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Why do we chase happiness?

If each emotion we experience is for a reason then why do we try to not to experience some of them as they are? Why there is a race for happiness out of the entire range of emotions? Is it a new phenomena or has the happiness always been sought the most? Is it a human need ?


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  • Jan 13 2012: It feels good. It feels natural. It feels as though that is supposed to be the normal condition of life for everyone.
    I think it is achievable. Using truth in communication - full-time - is one way to achieve it, I think. Using positive words and committing positive acts is another way. We have the power to cause happiness in others and in ourselves. We can use those powers and freedoms we currently possess to generate happiness for ourselves and others.
    • Jan 14 2012: Thanks.
      "Using truth in communication - full-time - is one way to achieve it"....well Rhona, this thought is debatable. The full time truth to self is different from full time truth to other?
      • Jan 16 2012: Manuj, People who treasure truth, know it when they are expressing themselves. If we attune ourselves to others, we may often discern truth in the expressions of others. Listening, for example is a useful thing to do, when one wants to hear, to know truth about something. Manuj, you can do some personal experiments with truth, e.g., speak truth only for 24 hours and observe what is going on. Thank you for expressing your true thoughts here. Best wishes.
        • Jan 17 2012: Rhona, the last time i experimented with truth i created a storm. Nevertheless, i felt light and aligned with life.
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        Jan 17 2012: Hi Manuj,
        You ask... "the full time truth to self is different from full time truth to other?"

        Can we honestly be truthful with others if we are not truthful with ourselves? Can we honestly be happy or content with ourselves if we do not share that with others? Can we give something to others that we cannot, or will not give to our "self"? Do you think/feel that perhaps those who are happy/content/truthful in themselves are the ones who can honestly give that to others? Perhaps everything has to start within our "self"? Is giving or "being" something with our "self" so much different than giving something or "being" a certain way with others?
        • Jan 17 2012: What i meant with it is that one must be absolutely true to himself, however, one should rather choose silence over expressing a hurtful truth to others.
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          Jan 19 2012: Colleen, i love this bit of '"everything has to start within our "self"
          I also think that you have to be before you are.
          And you can only be to the extent that you are.
          you therefore cannot give sth you dont have,

          is it then true that you cannot experience something outside your mentality ??
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          Jan 20 2012: There is no such thing as being truthful to oneself. First, the aforementioned statement implies that there is an essential/constant self. The self, generally speaking, is merely a social construction we impose upon our perception of the world. In short, the self is a convenient fiction we frequently refer to in social situations (i.e. the workplace, social gatherings, etc.), and at times, this narrative undergoes various paradigm shifts: childhood, adolescence, and so on. At this juncture, it would be helpful to paraphrase something Foucalt poignantly touched upon: I am not who I was four years ago. In sum, one can never be "true to oneself, because there is no self to begin with. And Happiness is a lie, etc.
        • Jan 21 2012: Eduardo: Of course there is a self. If the self is a construct (I would argue not so much a social construct as a mental and emotional one), then that is what 'the self' means and is. if the narrative that informs it changes, and thereby alters the construct, that just means the 'self' is not static. It doesn't mean the self doesn't exist. Just because you are not who you were four years ago doesn't mean there wasn't a self then and isn't a self now.
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          Jan 21 2012: Deborah: If the self is fabricated, then does that not presuppose that when we are referring to the self, we are referring to some misconceived understanding of what we call our conscious experience. In a word, does an amnesiac have a sense of self? Human beings have to trick themselves into thinking that there is in fact a constant, unchanging core--who they are, so to speak--that perceives/observes the external world, whilst simultaneously synthesizing disparate bits of sense datum (i.e. watching a movie requires auditory/visual synthesis, etc.). I'm merely arguing that the impetus for seeking a core "self" actually lies in our instinctual fear of death. Humans have a primordial urge to anchor their existence to some stationary, and reliable sense of "self". The self, in a metaphorical sense, is merely an onion composed of various layers of social conditioning. Sometimes, it's a hard pill to swallow, but it this is also something we can't ignore: the "self" you construct for yourself is merely a combination of mannerisms, and abstractions you have retained in your long term memory. Who you are is wholly contingent upon what you have experienced. However, what you have experienced is "retained" in a curious fashion. In the field of neuroscience, the experts generally agree that we are only able to process 15% of the information from sense stimuli, all other sense data is lost in static. Roughly speaking, if we do have a self, it is a self that is based of off a fractured and opened ended narrative--a narrative that is loosely correlated to the actually of reality. "Most of our lives are lived out in our imaginations". The internalized life is something worth looking into, it is a world rife with dead ends and absurdity.
        • Jan 21 2012: Eduardo: You completely miss my point. Whatever the self is, that's what it is. That's how it exists. Of course who we are is contingent upon what we have experienced. So what?Why do you assume it is some kind of misconceived notion just because it is a construct? why is it a dead end?Why absurd? If people are mistaken as to its constancy, they are mistaken, but something called the self is perceived. And, to go back to the original statement you were arguing against, it is possible for us to be truthful, or not truthful, to that self. Maybe even because our self is the sum of our sense and experience and memory and all of those things can be manipulated by our own brains, it is possible for us to deceive ourselves, too. When we don't, we are being truthful. It doesn't matter what the self actually is. It just matters, at least while we are alive, that it exists, because it's the only way we have to perceive what we are at any one time.

