When you live with depression and anxiety happiness isn’t quite what you’d expect.
I was thinking recently about the concept of happiness and what it means to be truly happy. It’s an important question in this world of anything goes. When I think about what I want from life, I’m immediately drawn to “I just want to be happy”. But to be completely honest, I’m not sure what happiness is or even how I might attain it.
Along with this meaningless pursuit of happiness I’ve been on a bit of a rampage in respect of the amount of advertising we’re repeatedly subjected to. A rampage that started when I noticed screens on the petrol dispenser I was using flashing up messages about what I should buy.
As a business-woman deep down inside, I enjoy looking at what works and doesn’t work in respect of marketing and advertising campaigns. You’ll often hear me extolling the virtues of particular advertising campaigns that have significantly impacted the market. There is no doubt there are some very clever people out there.
In all the teaching I’ve had about advertising and marketing, the most significant lesson I learned was that successful advertising will create an emotional response in the viewer. That whilst we humans believe that we make decisions based on logic and intellectual assessment we in fact make most decisions based on how we feel rather than what we think. The sad thing about this is that we’re able to kid ourselves that we made a thoughtful decision.
If you buy this… you’ll feel; sexy, rich, powerful, in control, ‘happy’.
Then, when we buy the ‘thing’, we have a short-term burst of the emotion we’ve been sold, which can rapidly descend into ‘buyer’s remorse’ and eventually levels out as our body chemistry takes us back to, well back to… ordinary, normal, content.
Sadly for we human beings, our body loves the chemicals that excite us. And it (our body) will do almost anything to get another hit. Whether your pleasure is alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling, sex, coffee, shopping or cigarettes (just to name a few) your desire is for the pleasure chemical such activities produce rather than the activity itself. Often an addict will tell you they would prefer not do that thing, because, for the most part, it’s effects are destructive. But, they continue, because like all of us, their bodies like to feel good too, no matter how fleeting.
Whether or not we’ve fallen for the products or services at the core of an individual advertising campaign is irrelevant. It seems most of us have fallen for the advertising lie itself. Because the message of ALL advertising is that you need to feel better than you do.
To my way of thinking, we are so caught up in pleasure seeking we’ve forgotten that to be content should be enough. Imagine looking back at your life and being able to say: there were times I was very happy and there were times I was very sad, but I learned to be content in all these circumstances.
Contentment, above all, is a place where we can take our pleasure and our pain and know that we’re secure. It’s a place where we can seek out pleasure and endure pain in the knowledge that life is complete. Whole.
Personally, I believe we are created to be in relationship and live in community. To do this effectively, we must be able to fit the puzzle pieces together so that, by the time our life is finished, we see a completed picture. Pieces that are; light or dark, soft or bright; but all interconnected, all in context, all in their right place. To have merely separated the pieces into piles of similar shape, size and colour and to connect only those we believe will bring us ‘happiness’ will leave us, at the end of our life, feeling disconnected and incomplete. In a sense, unfinished.
It is not within our capacity to look into the future and see a completed picture so we might begin to emulate another work. We are to be our own finished product. With all the pieces coming together only after picking up each one, carefully examining it and placing it into a space reserved especially for it. Each failure, each disappointment and each mistake fitting perfectly against each success, each accomplishment and each triumph that, only when viewed as one, can be a true work of art.
From Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland: Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.
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Deb Shugg is an awarded businesswoman, wife & mother, author and a sufferer of depression and anxiety. Read more about living with depression and anxiety.
If you need help to deal with your symptoms see your doctor or contact an organisation such as Beyond Blue.
(Abuse of another person is NEVER okay. If you are being abused or, if you are an abuser please seek help.)