Friday, May 21, 2010

I'll take Door #2

Just what is this thing we call happiness? Go ahead. Try to define it. You will end up describing feelings or things or even circumstances. These will undoubtedly vary from person to person because happiness is a completely subjective perception and experience. It is a universal "you know what I mean" feeling, but to precisely pinpoint its components is impossible.

In his book Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert tells of two conjoined twins, who, fused at the forehead, have spent their whole lives looking at each other eye to eye, sharing every waking and sleeping moment. Can you even imagine? Most of us would think this existence rather abysmal, yet they are joyful, content, and optimistic...happy. They have no desire at all to be separated.

We may look at them and see only the challenges and the inconveniences. However, what if we consider the other possible attributes of this situation? It is a matter of where we place our focus. The idea of always having your best friend right there, someone who knows you better than any one else and who knows all your secrets, good and bad, is a pretty rich one. We might say "They only think they are happy because they don't know any different." That is precisely the point! They have found happiness within their current circumstances.

Happiness is a point of view, an emotional experience that is different for each individual. We can all pretty much agree that the sky is what we define to be blue. However, we can in no way be certain every one is looking at the sky and having the same experience of blue.

Happiness is roughly the same neural activity pattern in all human beings and within the same person. Yet, happiness is very different from person to person and has a wide range of manifestations within the same individual. While devouring some Ben and Jerry's Caramel Sutra ice cream, burying my face in the soft, furry belly of a purring cat, and getting jiggy to Train's "Hey, Soul Sister" may all activate the same electrical happy circuit in my brain, they are very different experiences.

Happiness may not be neatly defined, but I think no one would argue with its' mega importance in every life. Human beings are innately programmed to strongly desire and seek happiness - whatever that may be for them.

Happiness is therefore a personal pursuit and decision for each one of us. It is natural for someone to experience panic and anxiety when they find that the company is cutting expenses, and their job is one way in which they are accomplishing this. It is natural to grieve and be sad when your partner walks off into the sunset without you. These types of situations are an unavoidable and uncontrollable part of life. However, each one of us does have the power to move through these experiences and to choose to keep working towards happiness everyday. It is a choice. A decision.

It is like the Let's Make a Deal show. Remember that one? No matter what door you choose or what is behind it...the new car or the billy can choose happiness. You get to go home with something...even if it is a farm animal. It is all in your point of view and focus.


  1. Check out this video and see if it doesn't make your toe tap and put a smile on your face:

    Train's Hey Soul Sister

  2. We have many choices in life. Happiness should be the easiest one we have.

  3. It is truly the simplest thing yet is so hard to learn and do. I know I unconsciously chose struggle and pain for far too long...and the thing is I DID IT TO MYSELF! No more!!

  4. Thank you for sharing your beautiful words and experiences :)

  5. Kate...thank you for joining me!

  6. Debbie,

    Good post to read when I'm facing the possibility that tomorrow could bring a traumatic event to my family...but the amazing thing is, I'm ok. I know that my family member will be ok because I trust him and his knowledge and ability to judge and deal with the situation he'll be in. And I trust that God is watching out for me and my path. I'll just do the next thing. What an amazing story about the conjoined twins. It really is all in the outlook. Thank you for the post.


  7. Linda, thanks for stopping by. Know that the events that unfold tomorrow will be for the highest good for your family in the end and try not to judge or react to the way they might look at the moment they happen. It is really beautiful how even traumatic events can have tremendous richness and value if we allow them. Sending you and your family love and light.

  8. Debbie,

    You've taken a subject with a lot of press/publicity in recent years and whittled it down to a post -- and an awesome one at that. This is such a great post, Debbie.

    Happiness is a choice, I agree. As I'm looking out the window watching sheets of rain pour down (I am not the type of person who enjoys the rain), all it takes is a shift of thought. We've been in drought here in CA, so the rain is GREAT! Bring it on, I say -- rain, rain, please stay! Welcome in, bring it on! :)

    Thanks for another great piece of writing, Debbie.

  9. Thanks, Lori. Everything has many perspectives. It is up to us to look for the other possible sides in everything -- even a rainy day. It is amazing to me how seemingly "bad" things turn out to be for the best. We just have to refrain from judging anything and stay open. We are all capable of that! That is happiness.