          I don't have to trick myself into believing I have a constant, unchanging core. I'm not even the same person I was a week ago. I'm not scared of death (dying, yes, but not of not existing). Not since I left religion and became an atheist, anyway. :)
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          Jan 22 2012: Deborah: Certain religious belief systems are automatically exclusionary (some faiths have a built in "us versus them" mentality). I've noticed numerous instances--throughout history--in which religious ideologies served as main causes for the conflict; the crusades come to mind, the war on terror, etc. Perceived difference has always been a fundamental facet of a "dualistic" form of existence. A daulistic approach of existence argues that the internal self/external world dichotomy is a necessary truth. Upanishadic philosophies (that, in some sense, find commonality with modern quantum physics) posit that existence itself is "non-dualistic"; in other words, there is no "me" within the context of "the universe", there is just "being" in itself--it's just something to think about.
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        Jan 17 2012: AWWWWW .....Got it!

        I thought you were suggesting that truth with our "self" is different than truth with others.

        What you meant is that we can choose to be silent with our truth rather than sharing information that might hurt others. So, the truth, as we percieve it, may not really be "different", but we can choose not to express it?.....I agree:>)
        • Jan 17 2012: Yes :-)... and others can read the silence (sooner or later) without having their ego hurt by the truth.
        • Jan 20 2012: When you are coming from a place of peace and non-judgement you are able to be honest with others without harming their egos but rather as a source of empowerment and change. If your true goal is increased peace and harmony than honesty is the most powerful transformative tool in the human conscious experience.
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          Jan 20 2012: 'Honesty' is an inflated, and misused concept that tacitly suggests something utterly ridiculous: to be 'honest' is to openly convey the 'facts' without dissemblance. How can someone possibly hope to live up to such an arbitrary standard. Honesty presupposes that we understand some 'deeper' truth of the external/internal world. I sad truth is that we have no such understanding. We can only give our best guesses. Instead of saying that we should be 'honest' with others, one should really be saying 'lets be reasonably deceptive with one another'. Conrad had much to say on this issue in his novella Heart of Darkness. Monolithic civilizations that have utilized monetary systems have always had a curious way of operating; ultimately, society expects its citizens to willfully deceive themselves into thinking fiat currency (emphasis on the fiat) has value. This self deception--concomitant with the mutual deception betwixt buyer and seller--is quintessential to the steady operation of the machinery of the modern (and steadily declining) technocratic empire.
        • Jan 21 2012: 'When you are coming from a place of peace and non-judgement you are able to be honest with others without harming their egos but rather as a source of empowerment and change.'

