Tag Archives: happiness
“Long before there were cities, books, and inkwells, there were clans, caves, and middens. Human societies were shaped by the exacting rules of evolution: losers became extinct, winners survived. The crucial module guaranteeing the tribes continuance was the family unit. All members prospered under this arrangement. A man was cared for by a solicitous woman and learned about the pleasures of playing with small children. A woman enjoyed the security she needed to devote her time to her offspring. Each gained a friend, lover, confidant, and helpmate. Children matured in a safe atmosphere guided by two caring role models. The tribe as a whole could count on the steady replenishment of both skilled hunters and pregnant mothers. This system works better than any alternative ever tried.
A husband and wife, over time, begin to resemble one another in physical appearance. The melding of their physiognomic features is also reflected, to varying degrees, in their souls. A woman’s presence in a man’s life tends to soften his hard edges, just as her proximity to him tends to stiffen her central core. A mate increases the possibility that each member of the couple will exhibit that difficult-to-define quality called common sense.
Men and women often arrive at conclusions and plans of action differently. Some situations are best addressed by focused, step-by-step “masculine” logic, while holistic, “feminine” intuition comprehending many components in a complex whorl is better in others. Couples benefit from having access to each other’s major hemispheric processes, which over time also strengthens their own personal minor mode. The blending of feminine knowing and masculine reason in each individual and each couple generates good sense. The wisest figure in the mythologies of ancient cultures was often a hermaphrodite- a male-female- such as Tiresias, a blind seer.
Humans belong to that class of animals called “social predators.” Their hunting strategy resembles that used by wolf packs and lion prides; all members of the social unit hunt in concert to kill prey. The protracted childhoods of human young made female participation on these forays unfeasible. The all-male hunting party came into existence in only our species and with it the ethos of the left brain.
The template for all subsequent male projects remained the original hunting party, the ultimate purpose of which was to kill. Therein lay the problem. When men began to spend extensive time in each other’s company, they amplified each other’s hunter-killer instincts. When the hunting party became an “army,” the prey became other humans. The result has been a historical record pungent with the acrid smell of fear, havoc, and death.
The greatest counterbalance to men’s death-dealing inpulse is to engage them in the lives of women and entangle their legs with children. The most dangerous result of these all-male cultures bereft of the input from women is the loss of common sense. The phrase “common sense” has several meanings. In one, it is the wisdom of all the senses, a holistic and simultaneous grasp of multiple converging determinants. In this meaning common sense is intuitive and is often the opposite of logic. In another meaning, it is the wisdom of more than one person. It is the result of the give-and-take of face-to-face conversation with another, which allows one to ‘hear oneself think.’ In this second meaning, common sense is wisdom generated ‘in common.’
Confronted by a knotty problem a person of turns to a trusted adviser, not so much to receive the solution as to engage in a problem solving dialogue. A man can resort to two entirely different advisers: his female significant other or another man. His interactions with these two most likely will be quite different.
There are certain conventions men generally obey when talking to each other. Dialogues occur in the light, with no physical contact, and both men are dressed, facing each other vertically. When a man consults his woman, it is often at night, in the dark, while both are horizontal in a position of repose, and there is frequently skin touching skin.
In both these colloquies, he talks in order to bounce his ideas off his listener and evaluate his or her response. The male adviser or woman confidante serves as his sounding board. Men, over many centuries and across a diverse range of cultures, would concur that in interpersonal matters, the best “sounding board” is often a soft pillow with a woman’s head on it. Further, this syzygy of skin, night, and goose feathers is conducive to sleep. A thoughtful person when confronted by a difficult dilemma for which others demand an immediate answer will frequently withhold his reply until after he has “slept on” it. By using this common saw, he tacitly acknowledges the vital importance of talking over the problem with his mate before falling asleep and then letting the right hemisphere dream its wisdom into his response. Come morning, horizontal thinking has worked its magic and the individual has arrived at an answer that makes common sense smile.
Men need the counsel of women to help them sort out what is important from what is folly. This need is particularly acute if the man is the head of a vast enterprise. In such situations the other men to whom he might turn for advice-those under him-will often have their own personal agendas, which may influence the opinions they give their alpha male. The wife of the alpha male is often a truer resource-sharing his life, her fate is intimately entwined with his. And the alternative kind of wisdom she brings to his problem make her counsel so uniquely valuable to him.
