(These exchanges were
started by me. After reading her article on happiness I just invited
her to have an interaction. Her words are in blue font.)
What if it was
possible to want something and NOT be unhappy when you don’t get it?
Couldn’t you be happy while wanting something, and continue to be
happy even if it doesn’t happen?
I would never want to give up my wants and desires, they bring me
too much joy! They are my passion and enthusiasm for life.
What you say is good for argument or
consoling someone (including yourself). But it is not possible
except for the things you really do not care about. It is possible
that you may delude yourself by thinking and acting like you were
not unhappy, but deep down you will realize that failure hurts. Yes,
for things which are not important to you, the unhappiness may not
be so apparent, but this cycle of desire and unhappiness is
inevitable. One cannot escape it.
I understand what you say. It certainly seems possible and would be
really wonderful if it were true, but unfortunately it is not.
There are generally a few dynamics taking
place when we make ourselves unhappy after not getting what we want.
1. A belief that what we want is NOT possible
2. And a misunderstanding of the REAL underlying want.
Perhaps my more optimistic nature helps me with point one, but
rarely do I have a want that I’m unable to fulfill……..eventually.
The key word here is eventually. Only in my most misguided moments
have I lost sight of hope.
I remember back in 1997 when I was trying to figure out what I
wanted to do with my life. After much soul searching, I determined I
wanted to both “create web designs” AND “work on sites that focused
on philosophy/happiness”. I had attended the Option Institute’s 8
week program and wanted to work for them. (The only place I knew of
that taught how to be happy.) When I heard they were looking for a
web master, I was thrilled beyond belief. I so wanted that position!
After months of talking back and forth and working out the
logistics, it appeared my dream was going to come true. Then
something happened and BOOM, I not only wouldn’t get the job, but my
association with the Institute changed. My first reaction was
“devastation”…for at least 10 minutes. My old programming was at
work. Fortunately the Option Method was still very fresh in my mind
so I was able to quickly question my reaction.
I determined I had acted within my standards of ethics. I determined
I had done everything in my power to get the job. I determined I
could be happy simply by choosing to be so. I determined that some
how, some way, I would EVENTUALLY do web design on sites I was
passionate about. I felt much happier and hopeful. Looking back on
it now, it actually turned out BETTER than if I had gotten the job
with the Institute.
The other dynamic that happens is not understanding our REAL
desires, which all boil down to…surprise, surprise……to be happy.
Everything you’ve ever wanted your entire life was wanted because
you believed it would bring you greater happiness. A new job, a
different car, a particular love relationship, an award,
etc.…..they’re all wanted because you believe they will MAKE you
happy. What if your happiness wasn’t dependent on such things? You
would then be free to pursue anything that struck your fancy AND be
happy while pursuing them. Being happy does not remove desires, in
fact, it increases them. When I’m my “most happy”, I feel free to
want more AND feel able to make them happen.
It’s a weird paradox when you consider most of society’s beliefs
I was thinking that since I disagreed with you on the very first
point, that was that. I did not hope for your response to what I
said in my last mail. Therefore, I must thank you for writing back.
I think it is good that we disagree on some basic concepts. It makes
the discussion more focussed and meaningful. For example, I disagree
with you on your very first point :-). I say, if we believed that
what we want was not possible, it wouldn't make us unhappy at all. I
know many of my fantasies are simply not possible to fulfill and
trust me, they do not make me unhappy in the least. Who doesn't wish
to fly out to the moon while seeing the moon in its full glory?
Which man does not fantasize having a session of making mad love
with his favourite actress? Who does not dream of being as powerful
as ....or as famous as... or having as much money as ....?
But we all know that these wishes are simply wishes and cannot be
fulfilled. What makes us really unhappy are the wishes we think ARE
possible. If I believed that I had the potential of being a better
player than Maradona then I would be most unhappy thinking that no
one even knows that I am a good player. If I believe I am the most
attractive male around, what would I feel if the woman I covet
chooses some other person? You talk of "Hope" as a means to
happiness or avoiding unhappiness and I say that "Hope" is the
harbinger of unhappiness. Play any game with a hope to win and if
you lose you are bound to be unhappy. Play the same game, without
any consideration of winning or losing, simply for the sake of fun,
and you will enjoy it.
