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:
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Jemimus: watching them now
Jemimus: are you watching them or going to watch them?
Jemimus: the first one was very very good
Alachia: watching now
Alachia: btw. he paraphrased that Adam Smith quote
Alachia: I’ve known about synthetic happiness as a solution for a long time.
Alachia: it’s called self-deluded happiness. it’s effective 100% too if you rule out logic in your life.
Jemimus: I think the lesson I took from that talk, is that if you exclude CHOICE, its more effective
Jemimus: if you convince yourself that it couldn’t have been different, then what you end up with is so much better
Jemimus: I think that is exactly what you have been doing
Jemimus: and so perhaps you are right, perhaps accepting your fate is the best coarse
Alachia: it’s just a little flawed logically.
Alachia: that’s like saying slaves were extremely happy because they were forced into a life with little options.
Alachia: they should be the most happy or capable of producing synthetic happiness
Jemimus: But I think that might be the point. Deprived of any choices, of any chance of things being different, people will -generate- happiness somehow. Even if their circumstances are harsh
Jemimus: of course there are limits to this I am sure
Jemimus: But the rule will probably hold more often than we think
Alachia: it’s self-bias. it’s all fancy for “ignorance is bliss”
Alachia: in which case, we should kill the information age immediately and go back to living like African tribes where the discovery of a torn plastic bag is the highlight of our month.
Alachia: and I’m not being facetious
Alachia: and this rationalization of limiting choices in our lives is not new. It was discovered and taught by Buddha thousands of years ago.
Jemimus: Perhaps then, we should become Buddhists, and cast off our false expectations of our so-called possible life. 🙂 But yes, this is nothing new. And it’s hard trick to pull off. To -accept- ones fate. You keep asking yourself if that is not the better course, but at the same time, realize that you can’t do it.
Jemimus: And thus, are we left with feeling perpetually miserable about ourselves?
Alachia: it requires radical de-acceleration of our human minds desire to open Pandora’s box, not to mention radical life change. people who truly practice Buddhism must basically abandon everything in their life.
Alachia: and even I take issue with true Buddhist monks. They are at the mercy of people willing to take care of them. That’s just a little bullshit IMO. so at the price of their tranquility and zen, we have to feed them and provide them clothing and shelter.. … in America we call that welfare.
Jemimus: indeed, if you think of the what exactly they try to change about their own physiology, it’s not surprising. You can’t do these things half-heartedly.
Alachia: but yeah.. I get the philosophy behind it
Jemimus: they have religious reverence on their side, it’s a pretty sweet deal 😉
Jemimus: I think the lesson to take away from all of this is simply to maximize what you have, spend most of your efforts there, and not as much on what -could- be. But we seem to do that naturally anyway
Alachia: or that happiness is over-rated
Alachia: and it should NOT be a life goal.
Alachia: but a pleasurable outcome that happens from time to time as you pursue the simplistic goal of living.
Jemimus: I don’t think its overrated, I believe happiness IS a goal, however, trying to strive for it may be pointless. It will come about regardless. If we don’t have it, we will generate it ourselves, as you say, pursuing the simplistic goals. But also the not so simplistic ones: Buying a $1000 chair, making a podcast, chatting to friends, etc. Watching stimulating TED talks 🙂
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