Unhappiness: When Enough is Never Enough
Today, as I spoke with Justin in one of our regular weekly meetings, he remarked how he had been pondering the famous bible verse, “What does it mean to gain the whole world, but lose one’s soul?”. It’s worth noting that this came about unprompted and without him knowing that o’er the last few weeks, I’d been contemplating something very similar as I thought about how I wanted to frame the blog post which you are currently reading. We are very blessed in our society. We have been gifted with being born into the richest society to ever exist in history, unrivalled in our comforts and our quality of life. Yet, unhappiness surrounds us. Depression and despair grips our society. So many in our society struggle with anxiety, depression, sadness, and hopelessness. This is related to one simple fact, which is that, in the world we live in, it seems that enough is never enough.
You may find yourself nodding along. Perhaps you’ve found yourself, similarly, especially with the latest news of the war in Europe, in despair. As I write this, innocent children are dying in Ukraine. The world, for lack of a better descriptor, is crying out. How can this happen? How can history once again repeat itself? How can propaganda fill screens and convince people that such actions are acceptable in our modern world? As an historian, I know all too well the perils of ignoring history. And yet, there is a personal lesson to be learned from this global game of chess Mr. Putin is playing: when all you care about is the riches of the world, is enough ever enough? That lesson can, and indeed ought, be applied to our interior lives as well.
People, Places, & Things ≠ Happiness
In truth, whenever we find ourselves wanting more, or unhappy with what we’re already blessed to have, the root of that emotion that we struggle with is a feeling of emptiness. We have a perfectly good car, but we want one with leather seats. Jane across the street has a car with push-button start; Sean at the end of the block has a beautiful garden; Aunt Davina has a new 4k curved television. The list goes on. And so, we work; we strive; we excel; we obtain the best TV with which to watch our reruns of Three’s Company or Golden Girls (if you’re like me). Then what? We feel uneasy. We seek out more. All that work and energy gave you a thing that you really didn’t need but had to have. And once the euphoria of it all wore off, you were unhappy again. This shouldn’t surprise us when it happens, and yet it so often does. Enough wasn’t enough when you needed the 4k TV, so why would it be now that you have it? In the universe of reliance on things to make you happy, we’ll never be truly happy. To put it another way, do you really need to buy that bottle of pH balanced electrolyte water with magnesium? Is that really going to make you happy?
As Thomas à Kempis famously wrote, “How foolish it is to seek and to put your trust in riches that will pass. … How foolish to follow the impulses of the flesh…or to covet those things which so soon will cost you a heavy penalty.” This echoes the sentiments that Justin was contemplating earlier in our meeting. Why then, do we crave these things? There is an amazing song from 1972 by Bread that exemplifies this coveting. Many of you will perhaps hear the tune in your head as I share the lyrics with you here: “Baby, I’m-a want you / Baby, I’m-a need you / You’re the only one I care enough to hurt about.” How many of us have felt that? Its part of being human.
But in the end, people, places and things don’t equal happiness.
That’s the lesson. Happiness, true happiness, is so much greater, so much bigger. And it can’t be gained by ownership or “lovin’ and affection” as Bread might proclaim.
Tip #1: How do I change my perspective of the world?
The first thing you can do is to start by acknowledging that you aren’t happy and by trying to ascertain the reason why that might be so. If it’s rooted in a desire for more or better things, then you may need to ask yourself why you need them and how they equate to your happiness. If it’s because you’ve lost trust in your marriage or your spouse, then work to build stronger connections with them. If it’s because you find yourself in a rut, in the same old mess you always find yourself in, then seek to understand yourself and your innermost feelings and perceptions in order to find a path forward.
That’s one place we can help. No matter where you find yourself, the reality is that often, and especially for those struggling with a long bout of sadness, you may find that you struggle to get out of it. You can’t find an end to cycles. Nothing seems to go right. You’ve tried everything: working out, material things, maybe even prayer. If you ever feel like it just doesn’t seem to work, I promise you that you aren’t alone. I encounter so many people on a daily basis who want to transform their lives for the better, but don’t know how. That’s part of why I love being a member of Cornerstone Counselling: I get to see lives transformed! If you are trying to break free for the bondage of this world, then we can help you. If you need to figure out why you struggle with deep unhappiness, we’ll provide you with the guidance you need to work your way through the problem. It’s what we do best.
Tip #2: Be Humbled
We also can hopefully use this as a lesson in humility. We each individually are sadly not in a position to convince Mr Putin that what he is doing will cost him his very self. I very much doubt he’d listen to us even if we were. His desperate search for happiness will lead, and sadly already has led, to the loss of life, the loss of freedom, and the loss of peace. Peace. It’s an interesting concept. In many ways, peace is really what we need for ourselves too. If we humble ourselves, recognizing our own human limitations and frailties, we might just find a lasting peace that brings about happiness. And when we don’t? When we seek out our own needs and our own wants, peace diminishes, much like what is happening in Europe today.
As a company that provides care for those in need, I am humbled to be able to share with you this message of hope. I never wanted to be saying ‘the war in Europe’ in my lifetime, and yet I had to say them just a few short paragraphs above. That is the world we live in. The world is crying. It is unhappy; it seeks peace. I hope that we can find that peace together and I trust that we at Cornerstone will work diligently, arduously, and with a steadfast heart, to make your lives happier and to help you discover the peace and happiness you so seek.
Don’t wait to start your journey; schedule a free consult with our intake coordinator today.