After writing last week's post I have heard some interesting views and opinions that challenge the meaning and value of happiness. This information led me to conduct some further research on the topic and I would like to share the insights that I have gained through my quest for greater understanding.
My CBT instructor shared a viewpoint about happiness that describes it as a shallow and selfish pursuit that does not contribute in any way to creating a better world. My perception is that he sees happiness as an inward focused, almost narcissistic phenomenon. Call it navel-gazing, if you will. I would like to posit my response to his comments in this blog post and clarify my own views about happiness.
First of all, I totally agree that if happiness is defined as a form of shallow and selfish navel gazing, it is not something to be sought after. Nobody wants to be perceived as frivolous and inconsequential. However, this is not how I portrayed happiness in my last post. I would like to repeat the definition that was given by Lyubomirsky: "the experience of joy, contentment or well-being, combined with a sense that one's life is good, meaningful and worthwhile." This explanation points more to a sense of fulfillment than a hollow, trivial emotion.
In my research on the meaning of happiness, I came across an interesting Greek word that was part of ancient philosophy dating back to the times of Plato and Aristotle. The word is eudaimonia. The meaning of eudaimonia is 'happiness' or 'welfare'; however, more accurate translations have been proposed to be 'human flourishing, prosperity' and 'blessedness'. Eudaimonia is not seen as a state of mind but rather an activity and the achievement of a “complete life”.
Seeing happiness as achieving a "complete life", definitely legitimizes it as a goal to pursue and attain. I don't believe that this broader definition of happiness would be viewed as a barrier even for my CBT instructor and others who view it as selfish and shallow.
Perhaps exploring what would constitute a "complete life" could be the focus of a future blog post. I would welcome your comments on this question, and together, we can come up with some satisfactory definitions and strategies for achieving a complete life. I look forward to hearing your input!