How To Be Happy

10:00 AM - August 5, 2014 by Jonathan Burch

How can you be happy?  Everyone was born to be happy, but not everyone is.  The problem is that is sometimes it hard to be happy.  

Someimes part of you is working for your happiness and part of you is working against it.  Too often you let the part of you that is working against your happiness control your life.  Why would you do that?  It is because of the way you evolved over many generations to respond to many different typical situations.  It is the way you are, but you can choose to be happy.

Every response you have has evolved to allow you to make an adaptive response in adaptive time to some typical circumstance.  Therefore every response you have is good.  It evolved to be adaptive.  You are good.  So what is the problem?

The problem is that you have to choose which response to make.  You have to use the right response at the right time in the right circumstance to make the successful adaptive response to survive, flourish, reproduce and be happy.  This is called the righteous response.  

You are supposed to make the righteous response everytime in every situation, just as you evolved to do.  However, it is hard to know which one of many many responses is right in the situation.

Worse, nature has complicated the choosing by adding strong emotional motivators to some responses that are necessary for survival.  For example the hunger drive, the strong desire to go to sleep, and the sex drive are such motivators.  Without them we might not bother to eat, rest our minds and bodies or reproduce.  The human species would not last long tike that.  Other powerful motivators have evolved to be adaptive in certain circumstances.  These include pride, greed, lust, envy, jealousy, coveting, hoarding, excessive fear and excessive anger and rage, as well as excessive internal emotional controls such as guilt and shame.  

All of these have a place in adaptive history and modern life in the right circumstances.  In the wrong time and place, they are referred to as sins.

Suppose you are faced with a new situation, and you have to choose how to respond to it.  You use your reason and logic to figure out the right thing to to.  You use your love and compassion to figure out the right think to do.  However, all this takes time, and is filled with uncertainty, and the risk of failure.

It is much simpler, and possibly more fun at the moment, just to follow your instincts.  Just decide by whim!  While you are trying to do the right thing, you are bombarded by heavy emotions urging you to decide to do the response associated with the strong emotion.  Do what makes you feel good physically at the moment.  Do what makes you feel like an important person.  Do what makes you feel powerful over other people.  Do what makes you feel famous.  Do what gets you what the other person has. Take the other person’s wife or husband or successful job.  It is easier just to decide by whim.

The right decision is to do the right response at the right time in the circumstance to lead to your fulfillment as a while person and your nurture of others to do the same.  This right response at the right time is the righteous response.  It leads to your happiness and the happiness of others. 

The wrong decision is to decide by whim, without considering the consequences, immediate and long term to you and others.  This leads to unintended consequences that produce much suffering and unhappiness. 

The world’s religions have recognized this dilemma for humans for thousands of years.  Ancient Hinduism has a way of describing it.  The right responses are considered bright shining gold inside a person.  However they are covered over by a thick dross of bad responses that lead to bad consequences.  The dross is so thick ht it obscures the shiny gold, so much so that many people do not know the gold exists and only response with the bad, selfish, short-sighted responses.  This produces the human-caused suffering in the world. 

In China Confucius referred to Great man and Petty Man.  Great Man had the right careful, compassionate attitudes and lived by making the righteous decision in each circumstance.  When the leader of the state was a great man, he lead the officers under him and the people in general; to live righteously, and society succeeded.  Petty man, by contrast, live by whim, with attitudes of selfishness, anger toward others who were different and pettiness as a person.  Petty man often made the wrong decision at the time that lead to suffering of self and others.

In the West the religions of the Book, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, focused on sin punishable by burning in the fires of eternity as the result of such bad attitudes.  The effort was to scare people out of making wrong responses.

All of this was recognition of the difference between the righteous response in a circumstance and the often highly motivated wrong response in the situation.  This is the historical human dilemma.  This is the human condition.  This is what it means to be human.  We are all faced with this kind of decision.

In this age of individualism, we each have the responsibility of choosing the righteous response, if we want to be happy and be all we were born to be.  Fortunately we have some help, if we know where to look for it.  This too is part of the human condition.

Elsewhere on this website is a book called “Inner Friendship For Everyone”.  It describes the nine steps to inner friendsh


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