In 1978 Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote the best seller “When Bad Things Happen to Good People.” In it Rabbi Kushner addresses the question of why is it that if we live our lives grounded in positive values must we suffer? It would seem that living a good life should bring us happiness. Yet many of us are not happy.
The idea of being happy is a common concern expressed in therapy. Positive psychology (or rather distorted interpretation of positive psychology principles) brought a belief that happiness is a normal human condition, as such it is easily available to all. The result of this belief is an often mistaken assumption that not being happy means one is abnormal, that something is wrong with you.
This search for happiness has become a source of frustration for many people. As a response to this frustration there are plenty of self made gurus, who are more than ready and willing to sell you their secret to happiness. The selection of books, tapes, DVD’s, groups, clubs, and so on seem to never end. Each one promises untold happiness for your life. How to turn every negative into a positive. Sounds good doesn’t it?
This leaves us with an important issue, is happiness just waiting for you to embrace it as an achievable permanent state of mind?
The Myth of Permanent Happiness
The premise of this article is that a permanent emotional state of “being happy” is a myth and the only way to experience happiness is to change your state of mind. What is happiness? It is an emotion. A transitory mental or emotional state of well-being that provides us with necessary information as our response to pleasant or meaningful stimuli resulting in positive or pleasant emotions.
The problem with the happy emotion is that we are not able to sustain the necessary stimuli to trigger happiness for a prolong period of time. Once our happy emotion has completed its cycle, it stops. What we are left with are pleasant memories. (more…)