The incident, you narrate, shows that you WERE unhappy at first.
What you did, to overcome it, was only that you channelled your
energy and focussed in some other direction. Is is not what every
one does or tries to do? Those who do it successfully, seem less
unhappy because they soon get busy pursuing other goal. Those who
cannot summon enough energy to engage in some other race for some
other goal keep ruing the missed opportunity and appear unhappy. Is
it not already the state of human beings to keep getting devastated
by failures and then trying to forget it by rising again and start
pursuing another goal?
I do agree with you on your second point. Every one wants to be
happy and that is why every one keeps searching for this or that to
achieve happiness and every one fails. Even the desire to be happy
is a desire and that is why it leads to unhappiness. Do you think
happiness and pleasure are the same? Have you ever given a thought
to a state where you do not desire a thing in the world, you simply
derive pleasure out of what you already have - with you, around you,
and in your possession? What would happen then?
How can being happy remove desires when desires are the cause of
happiness and unhappiness? Both happiness and unhappiness are states
of emotional disturbances - one pleasant and the other unpleasant.
When you are tasting pleasant disturbance you wish to continue it or
experience it again and fall into the same trap again and again.
If I told you I was
happy 90% of the time, would you believe me?
And if so, is that an acceptable degree of happiness?
Of course, I would. The very fact, that you have given a lot of
thought to the issue of happiness, means that you have found out
some mechanism for avoiding or at least getting over unhappiness.
The acceptable degree of happiness depends totally on the
individual. What I wished to point out was only that there were
flaws (according to my thinking) in your line of thinking and that
this reasoning is bound to collapse one day or the other. If you are
SURE that what you think is enough for you then further discussion
is difficult. But if you think that.... OK, let us take it this way.
Are you prepared to examine the issue further, even at the risk of
seeing your concepts collapse? Are you prepared to examine whether
the support system you have created for yourself is sound enough? It
may not seem necessary at the moment, but wouldn't it be better to
deal with this issue while you are happy and satisfied rather than
after the whole edifice has crumbled?
Let me give you one more issue to reconsider. Are you happy 90% of
the time or simply busy enough to forget everything else? It is an
innate human tendency to try to keep busy to avoid all the
unpleasantness. I know that it might be very difficult for you to
accept what I am suggesting, but still I request you to at least
consider the possibility of it happening with you. Human mind is
such a complicated thing to understand, even one's own.
I don’t feel
particularly fearful in examining my belief structure regarding
happiness. It’s my suspicion that even if the “theory” is found
faulty, for some reason it would work on a “practical level” none
the less, which is what I’m really interested in the first place. I
feel I’ve read enough on the subject to know most of the theories
regarding emotions and their origins, but in my opinion, having a
belief system that works on a practical level is where the rubber
really hits the road. Have you read about the Option Method
perspective? Do you understand its core components? I only ask
because it might be good for you to know what you’re arguing
against. I don’t mean that sarcastically. If interested, you can
read more about it’s origin at http://www.optionmethod.com/history/creation_of_option.htm
Yes, I am busy. Busy enough to forget everything else? I’m not sure
what you mean by “everything else”. Please clarify. I don’t believe
I’m busy in order to avoid something. Are there issues in my life
that I’m not clear about? You betcha. All in due time.
Don’t concern yourself with our disagreeing. If we agreed, we
wouldn’t be having these exchanges! I enjoy a good debate. Sometimes
it may take me a while to respond.
I am curious, why do you do the things you do? Generally there is
thought before action. What is your motivation? When you get up in
the morning, how do you decide what it is you’re going to do? If I’
am understanding you correctly, it isn’t desire or want, because
those things cause unhappiness.
|I think it is
extremely important to understand whatever theory one's beliefs are
based upon. If the things are not clear, one day or the other they
are bound to create doubts and once doubts are generated, well, the
theory becomes useless and the whole edifice crumbles.
I have gone through the link you sent to me. It is certainly
difficult to disagree with what Mr. Bruce Di Marsico is saying.
