Throughout human history, many people have reflected on the concept of happiness. Have you ever tried it? During my research, I have realized that thinking about happiness (in the philosophical sense of the word) is a difficult task, because one does not know what exactly to focus on.
So, it is legitimate for any thinker to ask… What should I focus on and what concepts should I take into account to study happiness? Well, to begin a reflection on any concept, you have to ask yourself about everything that that concept is not. And even more so if we are dealing with the elusive concept of happiness.
So I did it and I hoped that, as in a winnowing process, in which the chaff is separated from the grain by throwing the mixture into the air, the breeze would carry away the trash (that is, everything that is not happiness) and what interests us. , the grain (happiness), would fall into the basket (my mind), finally being exposed to be processed (analyzed).
- Related article: “About happiness: what is it that we all seek?”
What is not happiness?
The first mistake is assuming that the social imaginary of “happiness” is correct..
When we think of “happiness,” very colorful and bright images come to mind, of people doing activities in which they apparently have a good time, in which these people are free: photos of smiles, rainbows, clown noses and emoticons crying with laughter. I invite you to take the test, stop reading and type the word “happiness” in the Google Images search engine. What does this search teach us? Exactly what I have described, and if that were not enough, they propose concepts that could (or should) be related, such as friend, day, birthday, love, family, wedding, Coca-cola, and a long etcetera.
And isn’t that happiness? Partly yes, but that also means partly no. That is why we should not let the media or “what everyone says” make us believe that we can only be happy on sunny days, on our birthday, or when we drink Coca-Cola.
Since we can remember, humans have used concepts to understand the world., and happiness is nothing more than another concept. Has no one realized that each society modulates concepts to its liking and convenience?
I write all this to make you see that behind the smiles there are tears, that after every day comes the night, and that, hidden under the window of “perfect happiness”, there are many interests that our society is not interested in admitting. Although it is now that I realize, the opposite of happiness is unhappiness, and nothing else.
So I propose that we doubt everything we think we know about “happiness.” if we have not reflected on it before, since that leads us to a confusion that, apart from mixing concepts, leads us to live a life in search of something that we do not even know what it is.
This is how I unraveled the concept of happiness a little, on one of my retreats to the mountains, talking with my uncle about the subject when I realized (well, I realized) all this and the idea that I have called: the unhappy joy and happy sadness. I present this idea because I feel that it must be made clear once and for all that being sad does not mean being unhappy. They are parallel concepts that make no sense to compare because they are simply not part of the same plane: the first is an emotion, and the second is a feeling.
- Related article: “Differences between emotions and feelings”
Sadness and unhappiness: a fundamental distinction
Too often, and more so in psychology, these concepts of emotion and feeling are confused, which with examples we could understand as different things: when I am walking through the mountains with my dog and we see a snake, an intense mental state occurs in us that It spontaneously arises in the limbic system (in charge of emotions) that makes us react with surprise and fear; two basic emotions (universal, which both animals and humans have) instinctive and adaptive that in practice have made our species have survived to this day.
When we finish the walk and I leave Simba (my dog) alone at home, he will feel sad (another basic emotion) but never unhappy, since unhappiness is a feeling that differs from the emotions in which It is reached through conscious evaluation, that is, subjecting that emotion to a thought. And that is something that at the moment only humans do, thanks (or unfortunately) to the development of the prefrontal cortex, we use reasoning that through symbols and meanings They lead our minds to create more complex concepts that animals cannot understand, because until now they have not needed them.
Therefore, joy is universal but happiness is subjective. We all feel the same but not all of us think the same about what we feel.. Is it understood now?
In short, a person can be very happy but be unhappy. That false “good” that we tell ourselves would be a good example. And at the same time, a person who, due to any unpleasant external event, may feel sad at a given moment, will trust that his inner happiness remains in the face of adversity.