Monday, October 24, 2011

What Exactly Is "Happiness" from the book "The Happiness Trap" written by our Guest Doctor and Author Dr Russ Harris

We all want it. We all crave it. We all strive for it. Even the Dalai Lama has said: ‘The very purpose of life is to seek happiness.’ But what exactly is this elusive thing we are looking for?

The word ‘happiness’ has two very different meanings. Usually it refers to a feeling: a sense of pleasure, gladness or gratification. We all enjoy happy feelings, so it’s no surprise that we chase them. However, like all our other feelings, feelings of happiness don’t last. No matter how hard we try to hold on to them, they slip away every time. And as we shall see, a life spent in pursuit of those feelings is, in the main, unsatisfying. In fact, the harder we pursue pleasurable feelings, the more we are likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.

The other meaning of happiness is ‘a rich, full and meaningful life’. When we take action on the things that truly matter deep in our hearts, when we move in directions that we consider valuable and worthy, when we clarify what we stand for in life and act accordingly, then our lives become rich and full and meaningful, and we experience a powerful sense of vitality. This is not some fleeting feeling — it is a profound sense of a life well lived. And although such a life will undoubtedly give us many pleasurable feelings, it will also give us uncomfortable ones, such as sadness, fear and anger. This is only to be expected. If we live a full life, we will feel the full range of human emotions.

In this book, "The Happiness Trap", we are far more interested in the second meaning of happiness than in the first. Of course, happy feelings are quite pleasant, and we should certainly make the most of them when they present themselves. But if we try to have them all the time, we are doomed to failure.

The reality is, life involves pain. There’s no getting away from it. As human beings we are all faced with the fact that sooner or later we will grow infirm, get sick and die. Sooner or later we all will lose valued relationships through rejection, separation or death. Sooner or later we all will come face-to-face with a crisis, disappointment and failure. This means that in one form or another, we are all going to experience painful thoughts and feelings.

The good news is that, although we can’t avoid such pain, we can learn to handle it much better — to make room for it, rise above it and create a life worth living. This book will show you how to do so. There are three parts to this process.

In Part 1 you will learn how you create and get stuck in the happiness trap. This is an essential first step, so please don’t skip it — you can’t escape the trap if you don’t know how it works.

In Part 2, rather than trying to avoid or eliminate painful thoughts and feelings, you will learn how to fundamentally transform your relationship with them. You will learn how to experience painful thoughts and feelings in a new way that will lessen their impact, drain away their power, and dramatically decrease their influence over your life.

Finally, in Part 3, instead of chasing happy thoughts and feelings, you will focus on creating a rich and meaningful life. This will give rise to a sense of vitality and fulfilment that is both deeply satisfying and long lasting.

The Journey Ahead
The "Happiness Trap" is like a trip through a foreign country: much will seem strange and new. Other things will seem familiar yet somehow subtly different. At times you may feel challenged or confronted, at other times excited or amused. Take your time on this journey. Instead of rushing ahead, savour it fully. Stop when you find something stimulating or unusual. Explore it in depth and learn as much as you can. To create a life worth living is a major undertaking, so please take the time to appreciate it.

Dr Russ Harris
Medical Practitioner-Psychotherapist-Executive Coach