Happiness is Not Intensity But Balance
Happiness is a Feeling You Control
I found a quote in a blog I follow this morning that stimulated some real thought. “Happiness is not a matter of intensity, but balance” ~Thomas Merton. We all seek happiness. Just like all other positive and negative emotions, we like being happy and dislike being unhappy.
Sometimes people seek it (and I find myself believing this often) in life events as they enter into our space and we experience them as if they are causing us to be either happy or unhappy. So, we seek out those events that make us the most happy, and try our best to set up a line of events that will somehow cause happiness. If it doesn’t come, we figure we are doing something wrong and think up new ways to set up new events. We fall victim to being controlled by outside forces.
Some people attach their happiness to objects or money. The more money one has the more happiness it will provide. In this line of thinking, a person fixates their unhappiness on something. Like, “I’m not happy in this house, so if I buy a new house I will be happy”, or, “I don’t look attractive enough, so I need to have plastic surgery to make myself feel better and provide me with happiness.” The Dalai Lama said, “Human happiness and human satisfaction must ultimately come from within oneself. It is wrong to expect some final satisfaction to come from money or from a computer. ”
I’ve met so many people that seek out happiness in other people. I think young teen and pre-teen girls are especially vulnerable to this way of thinking. They think things like, “If I follow all the rules my daddy has set out for me, he will be happy and that will make me happy,” or “If I can get the captain of the football team to like me, I will be popular and it will make me very happy,” or “if I join this dating site, I will find the woman of my dreams and it will complete my life and make me happy.”
I’ve met quite a few people that resent others that they imagine are happier than them. It provides some sense of superiority to these folks to act out in a way that lessens others supposed happiness. For instance, “I’m not happy with my co-worker’s proficiency, so I need to say something to make them feel bad and maybe they won’t perform so well”, or “I’ve had an awful day today, so I’m going to make sure no one in my household is happy because it will make me feel worse to know someone is having a better day than me.”
I think most people cross over into multiple beliefs, like “I’m not making enough money at this job, so I need to make my coworkers look bad so I stand out to the boss and he gives me a raise, which will in turn make my family happy and I will look good to them and it will make me happy.” Yeah, I know that’s a complicated one, but it can get much worse than that.
I’d say the majority of people caught up in these scenarios without acknowledging them aren’t awake yet. They live life according to those pre-recorded messages and learned behaviors just going through the motions of the day. They seek out happiness in material things and people and behaviors, yet they are not happy. Perhaps they didn’t try hard enough or perhaps they are the victim of circumstances beyond their control. Perhaps they should up the intensity.
I love to talk with someone who seems frustrated with life and says something like, “what am I missing?” or “what are we all really doing here, anyway?” or “what’s the point of all this?” It’s a sign that they are waking up. They are just coming to the realization that their belief systems aren’t working for them and the frustration they feel is finally accomplishing something real. Like rats in a maze, human unhappiness and other negative emotions are like following a belief system or learned behavior and turning a corner only to find a brick wall. If we backtrack and use those same methods of behavior, it will reveal yet another brick wall. But if we try new behaviors and shed old belief systems, we travel further and get closer to the prize at the end of the maze, whatever you think that may be.
Happiness is an emotion like all our other emotions, and emotions are guiding tools of growth and maturity. What you mature into is a personal belief and changes over time. Everyone on this planet is at a different stage of spiritual development and no one is right or wrong on their journey. It is a highly personal path, filled with personal experiences and personal growth. The balance needed to feel happiness is also personal. Guideposts can be offered, but a person can’t be forced to acknowledge them or really absorb them. What you can do to help, and I have to remind myself of this many, many times each day, is to practice tolerance and forgiveness. The challenges people pose to each other in social situations can be incredibly frustrating, but learning new behaviors and being understanding and compassionate will allow others to continue on their personal path and move closer to the awakening you enjoy.