Happiness In Troubling Times

In pros­per­ous west­ern cul­tures divorces are sky-rocketing while in poorer soci­eties fam­i­lies are far more sta­ble. What are the rea­sons for this phe­nom­e­non and what has that got to do with us? Do I have to become poor in order to have a happy rela­tion­ship, you may ask. Not really, but on the other hand, you may have no choice.

You are aware, I’m sure, that the econ­omy in the U.S. is not exactly at its peak per­for­mance and there are unde­ni­able indi­ca­tions that it will get worse, much worse. This time I became painfully aware of the inevitable down­fall of our econ­omy. It may not hap­pen tomor­row, but in 5 to 10 years it is inevitable. It may sound like doom-and-gloom, but all the met­rics and his­tory point in that direc­tion. Pre­dict­ing the future is a risky busi­ness, but one thing is for cer­tain: we may not become exactly a third world coun­try, but we are cer­tainly mov­ing in that direc­tion.  It is hap­pen­ing slowly, so it may not be so obvi­ous. Think of the prover­bial frog in water that is get­ting warmer and warmer until it’s too late. It dies with­out try­ing to escape. Denial will not help. If you want to know the real­ity of the present state of the U.S. econ­omy there is a plethora of lit­er­a­ture out there to sup­port it. If you want to read only one book on the sub­ject, try Sur­vival+, Struc­tur­ing Pros­per­ity for Your­self and the Nation by Charles Hugh Smith.

All these years we have been trained by the main­stream media and adver­tis­ing that the “pur­suit of hap­pi­ness” means procur­ing mate­r­ial goods and sta­tus that in turn will make us happy. In other words, the more we have the hap­pier we will be. The pro­pa­ganda of con­sumerism has dis­torted our inalien­able right of the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness, from a struc­tured jour­ney (with the inevitable set­backs) to the fleet­ing eupho­ria of a new purchase/ acqui­si­tion. We have renounced our title of cit­i­zen and embraced the con­sumer avatar while becom­ing dif­fi­dent to the free­dom of reality.

In order to pre­pare for what’s com­ing and the end of pros­per­ity as we know it (although it will be incre­men­tal instead of sud­den. Have you started feel­ing like a frog?), we need to dis­tin­guish what it is that really makes us happy. Inci­den­tally, the same things that make us happy turn out to be our best sur­vival tech­nique when the bad times hit.

Numer­ous stud­ies of the multi-faceted inner sen­sa­tion we call hap­pi­ness are largely inter­nal and relationship-based. Com­mon sense sug­gests that secu­rity offered by wealth and income boosts well-being, but stud­ies find addi­tional wealth pro­vides dimin­ish­ing returns. Beyond a cer­tain rel­a­tively low level, addi­tional wealth in any form (cash, goods, travel etc.) offers lit­tle improve­ment in well-being (read: happiness).

This soci­ety is pro­mot­ing pos­ses­sions, titles, enti­tle­ments, and asso­ci­a­tions with the “rich and famous” as a source of hap­pi­ness, but per­sonal integrity is essen­tially mean­ing­less and val­ue­less in the cur­rent con­sumerist frame of reference.

The pro­lif­er­a­tion of the so-called self-esteem indus­try is an unre­al­is­tic, feel-good mar­ket­ing ploy as well. Just as mar­ket­ing pur­pose­fully con­fuses hap­pi­ness with con­sump­tion, so too does the self-esteem indus­try con­fuse exter­nal met­rics and slo­gans with inner secu­rity and well-being, (i.e., you can be, achieve, have what­ever you want, imag­ine, con­jure etc.!!) with no men­tion of the nec­es­sary hard­ship, unpleas­ant choices, inevitable suf­fer­ing, and set­backs on the way to success.

Pros­per­ity and “real wealth” can­not be mea­sured by the size of one’s home or range of pos­ses­sions, but by health, access to FEW (food, energy and water –what we often take for granted), mean­ing­ful work and a net­work of peo­ple who care about your well-being.

