Perspectives on Happiness

By May 7, 2010 Happiness

Connie Curlett LMHC Seattle CounselorWe all want to be happy, but what does being happy mean? How do you define happiness? With that question in mind, I decided to look up happiness in the dictionary; there I found it defined as a feeling of great pleasure or contentment.  For the most part I believe people would agree with this definition, but is there is a one size fits all when it comes to the subject of happiness?  I went on to research the views of three individuals I have great respect for, Viktor Frankl, Aristotle, and the Dalai Lama. My intention in pursing the meaning of happiness is to open up a discussion and begin to uncover people’s thoughts and perceptions on this subject. In my work with clients, I want my clients to begin to explore their own definition of what happiness means to them.

According to Viktor Frankl, and based his theory of Logotherapy, he believes one cannot pursue happiness, but that happiness must ensue, or arise from within. One must have a reason to be happy much like one must have a reason to laugh.

Aristotle perceives happiness as being made up of virtues, pleasures and good fortune. He believes that when we think of ourselves as morally good, or are viewed by others as such, we are filled with a sense of happiness. He also goes on to say that life’s pleasures are to be enjoyed, that people who seek out and welcome pleasures into their lives will have overall happier lives. The third component of Aristotle’s view of happiness is that of fortune, here he recognizes that there is a random aspect to life.

The Dalai Lama believes that there are two ways to create happiness.  External development, happiness created through obtaining shelter, clothing, and friends, and then internally by what he calls mental development or the development of love and compassion in your life. Mental development he states will bring you inner happiness.

The Dalai Lama believes that these two are not equal and that happiness derived by external means will not last long without its counterpart. If something is lacking in your heart then despite even the most extravagant surroundings you will not be truly happy. However with peace of mind, you can find happiness even under the most difficult circumstances.