Just received a brochure called “The Science of Happiness.” The brochure states that one can discover research tested keys to happiness and learn how to apply them to personal and professional life by taking these groundbreaking courses. They stated that up to 40% of happiness depended on habits and activities. However, one could also turn to religion to find happiness. Surveys conducted by Gallup and others concluded that high religiousness predicted lower risks of depression, drug use, fewer suicide attempts, reported satisfaction with sex life ,and a sense of well-being. Do you agree that Science and religion have the answer to happiness?
Within the historical evolution and development of capitalism, we have been “sold” a bill of goods- fame and fortune. We have been mesmerized and hypnotized by those who tell us such things as the following: 1. Go to college. 2. Get married. 3. Have children. 4. Buy that dream house with the right zip code 5. The man with the bigger toys wins 6. Go on a cruise or go to some exotic vacation land, 7. Get that latest automobile 8. Drink beer, go to parties 9. Attend that special professional sports game 10. Visit that four-star restaurant 11. Dress in the latest fashion. 12. Purchase that special vitamin or organic food. 13. Make a ton of money-more is better. The list [advertising with smiling faces] goes on and on, with the underlying message that money buys happiness. Other messages are running after power, celebrity status or fame as far as achieving or searching for happiness. Being elected or becoming a star or idol is supposed to bring a smile on your face; or finding that particular fountain of youth product. For many, it must be clear by now that these things, or goods don’t necessarily result in long-term happiness because why would we engage in so many seemingly paradoxical unproductive and self-defeating irrational behaviors-to name a few, such as drinking, smoking and eating too much, taking prescription and nonprescription drugs with deterious abasement affects. Other escapes include but not limited to entertainment, reading, movies and sports. A case in point, using Ekman’s facial analysis of emotions, view the faces of college basketball and football coaches; NFL football coaches; NBA basketball coaches and MLB baseball managers during their practice or “real” games. Seldom do we see a smile, and they say after a victory something to the effect that, enjoy it while you can, because there’s the next game to think about. Or for that matter, look at the faces of the presidential candidates during the debates. Are these individuals really having fun and have they really found happiness? They have certainly reached elite categories in their respective fields.
As a psychotherapist, it became very apparent in my practice that individuals had tremendous difficulty identifying or labeling their feelings. I found that fact over and over in the many years of dealing with people therapeutically and even socially. In essence, individuals generally call their thoughts their feelings. I also know that we distort reality, as result of our defense mechanisms and illusions. Typically, individuals believe many things which are often contradictory. So when, a self-rating, life satisfaction; subjective happiness; or positive and negative affect scales were used to measure happiness, I roll my eyes and question the results or findings of such. Remember, that feelings are generally short-lived and don’t stay or even linger around for a while. Further, many things or experiences happen to us during our lifetime. And if we agree with Dr. Ekman, 5 of the 6 feelings or emotions are negative. This would suggest that there is a preponderance of negative feelings experienced in life compared to the one positive feeling of happiness. Yes, it’s difficult to avoid negative feelings. A better way of being might be learning, if we can, to deal more effectively or differently with our irritations and self-defeating seeking behaviors.
To be continued