Much of our misery comes not from our circumstances, bad luck and the wrongdoing of others. We can consume our hearts and lives in pursuit of counterfeit heavens – mirages that fail to fulfill us once we have arrived.
In my personal life and the experiences my patients have shared with me, I recognize three confusions:
1. Mistaking hedonism (pleasure) for happiness. Enduring happiness has a quality distinct from simple pleasure. It is not simply the maximal pleasure and minimal pain. Key components of authentic happiness include a personal sense of meaning, feeling connected with others and your world, and being at peace with your life.
2. Mistaking lust (attraction, infatuation, craving) for love. Romantic love and infatuation can be exciting, intoxicating . . . and psychotic. When we are in the throes of romantic love, it’s like our emotional brains on drugs; reality is distorted, and the illusion doesn’t last. Falling out of this kind of love is like withdrawal. Enduring love is of a total different quality; it’s more a spiritual than emotional experience.
3. Mistaking self (the ego) for soul. The little self is changing and aging; it is the transient mask for your soul. What may seem good for the ego may not be good for your soul.
Next: How have you pursued happiness?