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Interactions with Jennifer (http://www.selfcreation.com)

 

(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.)

Ashok,

 

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.

 


Jennifer,

 

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 about happiness.

 



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 all.

 

I 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 be happy.

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 unexamined.

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.

 

In 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 you?

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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