More Americans are seeing a therapist than ever before, and yet rates of unhappiness have never been higher. Perhaps it’s time for a different approach.
Striving to be happy
Aristotle, who thought more about the meaning of happiness than perhaps anyone before or since, introduced an important distinction into philosophy: the difference between intermediate and final ends. Every time we do something it’s for a reason. When we get onto the bus, for example, it’s so we can get work. However, we’re not going to work for its own sake, but to earn money, and we don’t earn money for its own sake, but to by food, and we don’t buy food for its own sake but rather to be healthy, etc.
When we look at it, we find that almost everything we do every day is done for an ‘intermediate’ end and the list of final ends, those that are valuable in and of themselves, is very small. One of them looms especially large: ‘happiness’.
The irony is terrible. We spend most of our waking lives doing things that make us miserable, all in a fruitless struggle to feel happy.
What makes us happy?
The key to finding happiness lies in another insight of Aristotle. To be truly happy we need to cultivate good relationships with other people. From my study of human nature, I would go further. In my opinion, Nothing in this world gives us meaning except the relationships that we have with other people.
Only by forming and maintaining relationships will you attain happiness. No amount of money, success, or fame will get you there. What is more, with good relationships, you can achieve true happiness without them.
However, that’s easier said than done. Not only are Americans unhappier than ever, they’re lonelier than ever too. (Of course, we know that one is causing the other). How can you form the relationships that you need to achieve true happiness?
The answer lies in learning to control feelings of anger and resentment that have become deep rooted and habitual. If you have had negative experiences in your relationships, then these feelings will inevitably intrude into every relationship you try to form. Eventually, a vicious cycle develops. With each successive relationship that turns poisonous, you build up more negative relationship-destroying emotions that make the next time around even harder.
How I can help?
The antidote for resentment is understanding. By reviewing past relationships, and understanding where the other party was coming from, you can gradually remove resentment from your heart. Then you can begin building new relationships freed from crippling emotional baggage.
Ultimately, to find happiness we must approach ourselves as human beings, with a soul as well as a mind. Other therapists might approach you as a machine and look for the right knob to tweak to remove the sadness. In therapy with me, we will work together to help you on the journey to true human happiness. Reach out today.
Dr. Robert Marselle earned his doctorate degree in psychology (Psy.D.) from Ryokan College in Los Angeles and his Masters in Counseling Psychology from La Jolla University. He is a licensed clinical psychologist and a Registered Nurse (RN) in the state of California and is a certified TeleMental Health Provider by the TeleMental Health Institute, TMHI.