          It is not possible to try to change someone without first judging them, or why would you see the need? It is also rarely possible to accept a need for change in yourself and effect that change without a hit to the ego. But so what? Do our egos need that level of protection? I'm not disagreeing that we should be kind, but in my experience people who attempt to change others without hurting anyone's feelings usually come across as incredibly patronising in the process.
        • Jan 21 2012: Eduardo: you make a lot of assumptions in your assertions. :/

          'to be 'honest' is to openly convey the 'facts' without dissemblance.' How does conveying the facts (as we perceive them) with tact or consideration or even analysis make that communication dishonest?

          'How can someone possibly hope to live up to such an arbitrary standard.' It is context that renders such a standard arbitrary or not. A request for facts alone from a witness in a law court, for example, is not at all setting a standard of honesty arbitrarily. Also, this seems to argue that we should not expect anyone to be honest, because it is not possible for them to be honest. But that is only true based on your given definition of honesty, which is not at all the way most people define it.

          'Honesty presupposes that we understand some 'deeper' truth of the external/internal world.' No, it doesn't. Honesty is not at all defined by how clearly we understand the truth fo the matter. Honesty is reporting the matter as we understand it. Complete honesty means that there is no difference between what we perceive to be the truth of a matter and what we communicate about that matter. We add nothing. We leave nothing out. If we are mistaken, then we are, but if we delivered what we perceived to the truth, then we were not dishonest.
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          Jan 21 2012: " Honesty is reporting the matter as we understand it. Complete honesty means that there is no difference between what we perceive to be the truth of a matter and what we communicate about that matter."
          Deborah: I find the aforementioned statement quite problematic; it presupposes that there is flawless translation in terms of externalizing internal thought processes. This, unfortunately, is not the case--I am referring to linguistic barriers. The constraints of language force us to be "reasonably deceptive". You can never hope to be "honest" with anyone, because language forces us to push our thoughts through the liminal threshold of vocal/written expression. Once an internal abstraction is molded into the metaphorical box of a word, something magical happens: the meaning of your original sentiment takes on a whole new life. In essence, the word's prefigured meaning covertly influences the meaning of your original 'intention'. Therefore, systems of language have their own particular influence on expression--they end up readjusting and re-configuring the original "message".
        • Jan 21 2012: Eduardo: It doesn't presuppose anything. And communicating poorly is not deception. Failure to entirely translate thought into words is not deception. Deception must involve intent to deceive, or there is no deceit. If you had said that we cannot hope to perfectly convey our thoughts, well fair enough. But to say we can't hope to be honest is just ridiculous. Honestly does not depend on perfect expression or perfect understanding - only an absence of deliberate deception or omission.

          Does it ever occur to you that fiercely pulling apart words this way is counter-productive to real discussion? Serously, in a discussion on the statement, 'we can only be true to others if we are true to ourselves', a deconstruction of the concept of self is about the least useful distraction I can think of. In order to have the discussion at all, one has to assume (even if only hypothetically) the existence of a self. And that seems a reasonable place to discuss from, seeing as every functioning human being in the world (including you who believes it is delusion) has a sense of self.
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          Jan 21 2012: We are still always engaged in various degrees of self deception. The mind has an instinctual drive to associate sense stimuli with elaborate false narratives; human beings associate emotional/anthropomorphic characteristics to the objects-or events-we perceive (i.e. the color red and its correlation with 'passion'). The problem arises when perceived difference facilitates conflict. When humans begin to realize that constructs like 'identity' and self are merely tools used by the power dynamic in order to keep population centers fragmented, we can start looking forward to positive social change.
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        Jan 17 2012: Manuj,
        I believe we came full circle with part of this topic. I percieve the practice of "reading the silence", as an underlying perception or intuition. When/if we are in tune with all emotions, we have opened the heart and mind to accept more information, which is carried by the energy that flows through our body/mind. So, rather than chasing happiness, we can recognize the energy of happiness/contentment flowing through us?
        • Jan 17 2012: Yes, i thought that everybody here is slowly zeroing in from extreme emotions to fine emotions like contentment/bliss/peace till i saw Amanda taking it to another level by asking 'Do we want to be that content all the time?"....haha, now, that makes me feel like we came full circle with part of this topic.

