Happiness Vs. Wholeness
What does happiness mean?
Our founding fathers made a point of saying that a basic human right what to be able to pursue happiness, but what does that look like? Is happiness getting everything you want? Having a job that you are excited to wake up to every single day? Having a family that you never fight with? Does happiness look like an episode of Leave It To Beaver?
The dictionary defines happiness as “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.” Contentment. Is that really how you want to feel every second of every day? I don’t know about you, but I want more than contentment. I want the full scale of emotions. Imagine watching a movie for 2 hours where everything was content. You’d be watching grass grow. So then why do we expect our lives to always be filled with happiness and no struggle?
When I was 16 I started taking anti-depressants. It took a while for us to find the right medication and the right dosage to help with my anxiety and depression. But I remember what it felt like on those drugs. For me, I was always content. I never reached those deep dark lows but I also never hit those amazing highs. Life was content. As I grew older and found other tools to help with my mental health I was able to wean off the drugs and feel all the feelings again. (This is not a recommendation for you and any changes to your prescriptions should be discussed with your doctor).
The question then doesn’t become “are you happy”, the better question, as Hugh Mackay asked, is “are you whole“?
The pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down three things that made you happy today before you go to sleep” and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position. It’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say, “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” Ask yourself, “Is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.
Defined as “a thing that is complete in itself” is really what we’re all searching for. There are still days you’ll want to cry, or yell, or laugh. There are days that will feel like they will never end and days that will go so fast you don’t know where the time went. Wholeness is getting the complete spectrum. But even better, wholeness is being complete in yourself. It isn’t looking to the outside for joy or peace. The shopping spree or perfect family won’t make a difference. Whoneless is spent looking inside yourself and finding that you needed was with you all along. Just like Dorothy and the ruby red slippers.