Why Happiness Is Elusive
Many psychologists believe that lasting happiness is a fantasy, that even when we’re happy, it’s only for a moment. For example, Mandy Kloppers, a cognitive behavioral therapist from the UK, writes the following about happiness: “We’re all taught to believe that happiness is this attainable thing.” However, “This misconception is the reason why happiness is elusive. Happiness isn’t a consistent state, it’s more a fleeting feeling that comes over you. …For a special moment you realise you feel really at peace and everything feels right in your world. Sustaining this state isn’t possible though.”
Moreover, Professor of Psychology Frank McAndrew writes in the magazine Psychology Today that since the 1960s, “thousands of studies and hundreds of books have been published with the goal of increasing well-being and helping people lead more satisfying lives. So why aren’t we happier? Why have self-reported measures of happiness stayed stagnant for over 40 years? Perversely, such efforts to improve happiness could be a futile attempt to swim against the tide, as we may actually be programmed to be dissatisfied most of the time.”
In truth, we are programmed to be dissatisfied not only most of the time, but all the time. Our sages stated it thousands of years ago when they wrote in the Midrash: “One does not leave the world with half one’s wishes in one’s hand, for one who has one hundred wants two hundred; one who has two hundred wants four hundred.”
However, the feeling that everything is right in our world, as Kloppers put it, is possible, and even on a permanent basis. But to achieve this, we need to know what to look for. In fact, the only reason that we seem to be “programmed to be dissatisfied” is in order to impel us to keep looking until we find the harmonious state that will keep us happy.
The thing is that one person cannot be at peace or feel that everything is “right in our world” while the rest of the world is not feeling so. We, all of humanity, and in fact, all of reality, are one system. Can we feel good when a certain organ within us is ill? Can a machine work well when one of its parts is broken? The fact that we think we can be happy, and even expect it to last, testifies to the level of our ignorance of our connectedness. If we realized how connected we all are, we wouldn’t even dream of being happy, or even content, until every person in the world and every being in existence also felt that way. This may be a hard reckoning, but realizing this is the first step toward achieving happiness.
When you realize the level of connectedness of all pieces of reality, you realize that the purpose of life does not relate to one person, but to everyone and every thing together. The purpose of life is to bring all parts of reality into harmony. Happiness, therefore, is not a goal in itself, but the result of achieving harmony among all elements of reality.
The moments of happiness we feel today are fleeting but precious. They remind us of the sensations we can experience in life, while at the same time show us that we are not yet there. These moments are valuable not because they make us feel good, but because they remind us of our ultimate goal: harmony among all the pieces of reality, when each part gives and receives simultaneously, completely satisfied and completely satisfying at the same time.
In that state, we lose our sense of self as it melts into everything. Once we are there, we realize that we are not only parts of reality, we make it what it is; we are its masters, its servants, its benefactors, and its beneficiaries all at the same time.