          Practice of reading silence would be very interesting. I feel that more communication happens by the silence between words and letters than by the words themselves. However, one needs to be very very sensitive to read silence even without words. You, ladies, are good at that.

          "When/if we are in tune with all emotions, we have opened the heart and mind to accept more information, which is carried by the energy that flows through our body/mind." ..wow, Thanks.
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        Jan 17 2012: I agree Manuj, that communication often happens in silence...between words. We need to be able to feel, or intuit on that level, for that to happen...as you say...very sensitive:>)

        So, back to happiness/contentment. Most people on this thread agree that it is something within ourselves, rather than external....correct?

        What do you think and feel about this statement?
        We can obtain, sustain and experience happiness/contentment to the extent that we are willing and able to explore within our "self"?
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          Jan 18 2012: Well put Coleen !

          And may I add,.... whatever other emotion and or feeling we would like to experience in our lives both positive or otherwise !

          Remember, its the intention & attention that governs the intensity !

          This explains why say, two people may go through the same experience whether good or otherwise but experience it on differing levels of intensity.
        • Jan 18 2012: Colleen: "Most people on this thread agree that it is something within ourselves, rather than external....correct? " yes, thats why we dont need to chase it, just stop and see.

          "We can obtain, sustain and experience happiness/contentment to the extent that we are willing and able to explore within our "self""...well, like i said, there is nothing to be obtained and sustained, we just need to stop and see that what is, is. It can only be experienced with in. The challenge in sustaining it is not in making an effort but in stopping ourselves from making efforts to obtain it....even from with in.
      • Jan 17 2012: Manuj, "......you created a storm...." We have a choice about what to focus on. Sometimes we focus on positive truths and sometimes we focus on negative truths. It's a free country. Take your choice. You do have the option of focusing on positive truths and expressing them. You might want to try that experiment. Truth is the main thing. As you said, you got some substantial benefit from your truth expressions. Feeling "light and aligned with life" seems pretty valuable to me. Happy today.
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          Jan 18 2012: Thanks Rhona,

          Ultimately, the choice is yours.Focus on the good and experience it with the intensity of the focus.You may however experience things that you never focused on (read no so good),but these will not afflict you intensly cause your focus was elsewhere.

        • Jan 18 2012: Rhona:
          From my experience...a truth is a truth...there are no layers of good/bad or positive/negative. If we begin to layer it, then our power of inner vocabulary takes over and begins to justify every layer of it to ourselves. However, the expression of it to others can be termed as harmful or beneficial in that time and space... thats the only choice we have...to express it or to choose silence.
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          Jan 18 2012: Rhona, Mwenjew and Manuj,
          I like this idea that is developing:>) I agree Mwenjew...what we focus on expands:>)

          What happens when/if we do not need to label experiences/situations as good/bad/positive/negative? What happens when/if we view a situation from a neutral place in our "self" without labeling it? What if we suspend our "truth", as we may label it, and percieve something from a different level of understanding?

          I think of my near fatal head/brain injury and cancer for example. I wouldn't exactly say these were "good" experiences, nor would I say they were "bad" or "negative" experiences. They were simply experiences...life challenges that needed to be met in some way.

          As Mwenjew insightfully says..."Ultimately, the choice is yours".:>)
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          Jan 19 2012: Colleen, me thinks that by default, human beings simply expresses how a certain experience makes them feel and thus the labelling, which in my view falls as good or not good but we give them all sorts of names in a bid to specify the particular feeling.

