I have been thinking shallowly these last three years, meaning that if I think it is an answer (does not have to be good enough), I will stop there and move on. As somebody who aspires to be a writer, that’s a personal end of the world. So, with my commitment of slowly getting myself involved in the outside world, I want to discuss this publicly, not just internally. I would be so happy, if anybody is reading, if you can help me think as well.
Everyone is pursuing happiness, as far as I am concerned. It was one of the reasons why I wanted to start a happiness project, and I think it is also why it echoed so deeply to the people around me. It is why happiness (and the likes) is the prima donna of the research world these days. Everybody is looking for it. Yet, nobody feels they are happy enough, day by day.
I feel the same way.
Before Happiness Project, getting out of bed was a daily battle. I had troubles doing anything, to be honest, as simple as putting my unused clothes in the right place. Not getting the simplest chores in life made me feel like a daily failure, so I decided to get out of it by giving myself a metaphorical pat in the back for even the tiniest achievement I managed to get done. I started to list down Good Things I Did Today and stamped it on my wall. At first, getting out of bed was a great achievement. And then, taking a shower. And then, cleaning the room. And then, going out to buy lunch or dinner. Gradually, I could do things on higher levels. At one point, managed to tell somebody I was grateful for their existence. From not being able to open my eyes to that, it felt like I have run a thousand miles marathon. Peak experience.
Thinking I was on the right track of being happy, I wanted to step the game up just because I felt like I was capable of more. Thus, the infamous Happiness Project: Love Yourself on Instagram. I started to practise gratitude, kindness, seeing beauty, and on, and on. I felt happier, and happier. My skills of bringing my own emergency lamp was piling up. The happiness I have looked for all my life was finally here. I did not want anything else in life.
For three months or so.
After seeing that I was able to love myself enough, I wanted to accept myself wholly. Because I now wanted anyone else to love myself enough, as well. I wanted to grow up, get my development task done in this point of life-span. So, I upgraded the project to a Growing Up happiness project. It went well, and my happiness that was descending now started to rise up again. Before it gradually lowered again.
Do you see the pattern? It’s a boring one, of feeling like you are on the top of happiness, to losing it and wanting more, and upgrading yourself to get back up. So it moves like a cycle. And then, at one point, I asked myself.
Will this pursuit really end somewhere?
My feeling jumped to the above conclusion.
Why? Because I realised that I was happy now. At least, I was happier than I had ever been before. I got to sleep and out of it okay, I wasn’t as terrified as people anymore, and so many more things to mark that as long as Happiness Project was concerned to upgrade me, I was there all right.
Yet, I felt trapped still and thought maybe I was not that happy.
Didn’t want to think that my intense year of training to be happy as a waste, I reconsidered this.
Being familiar with the concept of hedonic treadmill, I thought I fell trap to it, which my other self thought was impossible because my project did not promote hedonism as much as the more fundamental skills, especially gratitude. So, that was not it, I decided.
Maybe it’s a matter of essence. For instance, the hedonistic philosophers and eudaimonistic ones differ in how they perceive the world. For the prior, happiness is the end of the line, while for the latter, happiness is the least important things in life. (More about this here).
Exhibit one: hedonistic view. If eating good food makes you happy, then you have nothing to worry about, even if life is falling apart.
Exhibit two: eudaimonistic view. If eating good food makes you happy, then it does not matter, because your whole life is falling apart.
As a person who was depressed, eating good food did make me feel better. I was not more able to make new friends, but in that one-hour span, I could feel like I might be happier. So, being happy was enough for me.
But then, after all the upgrade, I became enlightened. Eating good food still makes me feel pleasant, but I still want to achieve my dreams. And as long as I’m not there yet, I feel insecure. So, being happy is now not enough for me.
And then I thought this:
But that’s the thing about thinking easily and on the surface. You don’t get anywhere real, you don’t find your core. You end up blaming yourself for not doing things well enough, even though you know you have tried so hard. And I didn’t want to ruminate on those false things, especially if I had all the answers inside me.
So, I broke down my thoughts into WHY I think I was unhappy once more, and WHAT made me think that, and IF it was really true.
Why is gratitude easier to practice during great tragedy than in mild dissatisfaction?
Expectation. Threshold. Maybe.
In a catastrophe, a little rain is better than a hurricane. So, you’re thankful for getting the less of the two. In a comfy house where the house does not leak, slow internet is a curse during rainy days. So, if things are going well, why can’t they go better?
You expect grander things when you’re secure. You celebrate minute things when the worse is possible to take place.
In another word, good things aren’t expected in bad conditions, and better things are expected in good conditions.
But you know what, it’s totally human.
So, after Winter Lily is gone, I do expect better things to fall together. I feel like I can be a whole lot more than this. I can start finding true love and doing things that really matter now, like getting a job I love or writing a mind-blowing story. But, I am not there yet.
Thus, I feel trapped.
Are you sure you are unhappy?
I am trapped, yes. But I am happy.
It’s possible, Indiena, to feel like you’re going nowhere, while not being miserable.
I am not unhappy, I just know I could be worth more than this.
Maybe that’s the thing with us. If we really have pursued the right things, instead of the shiny things like sports car, dating Zac Efron, or the number of loves in Path, but still think we are unhappy, most probably it is stemmed from the way we use unspecific terms.
Different people have different definition of things, especially happiness, but it’s important to differentiate every essence from the others.
For example, maybe happiness for me means not feeling sad and heavy everyday. So, I am happy. And also, I can move around more light-heartedly and get things done, which means I am functioning. But, I am stuck because I am not getting anywhere with this year’s resolutions, which upsets me. However, the fact that me being upset does not hold me back from doing things shows me that I am not in trouble, that Winter Lily is still dead, and that I am actually trying to get anywhere.
And knowing that I’m actually putting efforts to get to where I want makes me feel my life has value.
(I always say that feelings have different dimensions, and that they are not to be named the same thing. That one word is supposed to be used in specific contexts. It turns out that it’s not just me being grammar nazi, it’s actually very useful to get you be assertive towards yourself. It doesn’t matter if this article says that I’m probably not nice, at least I’m doing the correct thing for myself.)
I know it’s not easy to be open to yourself about what you’re really feeling, or give a name to a different feeling each time, but you can start by tracing the situation that makes you feel that way, and in what way it is different than the other emotion, and then tell yourself how you want it to happen (or be treated) that can make yourself be more comfortable. I am sure it will help you categorise the different things you feel, and what to do about it.
I find it more useful than jumbling all the negatives into unhappy and the positives into happy. It’s the time to stop being too generic.
Do you think so?