There’s nothing wrong with being unhappy.

My Philosophy Bookshelf(bottom)

My Philosophy Bookshelf(bottom) (Photo credit: jddunn)

I had a late night talk with some people the other day and they seemed astonished at the idea I was not blissfully happy with my life. Off the top of my head I had said I was about 60% – 40%, by which I was trying to say that I was generally more unhappy than happy.  In reflection this was probably wrong. Really I’m 30% – 30% with the 40 being “meh” – that’s neither good nor bad for those unfamiliar with the lingo.

Anyway, a large part of the rest of the night was spent “robustly” discussing the idea: One side saying that you can make yourself happy, by mindfulness and what not. The other side (me) saying that you have what you feel what you feel and that just because you pretend to be happy, doesn’t make it true. Interestingly enough it was a good argument at times with plenty of stomping about and offense – ironically enough this kind of thing makes me happy, so maybe 31%.

After it all, I still think the same thing, although I’m happy to have my mind changed. Here’s what I think:

1)      You feel what you feel and you cannot make yourself happy.

2)      There is nothing wrong with being unhappy.

Not sure if I should explain this, because I more interested in what others’ think, but I suppose I should just for clarity.

You feel what you feel and you cannot make yourself happy.

Is there such a thing as free will? It’s a big questions and I’m just going to skim around the edges, because I’m lazy today. What I want to say though is that even if there is such a thing as free will and choice, our ability to use it is very limited. I am who I am because of things that happened millions of years before I was born. Many of my feelings and thoughts come from a biological origin that I will never be able to alter – unless I can meet Dr Who and change the course of sun or something. Others come from my experiences – especially as a child: If I had watched “My little pony” more that I watched “He-man” maybe my life would be very different today. I’m also constantly affected by the behavior of my surrounding environment: if I don’t get the right things to eat and drink I get sleepy, cranky and become more of pain in the ass than usual.

In the end, after all this, what I end up feeling is really not up to me.

There is nothing wrong with being unhappy.

Oddly enough, the people who I was talking to seemed to be saying to use mindfulness as a way of being happy. Yet it seemed to miss the point in mindfulness. For me mindfulness is about experiencing what is there already, not hiding from it. If I feel unhappy then I should just be unhappy, if I feel happy, or angry, or horney, that’s okay. It’s the judging happiness as a good/bad thing that’s the problem.

I’ll throw in the over used arrow story here. A guy gets shot by and arrow and there is pain. He can’t stop that, it is what it is. But he can avoid more pain, by not judging the pain as a bad thing. The Buddha tells a more elaborate version, but I think that’s the point.

And unhappiness can be a good thing and it’s natural. Sure you don’t want to be stuck in it your whole life, but you don’t want to be suck in any emotion permanently – there is nothing more annoying than a person who is always happy; usually they’re idiots. However, being unhappy can be good motivator, it can help bring about change and can tell you when something is wrong.

There’s more I could say on these things, but I’ll leave it to people to join the dots. Agree or disagree, I’d be interested in your thoughts.

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Filed under Buddhism, philosophy, psychology

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