          Am impressed by how you handled the injury and cancer experience, product of elevated thought, where you are the captain of your ship and determine how a certain experience is going to affect you instead of the reverso, being at the mercy of whatever happens to you
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          Jan 19 2012: Mwenjew,
          Me thinks that humans often want to "KNOW" and be able to define the answer NOW, and that is why we sometimes get attached to labeling...as a way to "prove" that we KNOW the answer? And who are we "proving" that to...our "self"? I believe that when we are content/happy in our "self" there is nothing to prove, nothing to label, and we can detach from any attachment to believing we "know" anything:>)

          Thanks for your kind words regarding the injury and cancer exploration. The head/brain injury was an excellent lesson in detachment from labeling, detachment from expectations, detachment from "knowing" anything at all!!! Interesting, because at the same time, I was divorcing after 24 years of marriage and my mother and father died around the same time...talk about lessons in detachment!!! LOL:>)

          After the head injury and craniotomy though...after living...when they said I would not live ...after being unconscious and hooked up to life support systems for a couple weeks... they told me I would never function "normally" again. One question to myself at the time was..."WHAT THE HECK DOES THAT MEAN"???

          At first I could not even walk or talk, so I detached from what I was PRIOR to the injury. I detached from any espectations of what I might be, or how I might function in the future. I detached from anything I had previously known about my "self", and dedicated myself to a new life exploration. I was content/happy in believeing that I would function to the best of my ability at any given time regardless of the circumstances.

          This, I believe to be the underlying sense of happiness/contentment that is within all of us. We do not have to chase it. We have that energy flowing through all of us:>)
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          Jan 20 2012: Colleen, WOW !

          I stand here .had to give u a standing ovation, least i could do. speechless, with no right words to express what I feel for you right now as they would seem sooo feeble next to your deeds.

          You say, I believe that when we are content happy in our self there is nothing to prove, nothing to label, and we can detach from any attachment to believing we know anything.

          This is absolutely amazing. I like this new concept of detachment, as it provides you with the CHOICE of what you would like to reattach to for your benefit. And even after all you went through you still believed that you would function to the BEST of your ability REGARDLESS OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES !

          Colleen, I feel humbled and honoured to draw from your fountain of knowledge.

          Keep sharing.
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          Jan 21 2012: Dear Mwenjew,
          Thank you for your kind words AND standing ovation:>)

          There are, of course, many people in our world who face unbelievable challenges in their lives, and mine seems insignificant. One thing I often do, when facing my own challenges, is read about people who have moved through incredible situations, and it seems to minimizes my challenge. Another thing I often do when challenged, is volunteer to work with people who are much more challenged in his/her life. Change our thoughts, we can change our feelings, and change our lives. My purpose in sharing my life adventures, is to help inspire others in moving through their challenges....it's pretty simple:>)

          Yes, I believe that when we are content, there is nothing to prove and we can detach from any attachment. You know this is not a new idea...right? This information has been passed down by teachers, psychologists, philosophers, sages, guides and gurus throughout history. I'd like to claim that it is my original idea, but I cannot:>)

          Yes, we can make choices regarding how we accept and deal with the challenge. With my head/brain injury, for example, I did not consciously "choose" the circumstances. And I cannot deny the incredible lessons I learned from being fully present with the situation.

          For example, I had the opportunity to move from a child like state to adulthood TWICE in this same body...how cool is that!!! First when I was born and secondly after the head/brain injury.

          When I regained consciousness after the injury and craniotomy, I was AGAIN in a child like state emotionally and physically. Somewhere in the back of my mind (such as it was) I remembered that I learned to walk and talk before, and I believed I could do it again. I wasn't sure to what level, but I was going to do the best I could. Interestingly enough, a few months later, cognitive tests indicated that I was high average/superior!!! How the heck did THAT happen??? LOL:>)
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        Jan 18 2012: Manuj,
        You write..."The challenge in sustaining it is not in making an effort but in stopping ourselves from making efforts to obtain it". I certainly don't think/feel we need to chase happiness/contentment, and we can stop "chasing" if we choose to.