There are many other theories as well, of which you are certainly
aware, which are equally difficult to refute. I can suggest two more
books to you and if you have read them or if you read them in future
you will find that it is almost impossible to refute them as well.
One is the book on Transactional Analysis.."I am OK , you are OK"
and the other book is "First things first". The only trouble with
such theories is that it is extremely difficult to put them in
practice. The reason is very simple...these theories only describe
the state of affairs as such and that is why they are difficult to
refute. These theories tell you what is to be done...not HOW. It is
very correct to say that you are unhappy because you choose to be,
but no one tells you how not to choose to be unhappy. You can apply
the logic only after you realize that you are unhappy and that does
relieve some pain of unhappiness. But it is like treatment of some
disease. Once you are sick, you can be treated but you suffer, till
the treatment is successfully over, all the same. No one tells you
how to avoid being sick in the first place. You will agree that it
is far better if you can prevent the onset of a disease rather than
being able to treat it successfully after it has played its role.
Let me make it very clear. I am not arguing against some theory. I
am talking of basics only. If you pit Eric Berne against me, I am
not going to argue against his theory, I only ask how. I ask how to
avoid the sickness, not how to treat it. The whole of humanity has
been treating itself against the disease of unhappiness since the
time immemorial. Some take recourse to drugs, some turn to doing
something creative, some take recourse to being so busy that they
have no time to deliberate upon these issues at all. Some turn to
religion, some to psychoanalysis or psychotherapy, some simply
resign themselves to their fate but every one has been treating
himself one way or the other. To them, there solutions do work on a
practical level. (When we use the term practical, what we actually
mean is that the theory cannot be implemented by us and we must
compromise). That is why it is very difficult to persuade them to
change their ways. But if you look deeply, no one has been really
successful. Everyone knows that one should avoid anger, but no one
can. At the most, you can redirect the energy of anger in some other
direction but you cannot avoid being angry or disappointed or
unhappy. By "every thing else" I simply mean that you can get busy
enough to forget your unhappiness or discontent. Even to realize
that one is unhappy, one needs time and if there is no time to
reflect upon the state of your existence one does not feel a thing
and may delude oneself into believing that everything is OK.
I could not help smiling when I read the last sentences of your
mail. They raised a very tough question, but if you do understand
the nature of these things the answer is easy enough. Yes, I am
still driven by wants and desires. But this issue needs a bit of
clarification. You see, you can place all your desires or wants in
two categories. The first category relates to those needs which
avoid physical discomfort like hunger, thirst and other things which
are necessary for your survival. One does want to have good food,
good clothes and other amenities which provide a certain level of
physical comfort. But we are not talking of such things. Discomfort
and unhappiness are different things. Unhappiness relates to desires
of which most of the people are not clearly aware. Unhappiness
relates to some deeper things in our psyche. It relates to the
desires which are not necessary for your living but pain you most
deeply. Let me give you some examples. You see someone you know and
that person does not acknowledge you or does not respond to you as
you expect him/her to do. You want to spend your life with someone
you love and you cannot. You expect people around you to behave in a
certain way and they do not. You have not achieved the degree of
success in you life you expected. It is desires like these which
create unhappiness. And it is these desires which need to be nipped
in the bud. Once they have sprouted you can only try to forget them.
If one is successful in forgetting about them, it feels ok. But the
hurt remains in the deeper levels of one's being. It is simply like
sweeping the dust under the carpet.
I am not saying that I am happy. I am not going to put some
percentage on my level of happiness. I know that happiness and
unhappiness are two sides of the same coin. If you want to avoid
one, you have to discard the whole package. It is easier said than
done. But one must at least know what is involved. Unless one is
clear about the whole issue there is no chance. The understanding
has to be deep enough to be effective. How deep is this deep enough?
It has to percolate to the level from where these unhappiness
causing desires arise. These arise from the conditionings we all go
through in our lives. Unless one is able to purge these
conditionings there is no chance to avoid unhappiness. These
conditionings are very deep. Far deeper than we can imagine. Almost
to the level of our very beings they have penetrated, and to be free
of them is certainly not easy. There is a way, but one must first
accept that the solution is being free of deep rooted conditionings.
