Happiness. This elusive concept has become one of the main goals in life, not to mention the main one. We all seek happiness. We all aspire to it.
But what is it? What do you imagine when you think about happiness?
If you have a traditional notion of happiness, your mind is likely to imagine a comfortable environment, free from worries, anxieties, sadness… In other words: heaven.
But this is a prepackaged happiness, the happiness that they sold us - and we bought - in the style of "soma", the drug that Aldous Huxley imagined in his novel "The New World" which was the perfect remedy for depression, anxiety, insomnia and all those "negative" emotions that we can imagine or feel.
There is only one problem: this happiness is not happiness.
When we dream of happiness, we imagine a place free from suffering: a place where anxiety, guilt, melancholy and anger have no place. Let's imagine a scenario where our worries and mental battles fade away because we have no reason to feel pain, tension, or suffering.
This concept of happiness is not only chimerical but also precarious. Because due to the flow of life, the fact that we are subject to constant transience, the conditions of our existence do not remain stable, they are constantly changing.
Our moods, what we own and don't possess, our relationships and all other conditions of our existence do not remain constant. The unexpected, the conflicts, the anguish, the worries, the problems will always return to disturb the ephemeral happiness that we thought we had found.
Then we are filled with despair and frustration when we realize that we cannot get or keep what is supposed to make us happy. This is precisely the state that best suits the consumer society, frustration, because it pushes us to buy the next "toy of happiness" in the hope that it will be the last.
Pre-packaged happiness hides a trap. When we are told that we must be happy, and we are not only shown the path to happiness but also the things that should make us happy and what concept of happiness we should pursue, we have a high probability of being unhappy.
Psychologists from the University of Queensland demonstrated this when they discovered that cultural expectations that force us to be happy actually have the opposite effect because they increase sadness. The stronger this expectation, the more negative emotions it will generate. People who think they need to be happy tend to value their emotions more negatively.
The problem is not happiness itself, but the concept of happiness that they have sold to us. When we realize that we cannot achieve it, we become sad and frustrated. To better understand this psychological mechanism, it is sufficient to think of our ego as a child whose parents embody the role of society. If our parents constantly tell us that we need to get good grades (regardless of our real abilities), we will feel tense, stress will jeopardize our abilities, and we will collapse at the first failure.
“All the jars tell you in their label that they contain happiness and you, believing it, buy one to discover once opened, that no, that happiness must be something else. So you throw that jar to buy another one with which the same thing happens, without realizing that happiness is not inside a jar, but inside you, that if it's not close to your heart and mind, you don't have it and you will not find it regardless of the many different cans you buy and open. When the time has come and faced with the impossibility of finding the pre-packaged happiness they talk about and sell to you, you look for a little help to endure so much frustration, so much disappointment, so much effort for nothing, and that's when you enter a pharmacy to buy happiness which, as you have been told, is contained in the chemical formulas of some pills and capsules, but which, like the jars of happiness, are empty; but unlike the jars that you can throw away, the pills and capsules you will not be able to throw away because, once in your body, you will not be able to do without them ”, wrote Manuel del Rosal.
"If happiness always depends on something we expect in the future, we are pursuing a chimera that will always elude us, until the future, and ourselves, vanish into the abyss of death," said Alan Watts.
True happiness, or at least that which we can aspire to and which gives us real satisfaction, consists in accepting, embracing and even laughing at our pain, our worries and frustrations.
In reality, the emotions we label as "negative" are not a bad thing because they allow us to value moments of peace, tranquility and joy much more ... After all, the greatest satisfaction does not consist in reaching the goal but in the journey that we travel, does not lie in constancy but in transformation, in growth.
And while it may seem counterintuitive, the road to happiness is through discomfort. It is the tumultuous, difficult and often irritating periods of life that reveal our true worth to us and enhance the need to focus on those things that make us happy.
The goal is to understand that those feelings that we have always labeled as negative are actually part of the flow of life and are precursors of our growth, because they allow us to cross the different levels of self-knowledge.
Suffering is not the antithesis of happiness, it is rather a driving force that can lead us to it. We imperiously need to realize that these "negative" emotions will not cease. We can resist it, get frustrated and embittered. Or we can learn to deal with them, channel their energy and strengthen ourselves.
When we do, we can face the most terrible storm. Then is when our daily suffering will become infinitely more bearable and we will be able to find moments of happiness in the midst of the storm. Then we can breathe a sigh of relief. We will find that happiness has been there all along. It was just a matter of perspective, or perhaps wisdom. Stop looking outside and start looking inside.