        I agree with Mwenjew's statement however..."Remember, its the intention & attention that governs the intensity !" In that respect, I believe that sustaining happiness/contentment is supported with our intention, attention, mindfulness, awareness, etc., and that takes a certain amount of effort, don't you think?

        This is what you wrote yesterday:>)
        "ohh yes Colleen ! I am trying to explore, so far so good, but Its bloody effortful".

        I agree...exploring, attention, intention, awareness, mindfulness, etc. takes effort:>)
        • Jan 18 2012: yes ....there's constant effortfulness in sustaining a state of effortlessness.
          There is a very thin line. There is a thought involved even in stopping the mind from thinking. The more we do this mental walk the thinner the rope becomes...and sooner we reach a state of a ropeless walk, the mind gets astonished... gets awakened just to make the bloody rope appear again...and so on and so forth. I dont know what happens after that, haven't gone ahead of this yet.
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          Jan 19 2012: Brilliant !
          >>..."The challenge in sustaining it is not in making an effort but in stopping ourselves from making efforts to obtain it".

          I think this is excellent, its a good indication of our true state of being.

          Manuj, ROPELESS WALK - love it !
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          Jan 20 2012: We can never stop chasing any facet of our perception, we are literally living in the past--and always trying to catch up to the 'present'. In other words, I'm referring to the millisecond lapse between events that have already occurred, and when your brain processes this information. We are chasing our perception of reality itself.
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        Jan 18 2012: Manuj,
        Yes...it may take effort if it is a new concept we are embracing:>)

        The more we practice, the less effort it takes and it becomes a natural, normal state after awhile....in my humble perception and experience:>)
        • Jan 20 2012: Thanks Colleen. Come to think of a new concept...How about if the humans race becomes emotionless by dissolving all extreme or subtle emotions? Will we become robots ? Animals ?Trees ? Rocks ? Rivers ?

          That also makes me think, that i am yet to see an alien with extreme emotions in any sci-fi film, except Mars Attack. In ET, the emotions of the alien are very subtle. I think film makers are some of the most important people in shaping societies. What do you think? Do we need a film "In pursuit of nothingness"?

          Why TED allows only three layers of dissection of a thought? Cant put fourth thread without breaking continuity of thoughts.
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      Jan 21 2012: Dear Manuj,
      I'm honestly not very fond of your "new concept"..."is the humans race becomes emotionless by dissolving all extreme or subtle emotions?" Why would we want to do that to ourselves? I LOVE experiencing all the emotions, because it reminds me that I am alive and living life with gusto!

      I agree with you that films contribute to shaping societies. Many times, in sci-fi films, we see things that much later are proven with scientific research:>) Did you see Avatar? Emotions CAN be subtle. Just because we don't express emotions with extreme outward actions/reactions does not mean we don't feel emotions on a very deep level. In fact, maybe it is a deeper level, when we're not "spending" the energy with all the common outward manifestations? That's one reason I keep using the word contentment rather than happiness. The feeling of "contentment" seems to be more subtle and quiet, while the feeling of happiness seems to be more acting/reacting...what do you think?

      Yes, TED allows only three layers of comments, and I realize that Rhona will get the notice for this response...oh well....you may get it eventually Manuj:>)
      • Jan 24 2012: Colleen, Just reached my maximum in thumbs up for you so you will have to receive my thumbs up using extrasensory perception. That may be a more efficient way to communicate anyway. I think today we may as well create fun-filled fabulous days for ourselves and everyone we encounter. Happy Right Now.
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          Jan 24 2012: Rhona,
          I got it by ESP...LOL:>)
          The thumbs up are fun, because it reminds me that I'm having discussions with like minded people. That however (discussions with like minded people) creates the pleasure and joy of this TED experience...thank you for that:>)
      • Jan 25 2012: Again I could not give you a thumbs up. So............:>)

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