Happiness: hundreds of millions worldwide spend the bulk of their time and energy looking for it. And most of them learn it’s an enigma, an elusive one at that. But understandably, the search goes on. No, wanting to be happy isn’t asking for too much, so let’s see what we can come up with…
In my mind it’s a huge error. Sure there’s nothing wrong with asking and searching for happiness, but making it our purpose in life actually defeats us.
In last week’s piece, “Fantasy: Learn About It, Use and Enjoy It (heck, it’s free),” I shared that one of Sigmund Freud’s foundational beliefs was that humans can’t get by on the tiny morsel of satisfaction provided by everyday reality.
I knew it was a powerful commentary on the human condition when I popped it in the article, but it’s really stayed with me. I mean, think about it. If the minimal amounts of satisfaction derived from living our lives aren’t enough to sustain us, well, what’s the point?
Don’t you think that’s a scary notion? Actually, I consider it a challenge, as well.
More from Uncle Siggy
Fact is, I wanted to learn more about Freud’s point of view, and how it may apply to me. And I found plenty in his 1929 book, Civilization and Its Discontents.
Freud observes that the question “What is the purpose of human life?” has been asked countless times and it’s never really been answered. He even wonders if one exists. But what really hits home here is Freud’s belief that if any of us come to the conclusion that life really has no purpose, then it loses any and all value.
Seems reasonable to me.
Freud goes on to state that the behavior of most of us reveals the true purpose and object of our lives – what we demand and wish to attain. And that’s, you guessed it, happiness. Even more, to hold-on to it forever. Then he really rings the bell by declaring it’s much less difficult to be unhappy.
I can’t disagree with that last sentence. You?
Before we move-on, let’s stop to consider something. Absolutely, finding and maintaining a purpose in life is essential in establishing its value. But notice how Freud states that humans default to finding that very purpose in the demand and wish to secure and keep a grip on happiness.
In my mind it’s a huge error. Sure there’s nothing wrong with asking and searching for happiness, but making it our purpose in life actually defeats us. And that’s because happiness is a byproduct of finding and practicing our true life purpose.
Does that make sense?
Life Is Just Too Hard
Okay, back to Uncle Siggy, who points-out that life is simply too hard for us. And that’s because it involves all sorts of pain, disappointment, and impossible tasks. As a result, to get us through we’re likely to turn to what he calls powerful diversions, substitute gratifications, and intoxicating substances.
According to Freud, this is where his “pleasure principle” comes into play. Simply, it’s the instinctive seeking of pleasure and pain avoidance to satisfy biological and psychological needs. The pleasure principle is the driving force of the id, that part of us that contains our basic, instinctual drives – particularly of a sexual and aggressive nature.
Yep, Freud believed the pleasure principle designs and implements our life purpose.
We’re Done Here: OMG, Now What?
Well, now that I have your head spinning with Sigmund Freud’s theorizing, concepts of life purpose and happiness, perhaps desperation, and more, what are we to make of all of this?
Don’t know about you, but I’ve learned to be tuned-in to life’s meaning, and its discovery and practice. That’s because I don’t do especially well with idle time, yet I knew my busyness “addiction” had to stop. I mean, I could tell it just wasn’t right for me and, frankly, it was wearing me down.
In approaching the task, I came to understand that the busyness in which I’d throw myself was a prime example of a combination of powerful diversion and substitute gratification. And, yes, I turned to both because I’d made my life too hard.
Traditionally, I’ve pursued happiness as my life purpose. And though not nearly as, shall we say, prolific in pleasure principled behavior as in my “young buck” days, I continued the pursuit well into my senior years. Heck, I guess it’s better than being a stick in the mud.
But the point is, I had no idea how to secure “happiness,” much less what it truly was. And coming to learn that happiness is a manifestation of finding and fulfilling life’s purpose, not life’s purpose itself, has been incredibly illuminating and helpful. And it continues to be a work in progress.
So, then, do you have the right to ask for happiness? You bet you do. However, you also have the responsibility to learn what it is as it applies to you, as well as how to legitimately find it. And while we’re all at it, a little emphasis on finding life’s purpose – meaning – sure wouldn’t hurt.
Roll those bones…
Plenty more where this baby came from. Check-out those Chipur mood and anxiety disorder-related titles.