People are primarily, if not single-mindedly motivated by happiness.
We want to be happy, and all the other things we desire are typically a means to that end.
J.S. Mill put it this way:
“It’s impossible to desire anything except in proportion to its pleasantness. Human nature can desire nothing which is not either a part or a means of happiness. This is proof that happiness is the only thing desirable. People’s ideas of how to be happy can have more or less wisdom though.”
So what is happiness?
I think of it as a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life— with a deep sense of meaning and satisfaction. In other words, happiness is the result of us living up to our full potential. When we can aspire for the greatest joys and are free to fully pursue and attain them, when we have a sense of purpose that is personally meaningful, we experience happiness. And this is what we naturally are drawn to experience at all times.
Pursuing happiness is something that is actually wired into each aspect of our lives by default. It is in our very anatomy to protect ourselves from pain, and maintain a state of well-being.
The physical immune system
Physically, we are built to pursue good health.
Our bodies want to be well and happy – they want to function as best as possible and fulfill their own fullest potential.
If we are exposed to a threat of any kind (toxins, lack of exercise, lack of rest, stress, parasites, viruses, injuries, etc.) our physical immune system becomes activated. It recognizes the threat and protects us from it, either by neutralizing, fighting or destroying it. For protection to be effective, it is important that the immune system can quickly differentiate between “self” and “non-self” cells, organisms and substances, so that it doesn’t end up attacking itself in the process of attacking the intruders. And for this, it consults all stored “memories” – within these memories it discovers what belongs within us, and what doesn’t belong.
It also discovers whether it’s encountered that specific threat before (in which case it already knows what to do), or whether it is a first time threat (in which case it needs to learn how to defend itself). Once the body successfully handles the threat, the memory of the encounter becomes part of us (for future reference) and we resume our normal function.
If the threat is very aggressive though, or if we are exposed to constant threats over an extended period of time, our immune system can become compromised as a result. Our organism grows weak, and we quickly deteriorate. Also, if the threat is extremely severe, our body can fully lose consciousness and disassociate from the experience.
The psychological immune system
Psychologically, we are designed to also pursue balance, stability, healthy emotions – we want to be happy!
When we go through an unpleasant experience, and we might feel confusion, anxiety, sadness, distress, our psychological immune system immediately kicks in in order to protect us – very much in the same way our physical immune system protects us. Our brain is hard at work to formulate a response, and neutralize the emotional disturbance.
And for the response to be successful and efficient, we need to fully feel our own feelings – we need to fully feel our own pain, so that we may properly understand it, understand its origin, and address it. Once we address it, we can integrate it, and return to a place of balance and emotional well-being.
These emotional lessons/responses become part of us, part of our own memory bank. And this memory bank is incredibly valuable, as it serves as a point of reference for each new experience. Just like our physical immune system looks through our memories for similar previous threats, in order to quickly address the new ones, our psychological immune system does the same – it interprets and acts upon each new experience based on this memory repository. The brain can’t start from scratch every time it experiences something new – our responses and behaviors are usually a playback of past experiences. If something has worked in the past, we are most likely to repeat that same response if the situation at hand is similar in nature.
And this makes our childhood years the most crucial – this is when we create our core response system, which we will use for the remaining of our lives. Having healthy emotional responses as children, allows us to continue having healthy emotional responses well into adulthood. Same applies for unhealthy responses also – they only perpetuate unhealthy future responses.
When our emotional distress is extreme though, and we experience intense trauma, something else happens – our brain shuts down (just like our bodies do under extreme attack). Too much pain automatically activates the early survival mechanisms of repression. Our organism shuts off excessive pain by pulling out of conscious awareness anything that is intolerable and threatens the well-functioning of the system. This splitting process can happen instantly, with a strong enough shock, or it can develop slowly, when the emotional distress is repetitive, over a long period of time. As the pain mounts, we learn to disconnect from it.
