The Mythology of Happiness

It is the holy grail of daily living and a satisfying life. Its acquisition motivates almost everything we do. Perhaps no other subject has generated so many books, gurus and seminars. It is ‘happiness’. Not the temporary happiness of a good night out or a good long holiday, or even a good long relationship!  But real, authentic genuine happiness.  One of the reasons why the real and lasting form of happiness is so rare is because we all tend to grow up in a culture that confuses happiness with excitement.  And when that happens we set off on a lifetime pursuit of some form of stimulation in the belief that it will give us, make us, bestow upon us …happiness!
What we seldom notice is that we look and seek in the wrong direction.  We are by nature happy beings, so say many of the wisest sages, spiritual gurus and even some of the most celebrated philosophers through the ages.  Happiness is, they indicate, already present within us.  All we need to do is clear a path from our heart to our head and it will emerge naturally from within.  Essentially that means hacking away at the jungle of illusion that we have grown within our own consciousness.  Seeing through these illusions and thereby dispelling the myths of happiness allows our happiness to make itself known in the reality of our daily life.  Here are seven of the most common myths about happiness.
Myth 1
Happiness is measured by your purchasing power
It’s not difficult to dispel this myth. Some of the unhappiest people in the world are the wealthiest in financial terms. And some of the happiest people in the world are living in material poverty. Wander through almost any Indian village; look at the bright sparkling eyes and happy smiles of many, if not most children, and you see a vision of happiness.  They have almost no money and no material possessions and live on one bowl of rice a day.  If nothing else it’s a good reminder to count our blessings and stop and wonder about the true nature of happiness.
Myth 2
Happiness is dependent on how much you can accumulate
Believe this and your mind will likely sound like an old record with the needle stuck in the same groove and the only song that emerges is Money Money Money or More More More. The ‘more’ you have the more you want, and the more you worry about what you think you have, the more you worry that you might not get even more, and the more you worry about losing what you have AND not yet got. And this is happiness?
Myth 3
Happiness has to be earned
Yes it’s that infamous, old Scottish Protestant Work Ethic that says that the only path to happiness is through the guilt that you’re not working hard enough to deserve to be happy!  This means that you are carrying a belief that you have to earn the right to be happy, and that you cannot be happy until you have worked hard enough to the satisfaction of others. And as many will eventually realise you can never work hard enough (what is ‘hard enough’) so you will never be happy. Besides, you can never satisfy others.  Everyone decides their own satisfactions. You can never be happy as long as you believe it has to be earned or that you can make others happy. All you will likely feel is guilty.
Myth 4
Happiness is the achievement of your dreams and desires.
Dare to dream …. they say! If you can dream it, you can achieve it…they say! You have to know what you want and want it bad enough…they say! And only then can you be happy…they say!  But what they don’t say is that desiring is craving, and that any satisfaction from the achievement of any desire/craving can only ever be temporary before a new desire/craving knocks on the door. Sometimes it’s called addiction, and happiness is not the satisfaction of an addiction. How do you know? Watch for the fear that sits at the heart of all desire, and watch for the emptiness that sits and grows at the centre of the temporary satisfaction when any desire is fulfilled.  It may sometimes be a miniscule amount of emptiness but it’s always there.
Myth 5
Happiness is always in the future
Otherwise known as ‘delay’.  It is the language of, “I’ll be happy… when we get married…when we have a family… when the kids have left home… when we retire…” It becomes a habit to see happiness always tomorrow and seldom today, seldom now. Until there is the realization that there is only today, that there is only now, true happiness will always be as elusive as an oasis in the desert is an illusion to someone dying of thirst. You may think you see it up ahead, shimmering in the distance, you may believe you are making your way towards it, but you never arrive.
Myth 6
Happiness is only possible when everything is just perfect
If you are a perfectionist it is likely that you will experience much day-to-day stress and tension. It is an imperfect world where nothing can ever be perfect. Why? Because perfection is personal. For a perfectionist even perfection is imperfect. Simply because perceiving imperfection is to project our own imperfections. But don’t tell that to a perfectionist as they are unlikely to see it that way. Somewhere and from someone (usually a parent) they learned that only by doing something perfectly (to someone else’s standards) could they themselves be a perfect person. A classic mistake. In this chaotic world nothing can ever be perfect. Only when the perfectionist accepts everything as it is, can they find contentment, which is one of the deepest forms of authentic happiness. That’s because everything is perfect just as it is. Not ‘perfect’ perfect, but just as it is, because that’s how everything is meant to be. As it is.
Myth 7
Happiness is dependent on others
Perhaps the most prevalent illusion is the one that has the deepest roots i.e. others are responsible for your happiness. From this myth comes the victim mindset and a perpetual unhappiness that most of us eventually settle for. In effect we become happy being unhappy and the world affirms this by saying, “Well done, you are now a member of the Normal Club because normal people are frequently unhappy. In the meantime keep searching for that greater, ultimate happiness. And by the way, we have a nice little advert here that you might like to watch…”
Having said that, it is obvious that our society is dependent on us all continuing to ‘outsource’ our happiness. To end our dependency on ‘the external’ to stimulate our feelings of happiness in ‘the internal’ would be a revolutionary shift in both consciousness and behaviour. Right now we are all ‘materially dependent’ on others living the myth that happiness is a dependency!
So there you have it, happiness is probably not best described by the word ‘happiness’ as it tends to indicate a ‘high state’ in contrast to a ‘low state’.  Real happiness is neither high nor low. It’s not acquired or accumulated. It’s not a simulation.  And it’s not dependent on any ‘thing’ or found any ‘where’.  It can’t be earned or stored. And it’s certainly cannot be manufactured and packaged. 
Question:  So what is authentic happiness for you – we all have to find our own answer to this question
Reflection:  Happiness isn’t just a feeling it is a state if being – what is the difference between the two?
Action:  Ask seven people this week what was the happiest moment of their life and see if  you can spot any of the above myths at play in their stories.
© Mike George 2010
Extracted from book
The 7 Myths About LOVE…Actually? (Chapter 3)
Published 2010

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