Happiness is an Idea

(The first of three articles)

The reason finding happiness is so elusive is that the goal is already misconceived. This doesn't mean that one cannot be consistently contented and at peace, it means that what contentment and peace actually means is not what most people think it means.

Happiness, as conceived, is not a self sustaining state of mind. Rather, it is a state defined by the presence of certain conditions. We know what it is to be happy, but we don't really know what it is to happy for no reason. That's not to suggest that you have never been 'happy for no reason', it only means that you cannot think about what it means to be happy without assigning a set of conditions. When you imagine being happy, you also imagine experiencing certain conditions, either recalled from memory or as the fulfillment of your imagined dreams. Even the attempt to conjure the feeling is an exercise in memory recall, and is much easier to do by imagining desirable circumstances.

light bulb idea The reason for this is that the condition we call happiness is itself imaginary, defined by certain conditions, which are themselves defined by the absence of their opposites. This is just how mind works. There is no such absolute, unsupported state , nor is there such an undefined (non-conceptual) feeling. Happiness is fundamentally an idea, and specifically an idea about the presence of certain desirable conditions and the absence of certain undesirable conditions.

What this means is that happiness, as conceived, is a state of mind that is fundamentally imaginary, conceptual, dualistic and conditional. As with all mind states it is subject to continual change as the conditions that define it change, and as the conditions that are present change. As long as what we are seeking is an idea experienced as a feeling, it cannot be permanent.

A new way of thinking

However, what I have referred to elsewhere as "the Peace that passes all understanding" is not conceptual, as implied by the fact that it cannot be understood; cannot be conceptualized. This is not really as mysterious as it sounds, but it requires a new way of thinking about happiness, and the first step in changing this thinking is to be clear about the futility of seeking permanent fulfillment in our ideas about what we need in order to be happy.

new way of thinking

The second step is to be clear about the cause of our unhappiness. Unhappiness is also an idea formed in imagination and defined by certain undesirable conditions. Imagining or conjuring up the feeling of unhappiness is done in precisely the same way as we do for happiness. Fortunately, for the same reason, unhappiness is also a temporary mind state that cannot be sustained permanently.

Moving between these two imagined states is what nearly everyone has done their entire lifetimes while seeking ways to experience the happy state more than they experience the unhappy state, and yet the two states define each other and maintain a natural balance in our subjective experience. As a result, fulfillment is rarely more than fleeting. What Peace is, is not a mind state at all.

The second article in the series is "Are There Really Problems?".

From 'Happiness is an Idea' to 'Self Actualization' Home

Living Consciously 1
Living Consciously (part 2)
Split Mind
When does feeling become suffering?
Breaking Habits by Healing the Split Mind
Our Tendency to Imagine Problems
Is Struggle the Effect or Cause of Suffering?
Are there really Problems (second article)
Serial Problem Solver (third article)
The Delusion of Burt the Bunny
Realization Vs Thinking
Imaginary Feelings
Realization is Self Evident
Seeing Through illusions
The Habit Game

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Self Actualization

Self Actualization

"To identify oneneself as a separate entity in a universe that refuses to acknowledge and support that separateness, is suffering."
Phil Beaumont

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