Everybody wants to be happy, right? Everybody tries to be happy and most people say, that they are generally happy. But when someone cuts them off in traffic or the restaurant messes up their dish, all that “happiness” goes to shit.
Let’s go through some more examples to make this point clear.
You feel happy, your co-workers forget your birthday, aaaand happiness gone.
You feel happy, you burn your meal while cooking, happiness gone.
You feel happy, someone is rude to you for no reason, happiness gone.
You feel happy, your computer freezes the 3nd time a day, happiness gone.
You feel happy, you catch a cold, happiness gone.
You feel happy, the person you’re attracted to doesn’t replies to your text, happiness gone big time.
You feel happy, someone disagrees with your political opinion on a major point, happiness gone big time.
Conclusion: Even though we’re trying very hard to be happy, we suck horrendously at it.
Our default approach to a happy life.
This is important to admit, because before we don’t see how fragile and shallow our everyday happiness and wellbeing is, there is no motivation to seriously dig deeper into the issue of happiness. We are so accustomed to our average level of happiness, that we don’t even bother to investigate further. We just do what everybody else around us is doing and hope, that one day everything will turn out fine. We adopted the mentality of pursuing happiness through success from our culture and didn’t gave it a second though. We think we know how to “get” happiness, but do we really? Here is the western approach to happiness boiled down to its essence:
- have success in your career
- have status and be respected by the people around you
- have good, long-lasting health
- have lots of sex with attractive people
- have good looks
- have at least a good amount of money
- have a nice house, a nice car, a nice holiday every 6 months
- have a “soul mate” that you can marry
- have successful, “non-disappointing” children
In my opinion it is impossible to fulfill all those, at least if you have the same 24 hour day as I do. A rough estimate would be, that 90% of people fail, to even score 3 out of the 9 “requirements” for happiness. For arguments sake, let’s say our default approach to happiness is correct, then this paints a rather dark picture for us and for the likelihood of having a happy life. This would mean, that only a few, extremely lucky people, the ones that achieve a solid chunk of the parameters for happiness, get a decent life. This would also mean that you have to work your ass off for the next 40 years, trying to achieve the things above, to gain even a little bit of happiness.
Lucky for us, our default approach, the western approach, to happiness is utter bullshit. You will not achieve lasting, true happiness through those means.
Stay with me here!
This is a big claim, and I want you to doubt me. But also don’t be that close-minded and at least think it through and investigate for yourself. Remember the examples above, and ask yourself honestly how well your approach to a happy life has worked out so far. Are you fulfilled yet? Or does it need just this one last thing before you finally can be happy.
Take 10 minutes to ponder these questions. Dig deep and dig recklessly for the truth.
How many hours of the day do you spend being happy?
How many hours do you spend struggling and fighting to achieve the means, through which you aim to gain happiness?
How many hours of the day do you spend being anxious because you might fail at achieving those means?
Think of your greatest success in life so far. How did it feel in the moment of victory?
This exhilarating feeling of success you had in the moment of victory, how long did it last?
How long did it take you to return to your everyday, mundane level of unfulfillment?
I know you didn’t take the 10 minutes! Return to the questions!
A painful awakening awaits you at the end of those questions. Do not flinch, stay with me. Can you see it? No matter what external thing you have acquired so far, no matter how successful you have been, there is always a nagging emptiness inside you.
Watch this short film. Do you recognize yourself somewhere?
The human condition.
You will see that your life is rather hollow, and the little fulfillment you have is shallow. There is a void inside you. You might manage to fill this inner emptiness temporarily with a relationship, with video games, with sex, with working real hard or with buying shit you don’t need. But the hole in your being always returns. You will always feel like you’re lacking something. Sometimes it is subtle, sometimes it is hard to even bear, but it is always there.
There are many words for it and different people experience it in different forms and different degrees. I am talking about the feeling of inauthenticity, the nagging, never fully extinguished self-doubt, the feeling of being trapped in your own skin, the feeling of being lost in the world without a place you truly can call home, the subtle shade of suffering, the never-resting struggle, the abyss of creeping meaninglessness. You know what I am talking about. It is the itch that you were’nt able to scratch, no matter what you did. It is the unsatisfiable hunger in you for something more. Locate it in your direct experience right now!
Bringing this subtle layer of tension into your conscious awareness is really important. As long as it lingers in the unconscious back of your mind it will continue to have its manipulative impact on you, without you even noticing it.
This moment right now can be the beginning of a massive paradigm shift. It will be painful to admit, that you got happiness all wrong and that your efforts so far were wasted. But it is worth it, trust me. This insight can clear the path towards a life of real happiness, it can be the first stepping stone on a journey towards true fulfillment.
What to do now?
First of all, relax. Don’t panic and don’t run from this fact of our existence. There is nothing wrong with you, this black hole primarily sits in every one of us. Notice its existence, do not deny it. Look in your direct experience, when it is the strongest, and when it is just subtle. Seeing it and noticing how it influences our everyday behavior in all sorts of neurotic tendencies is the first step towards inner peace.
In the future there will be more articles about this topic, for now I leave you with the following:
Trying to fill the inner void is futile, but there are ways to lessen its effect on you. Acceptance is the key, but that is easier said than done. One of the main ways to do that is daily meditation. Meditation will be your vehicle towards acceptance of the present moment. Paradoxically, through accepting the void and moving towards it with open arms, rather than running and distracting yourself from it, you will feel better and suffer less.
I consider meditation the most important and most effective habit, to set yourself up for a good, well lived life. I have written a comprehensive beginners guide about meditation, how it is done, and what enormous benefits await you, go read it!
Thanks for reading!
That is the article for today. It is part of the Emotions 101 series. Make sure to also read: Emotions 101 – When Logic Flies Out The Window.
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Here are some more links, to articles I deem very important for life.