I’ve been researching happiness for the last two weeks now. I’ve uncovered some interesting talks, articles, and a crap ton of comments from people who think they have a definitive answer.
As with everything, there’s always a flipside. And my mind is spinning out of control trying to process them all. I guess I’ll just break up certain sides into a series of posts.
So…one of the most prevalent outcome of searching for happiness from online resources is you’ll discover the notion of synthetic happiness. For many people, this is achieved through exercising the mind, limiting, choices, and focusing on the present. This is however, artificial happiness. It yields almost identical results as natural happiness according to Dan Glibert’s TED Talk (I’ll try to embed the video below). The only difference is that it is stimulated by training your mind to bend and fold the reality at hand to produce an outcome of happiness.
This works. It really does. I believe it does. However, I’m too cynical and introspective to accept this method for myself. I call it self-deluding and I would always know I was deluding myself and therefore this wouldn’t work. There are other people in my life who are perfectly content with this form of happiness.
My brother is one such individual. He is a happy person. He has always been a happy person. Hmmm. I should have defined my definition of happiness earlier. I go by the generic definition in that happiness is state of mind or feeling characterized by contentment, love, satisfaction, pleasure, or joy. If in some spectrum you are in this category state of being, I consider that happiness. There is a whole slew of semantics you could argue about this but I know that most people understand the basic concept of feeling happy.
So when I say my brother is happy, it’s not like he’s bouncing off walls and always adding LOVE!!! and YES!!! and COOL!!! after everything he says and does. He’s always had a very quiet satisfaction about his life. And he’ll admit this so it’s not like I’m passing unfair judgment. He has no qualms with self-delusion. He knows a large part of that contentment and deep satisfaction with himself and his life comes from encouraging his mind to reinforce his ego. In other words, he deludes himself into thinking he’s sheer awesomesauce. lol.
Wherever he goes, he has this satisfying smirk on his face and is often laughing at himself in pure self-amusement. My uncle once came to visit us and remarked immediately about my brother that he would always be happy and successful in life.
It’s true. With such a strong built-in mechanism for self-delusion, you are bound to ALWAYS uncover the brighter side of everything. I don’t think delusion is a bad thing at all but it only works if you are purely focused on the now and in the moment and not standing above yourself at all times analyzing every aspect of your thought. That’s what I do and it’s infuriating because it will not allow me to employ synthetic happiness.
I will say I actually got pretty annoyed watching the Dan Gilbert TED video because of his attitude about synthetic happiness. I almost want everyone who speaks about how to achieve happiness to say two things. 1) It is okay to not always be happy and 2) We are too varied a species to achieve happiness in the same way. By saying this, it eliminates the pressure that we must all conform to the same type of happiness. Genetics, socioeconomic, and environment will play a large part in the variances of our ability to “stumble upon happiness.”
And so my own personal reaction to the video was this:
"So basically you're saying I should indulge is self-delusion to chase happiness??"
“Synthetic happiness is a form of self-delusion. It's a rational mechanism we produce when boxed in...it's a survival mechanism..not real happiness nor should it be a valid replacement in my opinion for natural happiness...not unless we want to be creatures of ignorance.”
And it wasn’t until I had calmed my nerves that I applied those two things I mentioned earlier that should be said before engaging in discussions about happiness. Then it was easier for me to process the idea of synthetic happiness and while it’s not something that works for me, I do believe people can live amazingly happy and lives from this theory. Even though I think he’s self-deluded in many respects, I often envy my brother.
Video: Dan Gilbert’s TED Talk- Why Are we Happy?
And here is my chat with Jemimus in the MetaTalks bindpoint channel about the Talk. You can see how my cynical my mind is:
(mouse over the chat box to stop text from scrolling up)