Happiness, in my opinion, is overrated. I’m not even sure whether it is a real thing. Since life is a continuous process of struggle until the end, it doesn’t make sense when it’s possible, if at all, to reach this state of ultimate emotional equilibrium we call happiness.
Asking “how can I be happy?” is, in my opinion, asking the wrong question. We have no choice but to anticipate and tackle all the painful moments in our lives; we have to expect disappointments, betrayals, sadness, death of loved ones, illnesses and trauma we can get affected by and so on. If tackling is not possible, we may even need to accept them, much like we have to accept death at some point. This much is certain, and we all know it pretty well that we cannot avoid them.
We can’t be “happy” in the romantic sense, as often portrayed by numerous motivational speakers, life coaches or “Gurus”. Most of them present the concept as a holy grail that every one of us should always covet. I have now come to realize that all this is bogus.
This is much like the fact that we cannot realistically establish a social utopia: twentieth-century romantic nationalist or communist or even “democratic” endeavors which tried to do so, failed miserably – at the cost of many human lives. Similarly, in my opinion, romantic conceptions of happiness as portrayed in many popular books, novels, music and movies have skewed our ideas for living a realistic life and have in the process, ruined many individuals, families and relationships. We are told to imagine and pursue a certain arbitrary end called “happiness”, which in fact is always out of our grasp the more we reach out for it. And reality not meeting our idealistic expectations, stresses us out – many a times to the detriment of our fragile mental health. Pursuing happiness perverts our outlook on life, as we look at other people’s momentary satisfactions as being “happy” relative to our momentary dissatisfactions which we deem as being “unhappy”. This much is not so hard to understand if we think deeply.
Learning to cope with life, recognizing aspects of life that are important for us in the long run (like family and friends), and engaging in activities or hobbies that demand, but not exhaust, our enthusiasm (doing what you enjoy doing persistently without regret), are some of the means to reduce existential stress or anxiety. But again, at the back of our minds, we do need to be ready for the possible unpleasant moments of pain, failure, dissatisfactions – which even these coping strategies may occasionally bring forth.
Being realistic, is to accept the imperfections that mandatorily come attached with existence and to ceaselessly struggle against them – much like Sisyphus against the boulder uphill. Being idealistic is to try to escape from them irresponsibly, by imagining unrealistic targets such as a state of happiness or utopia. By educating ourselves about human nature and to be both emotionally and rationally intelligent – can boost our ability to cope. Now we just need to repeat this process ad infinitum. And all this while, we should completely forget about ultimate happiness. Because the more we think about ultimate happiness, the more we become unhappy at proximity. This is also one core principle of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) sessions provided by clinical psychologists, which is very helpful in reinforcing coping abilities in troubled people.
And that’s the red pill – we need to learn to cope, not to be happy.