What I am very interested about in the world around me is the difference between happy and sad. Content and depressed or anxious and relaxed. I’m not so concerned in the gap between rich and poor which is often where peoples focus lands.
I find it fascinating how some people can (or at least seem to) live fairly happy and contented lives whilst others struggle and don’t live lives even close to where they want to. Never feeling as sense of happiness or worth in the world, that I find truly sad. In theory we should all have the opportunity to feel happiness.
For me money brings freedom. Not happiness. It brings choices. Not contentment. And from that freedom and power of choice will eventually manifest into happiness. When I am in control of my finances that control bleeds into my whole entire life whether it be spiritual, work, social or family life. It is at this point that I would like to say that there are so many factors at play when talking about happiness beyond that of wealth but wealth is loosely where this essay is concerned.
But what comes with wealth is guilt in certain instances. If a person is unhappy and has all of the trappings that people think you need in the western world then the person who is unhappy will devalue their unhappiness and not accept how difficult things are for them. This compounds their unhappiness and doesn’t give them credit to feel unhappy. In this scenario a high degree of wealth will make someone’s recovery from ‘an episode’ much harder.
At my lowest I had a good job, loving family and appeared to have material possessions (the truth was they were all on credit and I didn’t own them) so when I was depressed I thought to myself, how can I be sad when I have all of this. What this did was make me feel guilty and ultimately unhappier.
Another belief that I find from my practice is when people devalue their situation by saying ‘there are people worse off than myself’. That is generally true. But by feeling that sense of guilt will never get you out of a depression or low period. What it will do is take your focus away from working on the reasons for your own difficulties and ultimately make you feel even worse, whilst still not helping those who are ‘worse off than me’. If people acknowledge that their life maybe pretty shitty then it may assist in their recovery and ultimately in time, they will be in a greater position to help those less fortunate. It has to start with you. There will always be people worse of than you but that is not to say that you don’t deserve help or that your problems are not valid.
If people think their problems are invalid because there is someone worse off than them then if you look at it logically there is only one person in the whole wide world who can feel justifiably unhappy.
But having been so low I would rather be homeless and have peace of mind, for when I was struggling I lost total lack of reality and believed such horrendous thoughts about myself. You could have given me one million pounds and it wouldn’t have made the slightest bit of difference. It probably made me feel worse for reasons mentioned above.
You only have to look in the media to see examples about how celebrities are struggling with addictions and are ultimately unhappy. They have built a life based on the premise that fame and fortune will make them happy but upon realising those wishes they find out that it won’t.
I don’t think anything outside of your heart and head can make you happy. It comes from within oneself. Some of the unhappiest people in society often are the high achievers, the successful people or the popular alpha males/females of the group. I believe that this is because they never have to look within, they never fall in love with themselves as they are so used to the external gratification from people outside of themselves propping them up.
I have had periods in my life where I have had no choice but to really look within myself because I wasn’t getting that respect from others. In counselling we call needing that recognition as having an external locus of evaluation. When we work on ourselves that locus of evaluation hopefully transfers internally and we don’t look outwards to feel happy. That’s when real growth can be achieved.
It’s hard when you don’t get that recognition but I feel it’s a real opportunity to grow into a much stronger person. Because there are going to be times, maybe for all of us, when there’s no one telling us how great we are or that everything is going to be ok but when you know that yourself you can always reassure yourself and keep your head above water. That is power.
So, what makes people happy? Well that to me is the most important question of all time for if we knew the answer in basic terms then I feel the world would change on so many levels, from climate change to world politics. Things would change, and in my opinion, for the better if we addressed what actually makes us happy.
A lot of the false beliefs we are told come from corporations who makes us feel we need things to make us feel happy. This keeps the cycle going and we are actually going further away from the truth and from the answers that we all have within us. Only ourselves know what we need to feel happy and it isn’t what social media tells you or the adverts you see on TV.
In my experience knowing that on the whole I am a good person who does the right thing by the world makes me feel happy, I think a good indicator on how happy or content you are comes from not being affected by external events and having a core belief that you are ok.
So, it is my life’s work to make as many people feel that deep sense of contentment, to look within for the answers and to feel at peace with oneself and the world around them. This isn’t always easy in a world that is often wanting the opposite. This is because when people free themselves from the system they ultimately become a threat to the very system they were enslaved in.
We ultimately have to ask ourselves, do we strive for wealth and power or do we aim for comfort and peace. How you answer that will determine your path from this day forward.