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How to Live Happily

Started by Bu🤠ns, January 28, 2013, 04:04:14 PM

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I found this interesting article and wanted to pass it on...

The main idea:
I realized that it's possible that when we fully expect a good thing to come in the future that our brain begins registering that thing as something we already have. To the extent that this is in fact the case, it might explain why things we never had often feel like things we have lost when we don't get them.

Wanting what we cannot have leads to entitlement:
But insofar as we have a project of thriving and being pleased, it is counterproductive, distracting, and a waste of energy to want what cannot be had. And in the vast majority of cases, we really are wise enough not to. But not when we start expecting it. Because once we start expecting something, I think our brains latch onto it like it's ours already. It is no longer one of the good things our brain accepts it cannot have "because one cannot get everything one could want". Suddenly, this is one of the things we convince ourselves we must have. We perceive it as an entitlement.

Regarding loss:
What kills us are the losses, real or imaginary...But however it gets there and however we experience it, having a good thing we believe belongs to us taken away has great power to make us miserable. And I suspect that when we are denied something we expected to have, emotionally and/or cognitively, that thing feels like something we had and lost.

And here's the irrational part. We become so obsessed with that which we feel has been robbed from us that we lose focus of all the other good things that we could have instead.

And if you have a genuinely good thing and you irretrievably lose it (or if it is best you let it go for the future prospect of something better), don't feel entitled to it. Accept that it is gone. Actively cherish what you had. Celebrate its positive and enduring place in your life. Memorialize it. Keep it. Your hurting brain is going to cast about for explanations of why you're hurting. It's going to be frustrated and terrified by its helplessness to retrieve what it lost and to keep things from being lost. In order to regain your sense of power, you will be tempted to blame yourself because subconsciously you're probably reasoning that if it's your fault, that means you were powerful after all and that means maybe next time you won't blow it and lose something special. But you're not omnipotent. You cannot keep all good things.

Regarding realtionships:

Expectations don't just misdirect our focus so that we waste our energies and squander opportunities. They also corrupt love. Expectations that someone who is wrong for us is the only one who could ever please us keep us trapped in unhealthy relationships. Expectations we can change someone make us resent them when they don't change. Expectations that our love will match some ideal we have built up in our minds make us dissatisfied with the rich reality of an actual love we actually have with actual people.

And even when we are with good people, who we should love, we ruin it if we start putting expectations on them as to how they should feel or express their love. When we decide "my lover will do this great thing for me" we now resent them when they don't do it–even if they never promised it or never should have promised it, given who they are.

Desire and love:
I'm not saying "resign from desire". No. Desire. But remember that your desires can be satisfied a million ways, not just one. Desire kinds of good, not their particular instantiations. Desire love. But don't try to predict or expect or feel entitled to it from any particular person or through any particular gesture. Just constantly seek out good people and offer them your best.


Great article, thanks for sharing!  This really resonates with me for obvious reasons, and I think, begins to explain how I've been able to find and maintain happiness.  I think a couple of months ago when shit was really hitting the fan with my marriage, I went through a process where I actively tried to "reset" my brain in a way that is in the same spirit as this article.  To strip away expectations that are tied in with other people.  Happiness is found in living in the moment, not getting hung up on what you think should or needs to happen tomorrow. 

When you adopt that mindset, it is remarkably easy to be happy in the middle of a storm.
Cynicism is a blank check for failure.



I think I'd like to test out some of these ideas...really to just keep them in the back of my mind when it comes to those moments when I'm feeling bad and am not sure why.  If I am sure why, inquire as to what am I adding to the predicament that might be exasperating the situation.