again, and with more emphasis: why do we want to become order, silencing our conflicts?
Maybe what we need to do is just to see that we live in disorder and that disorder is not different from us, fundamentally, basically we are that disorder.
You just have to see it.
This is where we need to begin: by accepting that we cannot put things in their right place unless the human being who puts the thing in the right place is also very orderly.  Disorder can be dissolved only when we stop cultivating the disorder itself: the division between me and the other ceases to be, psychologically. And the person who is seriously concerned not only with the world outside of us but also inwardly- to give everything its proper place- is to learn the essential value of freedom. Without that there is no freedom.
One can understandably ask now, what is actually taking place? Before, believing in the order, we could at least cultivate the frustrating hope of ‘the first of January’ for a new desired order, where we stop smoking, we have healthy habits, we loose weight, we are being more friendly, open, lovable…Now the fact is that you are disorder. We are that disorder made of smoking, weight, not so lovable and at times, not even so friendly.
A Norwegian saying pops in my mind, ‘trollet må ut i sola så sprekker det’… ( ‘the troll rather be taken out in the sun in order to burst’). It is not only a matter of accepting the darkness in us, but learning how to dance with it…
What if you don’t have to wait for it to happen anymore? At the end, it’s up to you.
Your quote for a disordered New Year 🙂
Order is virtue. And order isn’t a thing to be cultivated; you can’t say I will be orderly, I will do this and I won’t do that – then you are merely disciplining yourself, becoming more and more rigid, mechanical. Such a mind is totally incapable of coming upon this beauty that has no name, no expression. Order, like virtue, cannot be cultivated-if you cultivate humility you are obviously not humble; you can cultivate vanity, but to cultivate humility is not possible any more than to cultivate love. So order which is virtue cannot be practised. All that one can do is to see this total disorder within and outside oneself-see it! You can see this total disorder instantly and that is the only thing that matters-to see it instantly
Quotes by Krishnamurti.
Godt nytt år! Happy new Year to ALL! 🙂