I am glad that you enjoy a good debate. But I must request you not
to take this whole thing as a debate. In a debate, one side loses
and the other side wins, or at the most the two sides may part on a
stalemate. That is not the point here. I did not initiate this
interaction as a debate. It is clear that we have our own different
solutions and we do not agree with each other. I think that your
beliefs are misplaced and you think same about me. It is only that
we have found the systems we subscribe to most agreeable to
ourselves. Let us be fellow seekers and examine the issue as deeply
as possible. If you can trust me, I say that I will be equally happy
if I have to discard my thinking as a result of this interaction.
That would only mean that I have to start afresh and examine the
issue from a different angle and I would certainly not mind that at
agree, it’s very important to understand what you base your beliefs
on. For me, the core of it can be summed up to be…
Our beliefs determine what we feel.
I also agree with you that many theories never tell you how to apply
the knowledge their proposing. That was my greatest frustration with
“self-help” books. All the while I’m reading them I’m having aha
experiences and thinking “Yes, that’s it!”. But when I’d get to the
end of the book, I’d wonder, “okay, now what?” They rarely got into
how to apply this knowledge to your life in order to make a change.
That’s one of the many things I love about Option. There IS
something you do. The link I sent to you was a little background
information about Bruce and his ideas. The rest of the site talks
about having dialogues. Dialogues are how you apply the knowledge.
It’s a questioning process of one’s beliefs. There’s an order to the
questions and you can do it alone or with someone experienced with
the questioning process.
A dialogue helps you identify beliefs. Once identified, one is free
to decide if you really believe it’s true or not. Many of the
beliefs we hold as true were acquired when we were children and
their validity has gone unquestioned for decades. As rational adults
we can examine the belief to see if we still believe it’s true and
why. For example, here are a few beliefs…
I need someone to love me in order to be happy.
I need the people around me to behave in a certain way in order to
I need to achieve a certain degree of success in order to be happy.
These types of beliefs go unquestioned because at first glance they
seem obviously true. But if you dig deep using the Option questions,
there can be surprisingly different conclusions. I’m not saying
these beliefs are true or not, simply that a lot of the time
individuals are unaware of the belief and consequently they go
In my opinion, the only way to get to the root of unhappiness would
to have a society that has a very different perspective on happiness
than it currently has. The only reason I need to use the Option
method at all is because of the enormous warehouse of beliefs I’ve
acquired from my culture, parents, friends, teachers, etc. If I
could change our society’s perspective on how we use unhappiness, I
would. I’m trying to do my part in that regard. But until that
happens, I will address each belief as it causes me pain, one at a
time. At first the time needed to do this was intensive. But as I’ve
gotten rid of a lot of the biggies, it’s become more of a
maintenance issue when new ones pop up. The good news is once you’ve
thoroughly resolved a belief, it rarely is an issue again.
The actual problem is, as you say, enormous warehouse of beliefs.
The number of beliefs is so large that one simply cannot get rid of
them one by one. It is impossible... period. Our whole being is made
up of these beliefs and there are too many issues to resolve one by
one. One has to step out of the whole system of beliefs. This is the
only way. Moreover, the resolution of a certain issue happens in the
domain of the mind and you will agree that even while knowing fully
well that receiving love is unnecessary for happiness (just an
example) one keeps hankering for love and gets hurt if it is not
given to him/her. The issue of unhappiness resides at a much deeper
level and it cannot be resolved only by consciously realizing that a
certain condition is not necessary for happiness. We can take an
example. If you fail in achieving some goal it hurts...irrespective
of the knowledge that one cannot succeed always. As long as the
expectation ..or the desire to succeed...keeps raising its head one
cannot get rid of pain.
The major difference between the various approaches suggested by
experts and what I think of as the correct approach is somewhat like
modern medicine and Ayurveda (the ancient Indian system of
medicine). Ayurveda is a holistic system. The modern medicine treats
the symptoms whereas Ayurveda treats the root cause of a disease.