Not only do we disconnect from it though, but we create what Dan Gilbert (a favorite psychology professor of mine) calls “synthetic happiness“. It’s a system of cognitive processes, largely non-conscious cognitive processes, that help us change our views of the world so we can feel better about the worlds we find ourselves in. It works best when we’re totally stuck, when we are trapped. Gilbert explains that “Natural happiness is what we get when we get what we wanted, and synthetic happiness is what we make when we don’t get what we wanted”. We basically go through a process of cognitive dissonance, and make ourselves believe our situation at hand is great, even ideal, when in fact it is far from it. It’s a survival mechanism.
The role of our environment in our own happiness
Our responses, both physical and psychological, are also heavily dependent on what is available to us in our environments.
When we have healthy relationships with our families, with our communities, when we feel safe and we live in a healthy, well-balanced environment, we can nurture natural, organic reactions. When our environment is all about the pursuit of freedom, happiness and meaning, and we have the support of those around us to seek a meaningful, joyful life, we can formulate healthy emotional and physical responses to each internal or external conflict. Especially when we are young, our only point of reference is within our immediate environment – we pick up on the reactions and behaviors of those around us as an example for our own reactions and behaviors.
Within a healthy community we can formulate balanced responses, and heal in a healthy way. We have the support and the safe environment to pick ourselves up and continue pursuing our desires, our happiness, our greatest potential.
But when our environment is out of balance and our relationships are unhealthy, we learn to only perpetuate that which is unhealthy. If we are in pain, and everyone around us is also in pain, how do we even recognize the pain as unnatural, and address it? If our relationship with another being is unhealthy, and all the other relationships around us are unhealthy, where is the point of reference? How can we even recognize what is unhealthy, when we are all unhealthy? Unless we can remember healthier times, for a point of reference, it will be difficult to create something different, something better than what we are exposed to.
My entire life here on this Earth, I’ve been surrounded by unhealthy families, unhealthy relationships, unhealthy communities and an unhealthy environment. My own observations have always shown me that from the moment we are born, we seem to all be exposed as a result, to different levels of stress and trauma, in every area of life.
It usually begins with a long and hard (and often drugged) labor in a neurotic mother. It continues with a lack of sufficient breast feeding, moves on to hurried toilet training, suppression of natural curiosity and noise making, and, finally, to suppression of words and feelings which do not conform to the parents’ moral value system. We are then exposed to the many unhealthy systems that govern our lives here and affect our relationships with one another: the money system, religion, politics, governments, the school system, diet, etc. Our environment throws a lot of fear, limitation, insufficiency, inadequacy, instability, pain, confusion, ignorance, dysfunctionality at us, from as early as we can remember, and this only cultivates behaviors in us that are based in those same limitations.
We have all been born into a culture of survival – from an early age we learn to suppress our true feelings, thoughts, desires and choices in order to please our parents. As infants, we rely on our caretakers to keep us alive, so conforming to their expectations in order to please them, is an act of survival in and of itself.
As we grow up, we begin to then discover that we require more than just the approval and love of our family in order to survive. We also require the approval and love of our friends, our spouses, our co-workers, our neighbors. We need to trust, to feel safe, to feel loved, appreciated, we want to experience intimacy. But by the time we are ready to start building relationships with each other, we are so molded, so suppressed, put through so many boxes and limitations, stripped of so many desires, dreams and natural tendencies, we often don’t know how to think and feel for ourselves. We struggle to let go of our boxes, they’re all we know, so we build relationships and connections from within the molds that we have built for ourselves. We continue inhibiting our truest selves, we hold back, we hide, we play games, we compete, afraid to look past the boxes that have contained us an entire life. Afraid to be vulnerable, to reach out, to expose ourselves, to be honest.
At the same time, we wish to feel a sense of purpose, a sense of meaning. We want our life to mean something, to hold some significance, we don’t want it all to be for nothing – and this is another form of survival. And because our lives are constantly shaped by external expectations and constraints, we usually have no idea what it is that we want and need in order to find meaning, joy, motivation, intent. We tend to put our sense of purpose into something that we are told will give us purpose: children, marriage, careers, certain accomplishments, usually instilled into us by external pressure (our parents, our friends, our communities). We end up pursuing the dreams and motivations of others, instead of pursuing our own. We can go through an entire lifetime not knowing what our true desires are. And so many of us never even have the luxury to choose our own purpose and role here, our societal constrictions (money, religion, race, location, politics, etc.) often give us no choice but to take the roles that are available to us, rather than take the roles which we desire.