When the going gets tough, as it surely will, out of the things men­tioned above, rela­tion­ships are the only one fac­tor over which we can have con­trol.  We must under­stand that nei­ther pos­ses­sions nor titles will make us happy, but rather the rela­tion­ships we nur­ture with oth­ers. By build­ing healthy fam­ily rela­tion­ships first we will undoubt­edly thrive in the face of mate­r­ial scarcity.

Our per­sonal pros­per­ity and the pros­per­ity of our soci­ety will largely depend on the true, hon­est and deep con­nec­tions we develop with other peo­ple and not on what and how much we have. Nei­ther will we be able to rely on the state to pro­vide for us.

In order to start the process of true, hon­est and deep relat­ed­ness, we need to start with build­ing such a rela­tion­ship with our­selves first. In other words we need to grow up. Peter Pan and Cin­derella must be left in the past where they belong and be exchanged for a deep rela­tion­ship with real­ity, start­ing with grat­i­tude for what we have now. No move­ment is pos­si­ble with­out acknowl­edg­ment of the real­ity of the present situation.

The next step is fam­ily. First, sort out and com­plete your rela­tion­ship with your par­ents (alive or deceased). With­out doing that you can­not be really free in any other rela­tion­ship.  Your part­ner (hus­band, wife, etc.) must have, in your mind, the same sta­tus as the other mem­bers of your fam­ily, i.e., your chil­dren and your par­ents. Think­ing that you must be “in love” in order to be in a happy and lov­ing rela­tion­ship is an ado­les­cent con­cept. Also, there is no sub­sti­tute to being 100% com­mit­ted, 100% in integrity, and 100% respon­si­ble for your life and your rela­tion­ship. Learn what love is (hint: it’s not merely a feeling.)*

Your friends and neigh­bors are next. Learn to give first, with­out expect­ing any­thing in return. It could be any­thing: a kind word, a com­pli­ment, or help, ser­vice, mate­r­ial things, food, etc. Share your pos­ses­sions and life with them. In tough times you can never have enough your­self of what you may need. By shar­ing what you have will entice the oth­ers to give you what you may be lack­ing. This is how friend­ship, trust and com­mu­ni­ties are built. You may need to orga­nize in the future to form busi­nesses, orga­ni­za­tions and local gov­ern­ments. Mere schmooz­ing and net­work­ing ain’t gonna cut it. You need to get to know each other on a per­sonal level. You need to break bread with them, some­times literally.

As you can see, mov­ing from a con­sumer iso­lated soci­ety into a true com­mu­nity — which seems to be an inevitable step in the next five to ten years — will take some doing if we don’t want to be swept away by the eco­nomic hard­ships that lie ahead.  For­tu­nately, the steps we must take to adapt to changes are the same steps that will bring us hap­pi­ness, pros­per­ity, and close­ness to our fam­ily and loved ones.

What do you think?

Radomir

*Ref.: The Game­less Relationship.

http://www.RelationshipSaver.org/

http://www.GamelessRelationship.com/

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How To Avoid A Conflict

argu­ment |ˈärgyəmənt|

noun

1 an exchange of diverg­ing or oppo­site views, typ­i­cally a heated or angry one

Accord­ing to the above def­i­n­i­tion – and we will con­cen­trate on the most com­mon vari­ety – an argu­ment is a con­flict of views or opinions.

In order to be able to dis­solve a con­flict we must first be able to dis­tin­guish between a fact and an opin­ion or a per­sonal view.

The fol­low­ing are some exam­ples of opin­ion statements:

This is ter­ri­ble

You are wrong

You are a jerk, rude, etc.

You are very late

You always do that

You never ______

And here are some fact statements:

It is rain­ing here

I am home

You arrived at 2:40 PM

I am hungry

I think that you ______

The door is open

You said: _____

I did not go to work yesterday

Most of the time con­flict arises from think­ing that our opin­ions are facts and our treat­ing them as facts. The prob­lem starts when we start tak­ing actions based on what we per­ceive as a fact but in real­ity they are only our opinions.