You see, the problem has to be attacked at the very roots. And what
is the root of all this misery in the world? Once we are able to
identify the root of human beings' misery we can work on it.
Otherwise, we will remain entangled in the leaves and branches of
this monstrous tree of misery.
order to be happier, it is not necessary to explore EVERY SINGLE
belief you have. Although I’m not sure it would be impossible to do,
I’m sure it would take a lifetime. I’ve found beliefs are not
isolated to themselves but are connected like a web to other
beliefs. “I belief this is true, based on this belief, based on this
belief, etc. When you change a major belief, it effects all the
beliefs connected to it like a domino effect.
For example, the belief “I am responsible for my emotions. Nothing
and no one can make me feel anything without my permission,” is a
HUGE belief that effects 1000’s of other beliefs all having to do
with ownership of one’s emotions and interactions with situations
and other people. Believing this ONE belief has enormous impact on
one’s life same as it does if you don’t believe it.
I have no idea how to step out of the whole system of beliefs. Do
IMO, you don’t fail at something until you quit. I don’t quit very
often, so that might be why I don’t feel the unhappiness you
mentioned when some goal is not reached. The tact taken to reach the
goal is simply adjusted.
We’ve discussed the “treating symptoms verses the root cause”
before. I agreed with you. Where we disagree is on the
identification of WHAT that root cause is. I think it’s beliefs.
What do you think it is?
|:-) Your mail
raises a new issue-that of beliefs. In my opinion beliefs do not
matter much, because beliefs exist at mental level and there are two
still deeper levels in our existence. The next level is that of
emotions and beyond that, that of pure and raw existence. You may
call this the level of soul or awareness or essence or whatever. I
had a nice interaction on this issue of beliefs with Mr. Alan
Chattaway and it is posted on my site (http://www.akgupta.com/Thoughts/alan.htm).
If you can find enough time to read it, you will understand my views
on this issue. In short, beliefs are nothing but conditionings and
it does not matter who conditions you-others or you yourself. You
will agree that even though belief systems vary across different
cultures, religions and regions, people of all the spectrum of
beliefs are equally unhappy.
I do have an idea of how to step out of the whole system of beliefs.
Once you understand that beliefs exist at the mental level of our
existence, the problem boils down to stepping out of your mind (??
Yes! you read it right). The
idea is this – it is possible to live with pure awareness without
the interference of mind. Mind is a tool or a servant, which should
be used only when necessary. Unfortunately, it has taken over all
aspects of our lives. What does the mind do apart from incessant
chattering? You can go through the new article I have posted on my
site on the subject of "Freedom" (http://www.akgupta.com/Thoughts/what_is_real_freedom.htm).
Let me explain it with an example.
You look at the night sky and the mind immediately starts its
commentary: the sky is clear, it is looking so beautiful, stars are
twinkling so enchantingly, the moon is looking so beautiful etc.
etc. Now who needs this commentary? This commentary prohibits us
from experiencing the night. In fact, this continuous commentary
prohibits us from experiencing everything in life. We go visit Egypt
to see the pyramids and the moment we are in front of the pyramids,
the mind starts projecting the images we have seen on TV or in
pictures. This projection spoils the whole experience and you fail
to directly experience the things. It is true for all our
experiences. You see a person from China and even before you meet
him, an opinion about him gets formed courtesy of all you have read
about Chinese people. Your prejudices do not let you experience him
as a person. We can not see, hear, touch or feel directly without
the interference of our minds. It keeps acting as a guide all the
time. In was all right in our childhood when our survival was at
stake, but to let the mind guide all that we do or experience is
like delegating the very act of living. Perhaps this is the reason
we never feel satisfied no matter how much we indulge in anything.
The only way, I think, to shut up your mind is to become aware-aware
of everything that is happening all around you at this very moment.
When you become aware, mind stops and as long as you remain aware
you are free from all the trappings of the mind.
Not quitting easily means greater efforts and consequently greater
investments towards your goal. I think the more you invest, the more
is the magnitude of unhappiness if you ultimately fail. :-).
I think the root cause of unhappiness is "DESIRE".
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