Few men who have enjoyed a good relationship with a woman would disagree with the proposition that a woman’s assistance in male problem-solving is indispensable. Eliminating her from the process greatly increases the possibility that a man might make a wrong-headed decision about matters of import. History books are filled with such examples.”
~Leonard Shlain, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess
Note to Self:
A little over a week ago, I emailed my ex to see if he would meet me to have a happy closing to our relationship, see my previous reblogged post. With no reponse and some acquired inner peace, I decided to retract my request.
Last night, I sent him a somewhat wine-induced email that I hope read as beautifully poetic, but who knows. I wrote it for me, thanking him and speaking my one last piece/peace, then it was goodbye. I felt good when I hit send! My heartbeat was regular, my thoughts on good realities. Sleep came easy.
As I was scribbling notes for my book in Bryant Park, I got a reply from him. Instantly, my heart stampeded and my thoughts began to howl. I steadfastly returned to finish my thoughts on book, claiming my present once more.
Before I let myself read the response, I demanded an examination of my reaction from Mind. Dutifully, We identified thoughts and their effect, We agreed to eat some food to counter the caffeine jitters (which only aggravate anxiety!) and We came to see there was a competition afoot!
Without contact, I have been free to make up many stories about my ex which all basically assume he is worse off without me than I am without him. This has regrettably brought me satisfaction. So I want to think I am doing better than he is.
His response basically confirmed what I had thought he would say: he doesn’t need any closure from me like I was asking for from him. I was furious! And why?
I have become competitive about grieving! I want to be better, faster…etc.
That is silly. I am so glad I took the time to write out my thoughts. Now I can remind myself to cease with this comparison and be happy for him and happy for myself. I have been moving on, and as my ex said, in my own way…but it is more important to focus on what I have gained now. I am good, my life is good and I have no regrets for how I have treated my ex. I forgive him and I forgive myself for all that needs forgiveness.
May we both be free from harm,
May we both be happy,
May we both be healthy and
May we both live with ease.
Sharon Salzberg, author of Lovingkindness, on mudita, “sympathetic joy,” or joy for others’ happiness, and one of the four brahma-viharas:
“Mudita depends on rapture, on our capacity to take active delight in things- and this depends upon our ability to actually let ourselves feel joy. We have to let go of feeling guilty about our own happiness or feeling threatened that it will be taken from us.”
When we can allow true happiness into our lives we can genuinely rejoice when other people are as well. Sometimes I think it has been easier for me to be happy for others, because I believed I needed too much to be happy for it ever to be true.
I was pursuing the wrong happiness for myself while at the same time experiencing real happiness for others. But as a grabbing, attachment-making person, I then came to believe making people happy was the way to my happiness. This is also not the way.
My true happiness is beckoning me to drop my needs, let go of my attachments, come the other direction. Happiness comes the stillness and openness of our being. Happiness is easy now.
To the small voice inside us telling us we should be thinking about the future,
Are we willing to sacrifice something we value for more happiness? Is this a simple question to answer? Whatever your initial response was, let us ponder the issue further.
Let me draw on the class material examples to help explain this. Consider the following examples:
Scenario 1a: You are buying a pen for $15 when someone says that you could get the same pen for $7 at the store 3 blocks away. Which pen to you purchase?
Scenario 1b: You are buying a camera for $1015 when someone says that you could get the same camera for $1007 at the store 3 blocks away? Which camera do you buy?
Discussion: Most people tend to choose the $7 pen and the $1015 camera even though the savings would be the same. As Dan Ariely said in his lecture on this, “Your checking account does not care where you saved $8,” but it likes when you save in general! So the relative difference in these scenarios can determine how we feel about the savings.
Scenario 2a: You are buying a $40,000 car and the salesperson says to you that you can get leather seats for an extra $2000. Do you do that?
Scenario 2b: You are a buying a $500 office chair and the salesperson says to you that you could get a leather chair for an extra $2000. Do you do that?
Discussion: This is not a perfect example, so let’s overlook its flaws to uncover its usefulness. We assume leather has some benefit and we assume you would be sitting in the office chair more. With these assumptions, it might seem somewhat irrational if you WOULD get the leather seats for your car but you WOULD NOT get the leather for the chair. The takeaway is that the price is the same, but when we are operating with large amounts of money, we tend to see add-on costs relatively as well.
Now consider this situation, which involved happiness as well…
Scenario 3: At which of the following companies would you prefer to work?
a) Highest paid employee makes $100K per year, mid-level workers are paid $95K and you are paid $90K.
b) You are paid $85K per year, mid-level workers are paid $75K, and lowest paid workers are paid $65K.
