Friday, December 10

Happiness Defined

I recently wrote a reply to someone else's Facebook post that said:

"The source of modern unhappiness is, as it always has been, the belief in happiness."

Which is pretty much wrong.

I mean, there is an element of truth in there, because to a certain extent what you believe matters, however, there are also other ways to be unhappy that have nothing to do with your mindset, for example, (and this is something you can test) you can stub your toe. You could also break a leg, fall off a cliff, or convince someone to punch you in the face, all of which can be pretty unhappy.

Regardless of your mental outlook, pain is unhappy.

(For most people. Yes, there are people that have mismatched wires that think pain is super, but there are also all sorts of people with mental health issues, so for sake of argument, let's just assume that pain is a type of unhappiness.)

So let's define a couple of relationships then:
  • Physical Happiness = Pleasure
  • Physical Unhappiness = Pain
Seems pretty straightforward. Of course, this begs the question, what about the converse relationships? What about the non-physical realm? Well first off, let's use a better term for "non-physical;" I'm partial to "abstract." So what would we call the flip sides of these coins?
  • Abstract Happiness = Triumph
  • Abstract Unhappiness = Grief
Let's give these a closer look so that it's absolutely clear what I mean by these words. When I say "triumph," I am using that word to describe any situation where you have some sort of abstract happiness, like if you just got a great new job, you made a bunch of money, or you just graduated college. Maybe you just solved a problem that had been irking you, or wrote an excellent poem. Your baby nephew might have just been born, your favorite football team just won the Super Bowl, you just became President, or one of an infinite number of abstract situations that you feel victorious about.

On the flip side, grief is a mental unhappiness, from the loss of a great job, to losing it all in the stock market, to getting kicked out of college. Maybe you gave up on that problem because it was too difficult, or you just realized your poetry is horrendous. Your nephew might have just been killed in a car crash, your team went 0-16, you lost the election for class president, or one of an infinite number of abstract situations that you feel terrible about.

(I am aware that situations that can cause triumph and grief can and often do invoke pleasure or pain. For example, if a loved one dies, not only do you feel the mental anguish of them passing, but you also feel physical pain from that grief. This is because these labels are not mutually exclusive, meaning you can take pleasure and triumph from something, just as you can take pain and grief from something. Just be aware that because there is a link between the physical world and our minds, so too is there a connection between these emotional states.)

Let's add one more piece to the puzzle:

Assumption #1: There is nothing outside of Physical + Abstract.

What this means is that I am assuming that there is nothing outside of our existence that matters for the purpose of this discussion. I'm pretty much saying, "If you can't sense it or comprehend it, then who cares?" So that said, let's add up what we've thought about so far:

Happiness = Physical Happiness + Abstract Happiness
Happiness = Pleasure + Triumph


Unhappiness = Physical Unhappiness + Abstract Unhappiness
Unhappiness = Pain + Grief


Now, you may be saying, so what? What's the point?

Well, for starters, I can fix my Facebook post to mean something more truthful. Something like:

"The source of modern unhappiness is, as it always has been, pain, and the belief in triumph."

Which leads me to the third state of being, which I will leave for another post.

1 comment:

  1. And then can this math be solved? No. I enjoy it, the words, thoughts, implicit assumptions... However, there is nothing new under the sun is there? The source of modern unhappiness is the same as ancient unhappiness. We live.

    Experience is something you get just after you need it. :-)

    In experiencing life... Living. There seems to be a perspective point... Buddhism's Bliss? Not Bliss -- perhaps your third state of being? Waiting to hear...

    Happiness and Unhappiness circle each other. Lovers locked in a fatal embrace. They each inform and compliment each other. The happier one feels the more devastated they can become. Out of the depths of despair? True happiness can be felt / appreciation. Gratitude.

    Is the purpose of all of this to simply become aware? To watch? Clinging perhaps causes the most unhappiness. Wallowing in grief, holding onto pain... To feel happiness we must be hollowed out by unhappiness; then release it to let happiness in. The cycle is that of blood. Blue/Red. Depressions blue, darkest moments, breathed into passions Red. Our heart beat in life pulsing between unhappiness and happiness in a natural rhythm...

    I walk outside now / greeting dawn, stirred by chill air / night's dreams dissipate #Haiku