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Absolute Happiness

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Absolute Happiness

Ask anyone with a new born baby- if they had one wish for their child, what would it be? I bet along with ‘health’ and ‘wealth’ , the word ‘happiness’ may also appear too! In fact, ask anyone what is the one thing they want deep down, the bottom line is ‘happiness’.

So if happiness is that important, why are we not taught how to be ‘happy’’? We are at crisis point in this country with children as well as adults suffering mental health issues. The most recent NHS figures state that 1 in 8 under the age of 19 had a diagnosed disorder in 2017. Most alarming is that these figures include pre-school children! This is a global problem too, with Japanese children having the highest suicide rate…

Back to us here in the UK though- how many adults will experience mental health issues in their lifetime? And if children aren’t taught how to deal with these issues, high chance it will escalate into adulthood too! One reassuring thing I once read said ‘“people with mental illness can and do recover”.

I will at this point explain my understanding of ‘happiness’…

In Buddhism there is a concept called ‘2 kinds of happiness’- ‘relative’ and ‘absolute’. ‘Relative’ happiness is temporary/ not long lasting. For example, you may enjoy a good meal. It gives you happiness at the time, but what happens once it has gone? Will it leave you filled up with eternal happiness?

This ‘relative’ happiness can apply to how we may feel about anything new e.g. a new phone, car, home etc. Those initial feelings of euphoria, excitement and joy will fade away as the novelty wears off and the item gets older, worn or broken. ( This can apply to anything we become attached to that will not last forever).

‘Absolute’ happiness on the other hand goes deeper than ‘relative’ happiness. It is internal – feelings of being fulfilled, where all our qualities, talents, skills are used to the max… when we are ‘ in the zone’ ‘in our flow’, ‘in rhythm with the universe’ …

The American Psychologist Abraham Maslow ( 1908-1970) researched ‘Self Actualisation’ . He described this as ‘what man can be, man must be’. ( Ok, he uses the word ‘man’, but he was writing in the 1950’s). This means reaching one’s fullest potential in life. Everyone has the potential to ‘self-actualise’ – it doesn’t mean you have to be a famous Olympic athlete- you could be the best mother or road sweeper etc. you could possibly be.

While I was researching self actualisers for my Masters degree in the late 90’s, I realised that self-actualisation was only 1/2 of the picture… You could be the best bank robber in the world, but you’re not exactly serving society! What is needed is both Self AND Social Actualisation: being the best we can be for ourselves and others as part of a fully functioning society. In my research I also found that self actualisers all have the same qualities in common…( look out for this in the future- I will write more about it)…

So given that qualities aren’t fixed from birth ( for example if we want to be more generous we can be), why aren’t the qualities of self-social actualisers being explicitly taught in schools? If we want children to be the best they can be, surely we should be teaching these qualities to them.

I have a solution to all this which I will share in my forthcoming columns. Keep watching this space…To be continued …

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