Happiness is an emotion, not a state of being.
I’m taking a class right now for graduate school that is ostensibly about organizational ethics. However, the bulk of the class has been about the Aristotelian concept of you Eudaimonia. Eudaimonia is living the good life, a well-lived life, extraordinary life, or whatever that subjectively means to you.
Why is Aristotle so vaguely subjective in his philosophical theories about life? Well, that’s kind of how philosophy works. It’s easy to argue for or against a point if it’s not objectively true. (The idea of objective truth is another philosophical ball of yarn that I will attempt to unravel in a different essay.)
So much of the course is about happiness. We watched a 1 1/4 hour documentary on happiness, which boiled down to dopamine released by the brain after an event, such as exercise or talking with a friend. Hmmm … that sounds like an emotional response to an event. Happiness could be an emotional reaction and response to, well, almost anything.
Think of it this way: if you have a dog and that dog dies, typically, the emotion that you feel is sadness. If you get a new puppy, typically, you feel the emotion of happiness.
I’m writing this from the American perspective because I am an American, and that is the only perspective from which I can write it. Americans are convinced that we should constantly work toward happiness. Happiness is the state of being the pinnacle of how we should live our life. If you went up to somebody on the street and asked them what they were striving for or the goal of their life, they would respond to be happy more often than not.
What if we were asking the same question? The majority of respondents replied to be sad. Would we be alarmed? Would we suggest that they seek therapy or medication to alleviate their sadness because we should not try to be sad?
We should try to be happy. All. The. Time.
The expectation of happiness as a state of being is a futile pursuit. But, if we look to happiness as an emotional response to events, like a new puppy, we find we have active control over our happiness.
That’s good news! If we have active control over our happiness, we can take daily steps for continued dopamine hits labeled as happiness.
I’d love to take a straw poll and hear your thoughts. Is happiness an emotion or a state of being?