We adapt to a dysfunctional world, without questioning it, because “this is just the way things are”. We live lives we are told to want, and not lives that we truly want. We inhibit our deepest needs and feelings in order to avoid the loss of love, caring, and protection from our parents, our family, our friends, our classmates, our co-workers, our communities. We need to be what our environment needs us to be, in order to find its acceptance, and in turn we suppress our real selves, our real needs, our real desires. And all these suppressed desires, thoughts and feelings don’t just vanish, they actually accumulate within, and when they reach critical levels, we burst into neurotic behaviors. And the chemistry of neurosis is very addictive – frequent, repetitive neurotic behaviors can cause us to become hooked. In a twisted, self-destructive way, we become addicted to suffering, to irrational behaviors.
And from what I am witnessing, the majority of humanity is displaying neurotic behaviors. If not sometimes downright psychotic. We are anxious, depressed, aggressive, irritated, confused, compulsive, dependent, addicted, unbalanced – and sometimes we lose touch with reality altogether.
Something just isn’t right with the way things are on this Earth, with the way we live life, with the way we carry ourselves and interact, with the way we raise our children, with the way we relate to our environment, to nature. We want to be happy, we want to find purpose, we want to be healthy, but at the same time we get stuck in self-destructive loops, repeating the same self-sabotaging patterns, unable to get past our addictions, past our fears, past our programs, past our need for approval. We have settled for small dreams, for small boxes, and repetitive behaviors, stuck with the same set of choices – we have given up on natural happiness, and true freedom, and have settled for synthetic happiness and synthetic freedom instead. We all seem to agree that our way of life is in so many ways not right, but we are too afraid, too traumatized or too disassociated to take responsibility and break the cycle. And when we finally have had enough, and can’t suppress anymore, we tend to lash out at each other, and harm one another.
Emotionally, we are not very healthy as a collective, and our evolution hasn’t been very healthy either.
We are stagnating, and often devolving. We allocate so much of our energy to survival, there is barely anything left in us to imagine, to feel, to evolve, to aspire, to create, to share, to expand. We are sick, depressed, stressed, emotionally unwell, disconnected, afraid, always in fight or flight mode – we have built a very unnatural way of life, and we are perpetuating it, stuck in the same programs, reinforcing the same boxes and limitations upon our children. We are not moving forward as a collective, for every step forward we seem to always take a step back, if not two – fear and trauma shut down growth.
Of course, I’m generalizing. There are individual stories of people who are pursuing a life of extraordinary dreams, a life of authentic feelings and non-constricted thought, a life free of financial worries, and societal constrictions, a life of meaningful connections, and healthy respect for the environment and the community. But these are very rare and increasingly more and more isolated cases. The majority of the human race lives in a state of survival – we are not pursuing true joy or living up to our full potential, we are merely coping with the situation at hand (and not very well).
And the reality of the majority heavily influences the reality of the minority. The ecosystem is collapsing all around us, we are supposedly in the midst of a sixth mass extinction, we are polluting the air, the water, and depleting the soils. Politically, economically, socially, personally, we are unstable, and things could go south any moment. We are not safe, our Earth is not safe and our way of life is unsustainable. Before we know it, even those very few, happy humans will be affected by our collective neurosis, unable to pursue their joy and purpose.
So where does this leave me?
I myself became neurotic early on in life.
I learned to suppress incredible amounts of trauma from a very young age, and when I couldn’t repress my pain anymore, I began to develop neurotic behaviors. I went through adolescence experiencing extreme anxiety, depression, anger, irritability, mental confusion, a low sense of self-worth, behavioral symptoms such as phobic avoidance, impulsive and compulsive acts, unpleasant, repetitive thoughts or habitual fantasizing. I slowly became very negative and cynical, dependent, aggressive, perfectionist.
