calling bullshit on the pursuit of happiness

31st October 2012


So here’s what I know about happiness:

  • it’s a fleeting, momentary sense of all being right with the world.
  • it passes.
  • the quest for happiness can denigrate the amazingly poignant moments in our lives that are not necessarily happy.
  • if being happy is the stick by which you are measuring success, beware of the enormous elephant of disappointment that may be lurking under your coffee table.
  • the pursuit of happiness is like crack cocaine for those of us with well developed people pleasin’ ways.
  • pretendy-happy (ie: smiling through pain, tears, frustration, anger) makes me feel fraudulent: I just know those feelings are going come back (sometimes in the shape of two thirds of a cheesecake that will be eaten, sitting on the floor in front of the fridge, after everyone in my stupid dysfunctional family has gone to bed). For example.
  • all of which makes me a little curious about people who seem to be super-happy All The Time (particularly online folks). Where do all your other feelings go?
  • the pursuit of happiness is used by the entire sales and marketing industry to create a sense of unease at the happiness we are missing out on. This is immediately followed by an offer to fill that gap with the shiny thing they just happen to be offering.
  • showing gratitude, shedding stuff, turning to Buddha, turning lemons into a mighty fine gimlet etc. provide a little dose of the happys.
  • so does a big sweary rant with a co-conspirator.
  • the pursuit of happiness can be a road fraught with acquisition and competition.
  • the times when I have not been happy have been when I have learnt and grown the most (this appears to be exponentially proportional: when it feels Epically Crap, expect mega epiphany’s to follow).

Some questions I have been pondering: can I prolong or deepen happiness? What is happiness made of? Where does it come from? Where do I feel it in my body? Can I taste it? What colour is it?  How much more happiness might there be? 

And I am coming to the realisation that there is something much deeper and more substantive than happiness, available to us hoomins. I don’t really have the words for it, other than it is a state of being suffused with contentment, intention, mindfulness, wholeness and courage. Its not subject to the whims of life, it is the antidote to comparison and want.

I can access this state when I am still. (nb: learning how to quieten my mind is a bit like trying to play darts with noodles).

My current practice is to imagine my scattered, sometimes frenzied thoughts as bubbles, that dissolve as they rise into the air.



Hello, I'm Sas Petherick. I'm a self-doubt researcher, coach and podcaster who helps thinking humans transcend self-doubt. If you'd like to receive these posts in your inbox please subscribe here (with bonus info and first notice of opportunities to work with me). PS: I totallyInstagram - join me there?


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