|Fear vs Life|
Is it me or has it all gone quiet on the "David Cameron wants to know how happy you are" front? Popping over to the Office for National Statistics site, I see that they're now in the process of evaluating all your comments and "expect to report on the findings of the debate in July 2011". Oooh, I can't wait.
Yes, you did read that right, the cynicism in my tone. Not usually noted for being so (I tend to believe cynicism is self-destructive and pointless), I can't help it in this case. I will be genuinely interested to hear the "results"; however I do believe the subject of the country's happiness, and particularly the method for gathering information on it, is not something we are exactly experts at on the whole. Quite apart from us being duly noted worldwide as "a bunch of whinging poms", there is the small matter of the questions you were asked. Sadly I can't see the questionnaire now it's closed, but I remember looking at it a few months back and seeing the same old leading questions on health, housing, economy etc etc etc. Well, you say, aren't they what's important? Well, dear reader, that's rather up to you. But my point is, that by forcing you to answer questions on such topics, they are making you feel as if they ARE important to you, whether they really are or not.
The political satire Yes, Prime Minister, gives a wonderful sketch demonstrating how leading questions can achieve either a "yay" or a "nay" from you in the same sitting:
But at risk of encouraging mass egocentricity, if you were to forget about all our societal structures, can you make an honest and raw appraisal of your real happiness goals? Or do you struggle to think outside the confines of those structures? In his blog, the Moneyless Man Mark Boyle claims we are all "addicted to civilisation". Defining addiction in his own terms as "'any behavioural pattern that persists despite the person being aware that it is harming their physical, mental, emotional or spiritual well-being and/or is killing them'", he summarises that
"Addicts effectively keep refusing to let something much more fulfilling into their lives, probably because they no longer have a real sense of how good life could be without [their fix]."Now I happen to know a family member who fits this bill exactly: her life revolves around the negative and what kind of sensation she can cause or glean from it, whilst at the same time bemoaning how torrid her life is. She happens to be a particularly case, but we are all guilty of it.
|David Sye of Yogabeats|
"Western life is built around the ability and concept of controlling everything. For we are terrified by what we cannot control, so life itself poses a real threat"Attacking those age-old hang-ups we all succumb to ("I can't do A until X, Y and Z happens.."), Sye rightly points out that
"Nothing NEEDS TO HAPPEN for you to remember that you are life itself, showing up (whether you like it or not!) through the little idea of who you imagine yourself to be."Whilst I agree wholeheartedly with both takes on this essential message, Sye really nails it for me in outlining his current workshop From the Mastery of Fear to the Mastery of Love. He claims we have to learn how to:
"recognise the addiction we have to the "emergency emotions" of fear and our emotional wounds and how and why they keep repeating throughout our lives, until we learn the cognitive skills that can transform us from the mastery of fear to the mastery of love".In other words, before we can selflessly care 100% about the planet or even how much "civilisation is killing us", most of us will need to look to ourselves first. Honestly, openly, and without preconceptions, excuses or prefabricated societal constructs.
|What will you choose?|
If you need guidance you won't be short of finding some on the web. Start off by checking out The Happiness Project, Blacksburg Belle and The Goddess Guidebook. But ultimately you've got to follow your own intuition. Those who lead the happiest lives (and recognise it) have found what works best for them and are always open to re-evaluating that, within certain limits. For example, whilst some days I dream of running away to join the circus and somewhat lessening my responsibilities, in my saner moments I acknowledge that such a move would only make me temporarily "happy" at best, thereafter reducing me to a life of misery and regret.
I feel that personal happiness in today's world can be best achieved through an alchemical mixture of self-control and empowerment: learn to recognise what you love and what works for you within your given limitations (see above!) but don't over-indulge (or at least not too often). And allow yourself to feel empowered, strong, capable. All too often our best efforts are belittled in one way or another - it is not a British trait to "be proud" of yourself. But proud (not gloating or domineering) you must be. You've come this far, you've achieved this much. You are you and nobody else. Of course you should be proud.
And don't think for a minute that I'm saying you should all do what you like and forget about community values and the state of the world at large. Of course I'm also appealing to your moral nature and societal values. And I'm also trusting that you will find the balance "between constructive attempts at greater self-knowledge and pointless rumination" and not go down the self-destructive path of "overthinking".
Learn to master your fears; learn to master your loves. Learn to be you.