Many of these problems I’ve fixed over the years. I no longer suffer from anxiety now, I’ve massively improved my sense of self-worth, my phobias and most of my OCD tendencies are gone, I have stopped thinking repetitive unpleasant thoughts, and have calmed down many of my aggressive, self-destructive tendencies. In my early twenties, something clicked for me, and all of a sudden I could see for the first time the self-sabotaging patterns in my life, and I understood that I had two choices: either continue sabotaging myself and my growth, or give myself a chance to heal, and develop healthier behaviors – in which case I knew I needed to do some serious self-work.
I chose the latter, and jumped deep into self-analysis. I began to trace back each significant past experience and studied the ways in which I had reacted, what responses had been natural, and fully expressed, and what responses had been suppressed. I understood what reactions had truly been mine, what decisions and changes had been natural in my growth, and what reactions hadn’t really been mine, but synthetic, borrowed, shaped by something or somebody else. And I started to dig deep into my real feelings, into my real thoughts, into my real emotions and my real identity, into who I would’ve been had I not had to suppress myself every step of the way.
And this changed my life in incredible ways.
I became self-honest. I stopped hiding. I allowed myself to fully feel, process and integrate each feeling, each trauma and slowly I began to step into a more authentic, more real version of me, a me who knew herself much better, a me who knew what she wanted, who knew what she truly liked, what she didn’t like. I recognized my own healthy boundaries, understood my behavioral patterns, and took responsibility for my own actions. I no longer allowed my traumas to define me, I instead allowed my real self to define me.
And I discovered an immense desire for happiness within that space. An immense desire for healthy, meaningful connections, a passion for freedom, for safety, for well-being. I also discovered an immense love for life, for nature, for authentic people.
And this has led me to a few realizations: I want a home of my own, safe, comfortable, in the middle of nature. I wish to have my own garden, my own animals, and my family next to me. I wish to be part of a community of conscious people, whom have healed emotionally to a degree where they can stand within their own authentic selves, with confidence, honesty, clarity, honor and vulnerability; part of a collective that puts freedom and respect for life above all else, and doesn’t engage in games, dramas, immature conflicts. I wish to be part of a healthy environment, where we don’t take more than we give, and we maintain harmony and balance with the water, the trees, the animals, the plans, the land. I desire to be part of a community where we accept one another, support one another, and respect each other’s free will. I wish to respond only to my own self and not have any forms of governance over me. I wish to travel freely, to not be concerned about money, about borders, or any systems of control. I want us to be able to pursue our creativity and our desires without constriction, while at the same time contributing to the well-being and sustenance of the community. I wish to be part of a society where we don’t fight or compete with each other, but instead we cooperate and treasure both collective and individual evolution equally. A society where we don’t suppress technology, remedies, resources, but instead share with each other openly. I wish to be surrounded by children who are curious, free to wonder, to imagine, to create, to express. I wish to have time to pursue a relationship with the planet, with the universe, with creation, with the the soul. And so so much more beyond that!
I know my greatest potential, I know how to pursue my own joy, my own purpose, I know what I want, and I fight damn hard for it, I have been for years, but most days, no matter how hard I try, no matter how hard I seek happiness I just can’t reach it. I always hit a wall past which I simply can’t move. Not because I am sabotaging myself, but because the world around me limits what I can and can’t pursue. It limits my options on a constant basis. Even if I were to somehow, by some sheer miracle, find a community that is well-balanced, emotionally mature, avid lovers of freedom, of happiness, self-sustainable, in the middle of beautiful untouched nature, we would have to basically isolate ourselves as best as possible, and protect our space, our piece of nature from all the outer forces that might try to destroy it/take it from us (of which there is no shortage in our current society). Our stability would be reliant on the stability of the collective, and if the collective was unstable, or going in a different direction (which it is), sooner or later that would catch up with us and there would be nowhere left to go. And any step going against the collective would become a fight.
