My Obsession with Happiness
Every once in a while someone asks me, “Why are you so obsessed about being happy?” The answer is pretty straightforward – at least to me. I’m obsessed with happiness because I spent most of my life living in fear. I lived in constant fear of being judged, being rejected, and being found not worthy. I obsessed over pleasing others at the expense of my own emotional well-being. I lived under the illusion that if others were happy, I’d be happy.
Perhaps the biggest reason for my obsession with happiness is that I spent most of my life having an on-again, off-again relationship with depression. I lost count of how many times I thought about killing myself, but in an ironic twist, the fear that ruled my life also saved it. I was so afraid of upsetting my family I couldn’t bring myself to follow through with my desire to end my life.
We live in a society where most of us believe that life is supposed to be a struggle and that true happiness is only temporary, or only achievable after we die. We’re taught that if we care about how we feel, we’re being selfish, and that selfishness is bad. We conditioned to think that the only “virtuous” way to make money is by doing things we don’t like. Psychologists and mental health experts advise us to set low expectations for ourselves to ensure we’re not disappointed. Those who dare to dream big and who tell others of their dreams are ridiculed and told to “get real.” And then, when those dreamers succeed and become rich, they’re hated and vilified.
The result? We learn to hate ourselves and our lives, and we spend our lives being miserable.
According to Newtonian physics, every action is met with an equal and opposite reaction. Using that logic, it seems only natural that with so many people living in fear, anger, and misery, a whole industry would emerge to help us find the happiness that seems so elusive. Books about happiness frequently top bestseller lists, and billions of dollars are spent every year in the pursuit of happiness. I personally have read many books on the subject. I’ve also attended seminars, lectures, and even socials that talk about the science and mechanics of happiness.
Since I’m something of a nerd who totally geeks out over things that would make most people yawn, I have to say that I enjoyed learning about the science and mechanics of happiness. However, I’m also an empath, so I care a great deal about feeling as well as knowledge. Truth be told, I actually care more about how I feel than how much I know. Consequently, one of the things I noticed about the seminars and lectures I attended was that they were pretty dry.
Here’s what I observed: While the speakers talked about happiness, there was virtually no emotion behind the delivery. The talks were frequently mechanical and clinical. Sure, there were jokes that made people laugh and there were the occasional ah-ha moments, but for the most part, what I felt from the audience was boredom and bewilderment. Want some more irony? If you want to see an audience filled with ‘deer-in-the-headlight’ expressions, go to a lecture on happiness. The few smiling faces you see will likely belong to fellow geeks who enjoy listening to the “why’s” and results of clinical research. The rest leave feeling like they’ve somehow been short-changed. They went hoping to feel happy, and instead left feeling disappointed.
That’s not to say that there aren’t wonderful books and speakers who totally nail the happiness question. There are, but what I’ve discovered from my own research and observations (along with plenty of trial and error) is that most of us aren’t pursuing the mechanics of happiness, we’re pursuing the feeling of happiness. Someone can talk until he’s blue in face about the how’s of happiness, but if those how’s don’t connect with us on an emotional level, what’s the point?
We are creatures of emotion. Logic may help us navigate those emotions and even make good decisions, but ultimately, the most important decisions in our lives are based on emotion. Our thinking is influenced by how we feel, and how we feel is influenced by what we think. Thought and emotion are inextricably linked, and that’s what I focus on. I care about what my clients, students, and audiences THINK and FEEL, not what they know. There’s plenty of knowledge out there for those who want to absorb it, but those who understand the true nature of our human experience understand that our feelings and emotions are what we care about the most. The rest is just a distraction.
For the record, my obsession with happiness is deeply rooted in my desire to FEEL what others feel, and to see those who were once disconnected from their passion, joy, and fun to fall madly, passionately, and deeply in love with themselves. I care about following the desires of my own heart and helping others do the same. I get intoxicated with the emotion I feel when someone knows how to BE who they want to be and they pursue their dreams. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through my passionate obsession with FEELING happy, it’s this: When you love you, the world does too.
So remember, it’s the feeling you’re after more than the knowledge. Knowledge is good, and it can help you get to where you want to go, but if you want to skip the years of research and go straight to feeling good, start with paying attention to your thoughts and emotions. Where one goes, so does the other. Remember that next time you want to feel happy.
Namaste, my dear friends. Until next time.
About the Author
Appio Hunter is an author, speaker, spiritual guide, and self-described champion for living joyously. He uses his seminars and workshops to facilitate conversations about authenticity, alignment, and the daily experience of community, connection, and joy. Appio is also a weekly columnist with The Good Men Project and co-host of the Real Men Feel Show along with his good friend Andy Grant.