Anxieties in this project

November 9, 2011 § Leave a comment


Image from Delivering Happiness website
Some of what I read hints that trying to make people happy is completely futile.

When I interviewed the Somehow Related girl, she said that trying to make people happy is a non-aim. I disagreed with her on other things, she was dismissive of quite a lot – in fact she barely seemed to like anything apart from her own work.

Making people happy isn’t it though. I’ve defined it a bit better by using the word ‘satisfaction’.

‘Happy’ is a feeling which passes.

‘Satisfaction’ can be a feeling that passes, but it can also be a longer term feeling about your life situation.

Your feeling over your life situation is not just determined by the situation itself, but also by your perspective, which is probably influenced a great deal by what other people think. In most countries, the London life is completely enviable, whatever your relative status within the boundaries of the city.

If we were more aware of what other people around the world thought of our lives, would we be happier – I mean, more satisfied?

Satisfaction runs deeper than happiness. Happiness over certain things can become satisfaction. The feeling of being satisfied can make you quietly happy.

For example, your child gets into a good school. You are ecstatic. At the same time comes on the knowledge that your child is intelligent – more intelligent than the other kids. You are satisfied with how you’ve raised your child. That feeling can last for a long time. I know that my pride in my mother getting into university as an adult remains, even though that was 3 or 4 years ago. I’m happy for her, I’m proud of her, I am satisfied in the knowledge that she is a worthy artist (especially after all her worrying she’s not good enough, fuelled by her insensitive peers). Her worthiness is reconfirmed when I see her current works every so often. Perhaps one needs less continuous confrontation with information to stay satisfied with other people, compared to oneself.

What I mean by that is that if I have one bad day, I can lose confidence in my abilities to do anything in particular and that can last a few days if I can’t pull myself out of it. I feel dissatisfied with myself, so I think I can’t work, so I don’t, so I become more dissatisfied with myself. The two ways to get out of it are: just start doing something, force it, and I’ll begin to be more satisfied; or else do something completely different, forget about the whole thing, go and have some fun and get lots of sleep and come back with new eyes.

In that time of being dissatisfied with myself, I can be happy and sad several times a day.


Image from Top Grade Formula

Ok, another anxiety. Is what I’m doing up to the standard of a good third year Goldsmiths degree? I want to be better than good if I can be. Good is just 2:2. I know not everything is grades, but I’ve had it drummed into me that grades are important, and I can’t shake it that easily. I used to be an A-student. Sometimes I think I could work and work and work and it wouldn’t make a difference to my grade. Sometimes you feel like you’re getting nowhere. It’s so easy, so easy, to disregard past achievements and just think of right now when it’s not going so well. I think, ‘but that was the me of the past – that me was in the position to do that gutsy thing, I was primed and ready for that moment, I’m not ready for it any more. I’m out of practice in this skill, I couldn’t do that today, not in the same way that I did it before, not to the same standard.’

I think that is the big anxiety for a lot of people if not everybody. Am I Good Enough? Good enough for what – yourself? Your friends? Your parents? Your spouse?

Do I put pressure on other people? Do I make them feel Not Good Enough? Can that ever be a positive thing?

How long can you stay Good Enough for yourself? Is that what brings you the most satisfaction, or is that just me?

Meeting your own high expectations of yourself is how you get to be satisfied with yourself. But if you’re very demanding of yourself, I don’t think you can stay satisfied for long, it’s not possible. There’ll be another thing you have to achieve.


Image from Freaking News

My old DT teacher used to say that A-levels seem like the top of the hill. But what’s over that hill? What happens when you climb to the top of that mountain? It keeps going up. It builds itself another bit that you have to climb. You keep going forever.

What happens if you slip down?


Image from The Life Design Project
Another anxiety: that I will say nothing new. I’m bringing together all this information. Happiness and satisfaction are things that everyone has experience of, and probably most people think about it – hopefully not as many articulate it so that when I do it sounds relatively better.

I can’t solve world peace in the same way that I can’t make everyone satisfied. I can’t make everyone do anything. How many people can this project affect? Does the scale matter?

What is there new to say about satisfaction? The idea that materialism is shallow and destructive to deep personal satisfaction has been around for centuries. What can I add? Will all this collating of information get me anywhere? It’s hard to see ahead. This is my usual process, all this research, and it usually lands me somewhere. I should just trust my process. But with pressure to be better than I have been before, I feel like I need to add an extra input to the process. I mean, it’s different every time, but shouldn’t I have thought of some innovative process add on that will magically lead me into originality?

I ended the quest for originality a while back and I think since then I’ve done some good, interesting work. It’s not really the originality that matters, but the right implementation, at least that’s the case so far in my experience. Here, in an academic context, there is more pressure for contributing something new. I’m not quite sure in my faith of myself to do it, at least today.

I’m hoping that I can bring together information from all the different books I’ve read, add them up, and their overlap will be the area in which I work.

So far that’s looking like:
We all habituate towards our own individual normal happiness level
Satisfaction in our life is infectious to others by 25%
Materialism is an inexorable part of human nature
Obsession with material wealth in our society leads to desiring something you can’t have, which makes you unhappy
Moderation is good for satisfaction
Our goals never quite meet our expectation that they will deliver permanent satisfaction
Spending time with family and friends makes you happy
Your mind can be trained to desire less – so you don’t have frustrating unfulfilled desires

Of course the flip side of all of this is that if we didn’t desire, and if we were always satisfied, then nothing would change and life would be boring. You need dissatisfaction to have ambition, which makes our world a more interesting place. So dissatisfaction is useful – but again, not in imbalanced excess, because that will make you unhappy.

The thing that I’m concerned about is that aiming to make people satisfied perhaps isn’t the right goal at all, if they’re going to get back to being dissatisfied eventually and if even if they did stay satisfied it wouldn’t be great because they wouldn’t change.

Maybe all I can do is show that it’s better to accept the flows of satisfaction and happiness. – But why is it better? Maybe because it will help you to know that even during the bad times, you will have good times again.

However the problem with that is with depressed people, because they will not believe that. They believe that they are now in a permanent state of sadness and in a way are satisfied with that – if they are dissatisfied, they start trying to get happy. Dissatisfaction with dissatisfaction, now that might be interesting. Does dissatisfaction with dissatisfaction always lead to satisfaction?

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