Discussion: According to studies on this scenario, most people would pick to work at the first company where you are making $5K more per year. In this same study, the participants were then asked in which company they would be happiest. This time, most said at the second option. Dan asked us, “are we willing to pay (i.e. sacrifice money) for an increase in happiness?” He answered for us with a depressing, “Usually not!”
What are the implications that come to mind when you muse on these situations? Are you surprised by anything here? I was shocked and horrified to some degree! I see the common person making so many bad decisions with their money these days, and I know many people who are playing with their own happiness in such a way as well.
My generation, however you want to describe it (I am 29), is not a very happy or financially well-prepared for the future. I include myself in this classification. I have been spending my money as it comes in, only occasional having to forego something because I wanted something else. But I am still living too much above my means! Thanks to this class I am using a budget more rigorously which includes saving money monthly. I am already worried about the month of April! I highly recommend the envelope method of budgeting, so you have a very tangible amount available for different categories.
Financial planning aside, I am very concerned about how I, and others, make decisions about happiness. I recently went through a break-up and have been trying to accept what happened and also understand it. Both of us were experiencing our own forms of unhappiness, and we had to each decide whether we wanted to persist with the relationship and try to address the issues we were having (believing that our relationship would ultimately bring us more happiness in the future) OR cut our losses, make no sacrifices, face no additional challenges (believing that our singleness or a future relationship would better serve our happiness). My decision was I wanted to work out our problems and his was to cut our losses. hence we are apart. Will we ever know if we made the right choice? Could it be possible that we both did? I believe that I will find happiness again, but I still believe we BOTH would have benefited from working on our relationship…but I think at this point in his life, he is perhaps not willing to make the sacrifice of his personal time/pursuits for his long-term goals of having a relationship. If I may suggest, he is, in fact, not investing in his future, preferring rather to spend his time on what he wants NOW!
To carry the metaphor perhaps too far… I am still in the process of freeing up my Investments in order to reinvest in something with a better return!
Another mathematically-minded, metaphor-making Mind
Thanks to my behavioral economics class for the inspiration for this post: Dan Ariely’s A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior
“The human brain cannot deliberately concentrate on two separate objects or ideas, no matter how dissimilar, no matter how remote, without eventually forming a connection between them.”
… Leonardo da Vinci
I believe that it also connects thoughts or memories with emotions we might be feeling, so we have to be aware of this phenomenon. Sometimes we may have to offer alternatives that can lead us closer to happiness.
You do know you talk to yourself in your mind all the time, right?
Pretty much every one of us has a non-stop stream of thoughts – a mental monologue – that has a powerful impact on how we feel, how we behave, and how we live our lives. Too often, this mental monologue consists of unhelpful thoughts that hinder our happiness and effectiveness.
Which is why it’s time to stop thinking about…
First of all, let me express how sorry I am that our Body has returned to enjoying so much coffee. You are quite jumpy as a result, I see. It seems very likely that hormones are at work today too. It is a good day to practice self and be very attentive of all that is transpiring.
You are being very willful about how We all spend Our time today. I am inclined to liken you to a petulant child who is tired of being stuck inside on a rainy day and has decided to take out his angst on everyone around him. And I, like the parent who is losing patience, have grown quite tired. By increasing Self-awareness I am attempting to help you choose to use your incredible power of thought to Our advantage, but We are still learning.
I have let you have your way for so long, Mind, and change is coming even if it is hard for you accept this. I am setting boundaries with you, because it is not OK for you to harbor so many negative thoughts about Us or other things in the world. This does not promote happiness, but only perpetuates suffering.
I have heard what you thought, and instead of commiserating with your plea for pity, I am charging you to turn your complaints into some form of constructive action. So, if you feel We erred in some way, find away to atone for this mistake. Likewise, if you creating problems because you are bored, look for an actual problem that could benefit from your attention.
My last address to you concerns your present treatment of Heart. Our dear, dear Heart has a lot of emotions to deal with today as do you. We are being mindful of the affect of hormones on all of us. But you and Heart take very different approaches to your respective concerns, so give Heart some space today. Today is not a day to analyze what is happening to Heart. The best help any of Us can offer each other is love and acceptance.
Now, let you both be off to your separate corners of consciousness, to practice being self-reliant. You are both safe here, I am watching, everything is ok here.