Thomas Jefferson pursued intellectual [President of the American Philosophical Society etc.] and physical happiness. Yes, he was brilliant and might’ve been one of our greatest presidents and yes, he owned slaves and it was believed that he had sexual relationships with his property. Was that what Jefferson meant by the pursuit of happiness? The various ideas of happiness are not confined to 1. Greek and other philosophers 2. Religious views [Buddhist teachings, happiness in Judaism; 13th-century philosopher, theologian; Thomas Aquinas all have their ideas 3. Psychological research 4. Spiritual, economic, political, and health quests and 5. Individual pursuits. As you can see, there appear to be many ways in reaching the so-called Promised Land.
Further, it seems that there’s no one specific or clear-cut notion of happiness. Happiness has many facets, strings, connections, definitions or ways as far as our thinking leads us. It is an interesting cerebral exercise. However, if we’re talking about the fleeting emotion of happiness, we’re talking about an individual subjective internal bodily experience that can be very different from what goes on in our head. In other words, the cognitive idea of happiness can lead us in making poor self-defeating decisions; chasing false idols; distorting reality; and chasing illusions. Yes, one can chase the idea of happiness but the truth lies in feeling the emotion of happiness. Feelings don’t lie. If you can properly label your feelings, you know yourself even if you don’t wish to. Yes there a lot of negative emotions.
Forget about chasing the idea of “happiness.” Learn to identify your emotions regardless of the real particular feeling. Clarify your need structures [i.e. achievement, affiliation, power, aggression, dependency] and make rational clear-cut choices based upon your psychological and physical health. Hopefully, mature love relationships; inspiration, life’s meaning and work are part of the equation. And if that happens, you’ll likely experience a lot of positive emotions during your life journey. Will that prescription make you happy? Maybe some of the time it will. It all depends on how many or how often do you engage in painful or self-destructive abasement behaviors while telling yourself that you’re really searching for happiness. Life is a journey that has many bumps, turns and detours along the way. Hopefully, at the end, you’ll not have tripped too much, be doing what you want with an authentic smile on your face. If you are successful at the end, you may have beaten the odds as men are not as rational, seeking in their behaviors. Dale Carnegie had it partly right-we are creatures of emotion. And further, we engage in too many self-destructive repeated behavior patterns. Chasing happiness is a myth or illusion under which we live.