Often we are blind to the fact that our opin­ions are just that, and although they may appear as facts to us, they are just “our” truths and not THE truths. The first step in dis­solv­ing a con­flict of this nature is to start own­ing our opin­ions.

As a speaker we can start by mod­i­fy­ing the way we make statements:

Instead of say­ing “This is wrong” you may say I THINK that this is wrong. Instead of say­ing: “You are wrong”, you may want to ask: “Why do you think that?” Instead of angry become curious.

Opin­ions are inter­pre­ta­tions, judg­ments and assess­ments ABOUT what hap­pened. Opin­ions are gen­er­ated in our mind.

I have heard many peo­ple fight tooth and nail to prove that their opin­ions are true. And yes, they are true, but only for them and not nec­es­sar­ily for any­one else. Just because some or ALL the peo­ple agree with your opin­ion, it does not make it any more true.

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Truth, Opinions and Points of View

I am sure you’ve had a lot of expe­ri­ences where your opin­ion about some­thing was com­pletely dif­fer­ent to other people’s point of view. It can be quite frus­trat­ing to have some­one argue against what you know to be true. When­ever some­one dis­agrees with your point of view you are quite cer­tain that that per­son either does not under­stand, is stu­pid, not as well informed as you are, did not have the expe­ri­ence you’ve had or that he knows that you are right, but does not want to admit it. All these jus­ti­fi­ca­tions – and feel free to add your own – are the proof that your point of view is cor­rect and that other peo­ple are at least wrong if not down­right delu­sional. So how is it pos­si­ble that other peo­ple do not see some­thing that is so obvi­ous to you? How can they be so short­sighted or illog­i­cal, lack com­pas­sion or love, be so incon­sid­er­ate and cruel or what­ever the par­tic­u­lar case may be? Some­times you find your­self won­der­ing whether the whole world has gone mad or if it is just you.

In order to be able to explain this phe­nom­e­non we must first dis­tin­guish what we are talk­ing about, i.e. , point of view and opin­ion. Def­i­n­i­tions from the dic­tio­nary may be of assis­tance here:

opin­ion |əˈpinyən|

noun

a view or judg­ment formed about some­thing, not nec­es­sar­ily based on fact or knowl­edge : I’m writ­ing to voice my opin­ion on an issue of great impor­tance | that, in my opin­ion, is dead right.

the beliefs or views of a large num­ber or major­ity of peo­ple about a par­tic­u­lar thing : the chang­ing cli­mate of opinion.

( opin­ion of) an esti­ma­tion of the qual­ity or worth of some­one or some­thing : I had a higher opin­ion of myself than I deserved.

a for­mal state­ment of advice by an expert on a pro­fes­sional mat­ter : seek­ing a sec­ond opin­ion from a specialist.

Law a for­mal state­ment of rea­sons for a judg­ment given.

Law a lawyer’s advice on the mer­its of a case.

PHRASES

be of the opin­ion that believe or main­tain that : econ­o­mists are of the opin­ion that the econ­omy could contract.

a mat­ter of opin­ion some­thing not capa­ble of being proven either way.

ORIGIN Mid­dle Eng­lish : via Old French from Latin opinio(n-), from the stem of opinari ‘think, believe.’

THE RIGHT WORD

When you give your opin­ion on some­thing, you offer a con­clu­sion or a judg­ment that, although it may be open to ques­tion, seems true or prob­a­ble to you at the time (: she was known for her strong opin­ions on women in the work­place).

A view is an opin­ion that is affected by your per­sonal feel­ings or biases (: his views on life were essen­tially opti­mistic), while a sen­ti­ment is a more or less set­tled opin­ion that may still be col­ored by emo­tion (: her sen­ti­ments on aging were shared by many other women approach­ing fifty).

