What is Happiness? And How to Achieve it?
What is happiness? What is this elusive fortune we are all seeking? Where is the treasure map and what is the secret of happiness? Why is it so difficult for us to achieve happiness and life satisfaction? These are all the questions that we might have asked ourselves, wondering whether we can find an answer.
First, let’s find out more about Happiness itself.
As discussed in another post (The Dao of Life – Equilibrium Through Conflict), it is challenging, even impossible, to define some concepts in the absence of their opposing beings. As an example, how could we define ‘good’ without understanding ‘bad’, and vice versa; hence the chronic and long-standing discussions and debates on ‘what is good, and what is bad in ethics’.
Same is true for ‘Happiness’. That is why you may find different definitions such as ‘contentment’, ‘satisfaction’, ‘joy’, etc.
On the other hand, it is much easier to identify ‘what is not happiness’. When we feel stressed, perturbed, upset, or anxious, we can categorically and explicitly declare that ‘we are not happy’. We don’t need proof to understand that we are upset or stressed. We can feel it inside. These and many other negative feelings are understood very subjectively. Happiness itself is a subjective concept, as one might feel happy in a situation in which another person would be unhappy.
However, the fact is, happiness is not a fixed point in time; it is not a ‘1’ against the ‘0’ of unhappiness. The same as many duos in nature such as good and bad, up and down, beautiful and ugly, and day and night, happiness and unhappiness form a spectrum, a continuum that spans between the two extremes.
There will always be an element of negative feelings, even when you feel absolutely happy. This is the Dao of Life. There is no day, without night, and no good without bad, as beautifully illustrated by the Yin-Yang symbol. Even in the extreme, there is still a piece of black inside the white, and vice versa.
This is the first concept of Embracing Happiness: Happiness is not pure joy, absolute elation, and total carefreeness.
The more we go towards happiness, the more we shed unhappiness. To embark on a journey towards happiness, we need to identify and deal with unhappy and negative feelings. We need to know the cause of our discomfort and manage it effectively.
What Is the Main Cause of This Discomfort When We Feel Down and Not Happy?
Regardless of the depth, nature, and conditions of the unhappiness, there is always a reason for the discomfort. There is always something that we want to be different than what it is. Be it a neighbour’s action, parents’ judgement, children’s behaviour, co-worker’s bullying, bills piling up, a friend’s betrayal, partner’s behaviour, and many more events in our lives in which we find Discomforting Differences, things that are Different from what we like, or think as right, and cause us a feeling of Discomfort.
A ‘Discomforting Difference’ is what lies underneath our unhappy moments. Whenever you feel down, look closely and dig deep. You will find what you have experienced as being different and discomforting. This is what I call a ‘Conflict’, a ‘Discomforting Difference’.
And now the revelation:
The only way towards happiness is to deal with these discomforting differences.
But, here comes the ugly truth:
There is no panacea, no happiness elixir, no secret technique! We need to learn how to deal with conflict, how to resolve it, and how to manage it. This is the ‘Art of Conflict Management’ that you need to master, through practice and discipline.