I don't really want to be happy

I’ve starting the Yale Coursera course on the science of happiness, and it has confirmed a lot of things I had been thinking about happiness. One of them being that I don’t really want to be happy.

Hear me out, and consider the following: A (real) magical fortune teller tells you that if you relinquish your career, if give away all your possessions, and if you stop pursuing material goals, you will be one of the happiest people on earth.

Would you accept it?

I think most people would say no. And yet I think most people would rank “I want to be happy” as their number one goal in live. So why would someone refuse a sure way to be happy if that would fullfil their number one goal in life?

Swimming against the happiness river.

Think about modern advertisement. A lot of ads are made to make me feel slightly unhappy with what I currently have, and try to show me a better version of myself, if only you had “Product Plus 2000”. Advertisement requires me to be a bit unhappy.

Think about modern careers. Do you think most people, even the ones who love what they do, would accept being in the same job, at the same level for their entire career? Why do more? Why earn more? Why spend more time and get more responsibilities?

Nothing is society seems to be geared towards making people happy. If I’m happy with what I have I won’t pursue more. I wont reach for a better job position, I wont search for a better house, a better car, a better salary, etc. Society would halt if everyone would be happy.

But it doesn’t seem to want us unhappy either. If I’m depressed I might stop being productive, I’ll stop consuming products and services, and I will probably be a burden to society, family, and friends who need to support me.

So it seems society is keeping me in a sweet spot. A level zero of happiness where I’m not fully happy with what I am and what I have, but at the same time not sad or depressed that it would make me become unproductive.

The ego is the enemy, but Society’s best friend

This is where we introduce the ego. It is generally the first one to blamed for