A belief dif­fers from an opin­ion or a view in that it is not nec­es­sar­ily the cre­ation of the per­son who holds it; the empha­sis here is on the men­tal accep­tance of an idea, a propo­si­tion, or a doc­trine and on the assur­ance of its truth (: reli­gious beliefs; his belief in the power of the body to heal itself).

A con­vic­tion is a firmly held and unshak­able belief whose truth is not doubted (: she could not be swayed in her con­vic­tions), while a per­sua­sion (in this sense) is a strong belief that is unshak­able because you want to believe that it’s true rather than because there is evi­dence prov­ing it so (: she was of the per­sua­sion that he was inno­cent).

As you might have noticed, nowhere in these def­i­n­i­tions can you find that your opin­ion equals the truth. I heard so many peo­ple say, “It’s my truth”, and they leave it at that, as if their truth some­how becomes true and just as valid as The Truth itself. Of course they find many rea­sons and other opin­ions that attempt to jus­tify their opin­ion, but the bot­tom line is that all these rea­sons and excuses are just plau­si­ble sto­ries that often prove noth­ing. In fact it still boils down to no more that mere over­rated opin­ion. So how do you dis­tin­guish between truth and opin­ion? Let’s start by rec­og­niz­ing that we rarely come face to face with the truth. Objec­tive truth is a very elu­sive con­cept, and it is a con­cept because “the truth” does not exist in the mate­r­ial world. It is always and only an INTERPRETATION and MEANING that we give to any par­tic­u­lar event. Events have no mean­ings and inter­pre­ta­tions imbed­ded in them, they are not an inte­gral part of ANY event. Inter­pre­ta­tions and mean­ings are fully and wholly gen­er­ated by human minds and do not exist in nature per se. (Of course this is only my opin­ion.) Nev­er­the­less, like any­thing else, our opin­ions serve a very use­ful role in our lives and like any tool they can be used or abused. Now, how do you know if your opin­ions serve you or not? This is eas­ier said than done, but every bit worth prac­tic­ing. Self-awareness is the first step. Being con­scious and able to per­ceive your behav­ior when you are adamantly assert­ing that your opin­ion is the cor­rect one may make you aware of the futil­ity of your approach to the sit­u­a­tion and open your eyes to other pos­si­bil­i­ties and more effi­cient and effec­tive ways to deal with the sit­u­a­tion. Under­stand­ing that the inter­pre­ta­tions and beliefs we hold so dear come from our past expe­ri­ences and have become part of our per­son­al­i­ties and which we can­not lightly dis­miss, may help us rec­og­nize that other people’s opinions/truths as well as our own are just dif­fer­ent points of view. A point of view is just that: a point from which we view the world. Prob­lems arise when we neglect to rec­og­nize that from the point we see the world or an issue, has one major short­com­ing: we do not see the very point from which we make our obser­va­tion because we are stand­ing on it. Rec­og­niz­ing that there can be more than one point from which the world can be observed and thus be seen in a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive will allow us to be more flex­i­ble in our rela­tion­ships with others.

In con­clu­sion, remem­ber that many truths through­out his­tory were debunked and nowa­days make no sense even to a child but in the past were held as irrefutable truths. Think of the earth as being the flat cen­ter of the uni­verse. How about all the gods of ancient Greece and Rome? Newton’s physics is not the final word on our uni­verse any more either. At a more mun­dane level, you may find that what­ever you thought to be true about your par­ents, your part­ner or your chil­dren may not be so, for the time being anyway.

From all this you may be tempted to come to the con­clu­sion that there are many truths and that they all may be equal. That cer­tainly is not so. Some truths are more equal than oth­ers or some opin­ions are bet­ter than oth­ers. Cer­tain truths may be more true to some than to oth­ers depend­ing on the con­text because con­text in which opin­ions and “truths” arise is deci­sive. We’ll talk about con­text some other time. Stay tuned.

Radomir

http://www.RelationshipSaver.org/

http://www.GamelessRelationship.com/

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