We are nearly at that point where there is nowhere left to go. Everything has already become a fight. Even under the most ideal of circumstances, our bubbles of comfort could burst at any moment. This is not exactly self-sustainable, free living. It isn’t an environment that inspires freedom, creativity, joy, it inspires fear, limitation, suppression. More of what we already have.
Have I lost my mind then?
Could it be that my brain manufactured stories about other worlds, other planets, other aspects of creation all this time just as a coping mechanism? Have I been exercising an overly active imagination my entire life, as part of a neurotic behavior that stems from a trauma-based, disassociated childhood/life/society? Am I just so miserable and depressed that I went to the great length of subconsciously manufacturing all this stuff?
Perhaps my experiences have been deep hallucinations, moments of neurosis and psychosis at times in my life when I couldn’t cope with reality anymore. My travels beyond this body, beyond this planet, beyond this universe, could very well be a symptom of a mental and emotional breakdown. Maybe I am not well. I am definitely willing to consider that. By all means, it would be healthy for me to consider that.
But so many extraordinary events have happened to me throughout my life. I have witnessed and gone through things that go beyond any reason or logic, things that have introduced me to a realm of so much more possibility. A realm beyond the boxes and programs of this world. A realm, where in a sense, everything becomes possible – including my wild experiences and visions about creation.
As a child, for example, I had visions that became true years later, to the very last detail. I have often had dreams about people and details about their lives, before meeting them. I was friends with a dream character for years, that is until a few years ago, when him and I actually met in real life. We recognized each other instantly, and could even describe aspects about each other’s lives and identities before ever talking about any of it in our real lives. I can sometimes touch people, and see intimate, private aspects about their lives with amazing accuracy, without having ever met them before. I have had moments where I’ve located ailments within people by simply touching, or looking at them. When I hold my hands on people’s pains and ailments, their health usually improves. I have seen people appear and disappear out of thin air, with witnesses next to me. I’ve talked to people who remember the same details about previous lifetimes, or creations, planets, universes – we have seen the same things, talked to the same beings, gone through the same events. I have seen and experienced things about the universe, that only became known through science years later. My first memory in this lifetime is of a super high tech spaceship, and this was when I was around 3 years old – how could I have dreamed or seen something like that, when at the time nothing like that existed on tv or anywhere else in Romania?
To be honest, there is so much to this list, I barely know where to begin. My life has been a chain of incredible serendipities, coincidences, accidents, and downright inexplicable, supernatural events. And with so many other people involved, and so many details absolutely matching, it’s difficult to think that so many of these episodes are just delusions. And if indeed there’s some truth to it, what does it mean?
Are all the other unproven experiences that I’ve had over the years valid only until proven otherwise? Do I basically keep an open question on them, in the case I might be wrong? And do I accept all my other experiences that have already been validated by the experiences of so many others, as truth, just because an inexplicable match happened?
And if they are validated by an inexplicable event, why are we all tapping into that same story? Could it be that it might be real?
Also, in case I do happen to be delusional, how could anyone prove that to me, in a society that is as neurotic and unhealthy as this one? Would our current points of reference as to what is healthy have any merit?
I ask myself these questions on a daily basis. Some answers I’ve found, some I’m still searching, in the meantime all I can do is share my experiences openly and honestly, and allow everyone who discovers my piece of the puzzle to place it as they see fit within their own puzzles. I would never suggest that anyone else take what I share as truth, and I hope nobody ever does!
But when the pieces do click between us, and the experiences do resonate, and we can meet each other within the same space, something magical happens! By having these small moments of profound clicking with one another (whether it is delusional or not), we get a sense of belonging, of acceptance. A sense of community. And this is so healing in and of itself. Even if we are hallucinating en mass, when do we stop the delusion? And do we stop it? It’s inspiring most of us to open up, to share, to connect, to become more authentic in our feelings and actions, to question our realities more, it’s inspiring us to take responsibility over our bodies, our relationships, our environments. Even if these are delusions, aren’t they much better than so many of the alternative delusions in this society?
So many questions, with so many possible answers….
Thank you for reading, and as always, I would love to hear your thoughts!