Beginning of Chapter 26 – Happiness
Excerpt from the book:The Path Within
In my search to simplify happiness I discovered and realized that in order to understand happiness better, I would need to study unhappiness as well. It was noteworthy that unhappiness seemed more thoroughly defined. More people seemed to be better at describing their unhappy tendencies and triggers than how they were able to find their moments of happiness.
We understand happiness in our core. Happiness is often difficult to describe, because we have never really thought of happiness in definable, describable terms. Yet we feel happiness, we remember happiness, we long for happiness.
So many books and sayings tell us that happiness cannot be bought, yet when we buy things we experience moments of happiness. Many other books and sayings tell us that happiness comes from the inside and countless people go searching within for that elusive, isolating escape of mind that might bring them the Holy Grail.
In the next few pages you will learn what happiness is, how to describe it, how to find it and that it doesn’t come from the outside nor the inside. Happiness springs from the perceived interaction between the outside world and ourselves. Even people who explore meditative states in order to find happiness are still interacting with a virtual “other” world. While this escape is advocated as the solace or cure for our ails, it is still a form of mental masturbation and escape from reality. True happiness is when we remain content within, or even derive pleasure from full participation in reality; without the need to escape it or enhance it.
Let’s get to work…
Why are so many people unhappy? Why does this number seem to increase all the time? There’s a clear correlation between the wealth of a nation and the numbers of unhappy people in that very state. Is there a correlation between unhappiness and wealth?
The answer is clear. There is a correlation between wealthy nations and unhappiness, but it isn’t a direct correlation. As I studied this question I came to a curious and more obvious answer: there seems to be a clear and direct correlation between unhappiness and exposure to advertising and/or propaganda. Advertisers are interested in people with discretionary income. The leverage in advertising is desire, or want. If the advertiser can awaken a desire in a person, that person is likely to spend money on obtaining the desired item or service. This part of advertising is called “driving the want.”
It’s true that you can’t want something about which you have no knowledge, so classical “Informative Advertising” has some impact. Clearly, if you don’t know what a pizza is, how can you desire one? Showing images of people enjoying a pizza is a great way of letting people know that eating a pizza can be a satisfying way to relieve hunger and yet this is no longer the main driver in advertising. There’s simply not enough return on investment in “Informative Advertising.”
The next level in advertising is to tell people what feature the product or service has and what it can do for them. Highlighting the personal benefits of a product or service is a great way of connecting to people’s desires, but it doesn’t stop there. Unfortunately, advertising has taken the next step in “driving the want,” it’s called “stirring the hurt.”
“Stirring the hurt” reminds people of their personal suffering, their pains and their perceived inadequacies. Advertisers are quick to point out your issues, to subtly remind you that you, too, are flawed and perfectible. By connecting us to our personal wounds and promising relief of the hurt we feel as a result of being reminded of our pain, advertising reaches deep into our egos and makes it seem that the offered product will feed our primary needs to be safe, loved, significant, etc. Connecting with our feelings of lack is what drives us to reach deep into our wallets and spend our money on items and services that promise relief. And as we are constantly reminded of our lacks, pains and anxieties, we feel unhappy, unfulfilled and removed from the things that bring us contentment and happiness in our lives.
Advertisers aren’t concerned with the emotional cost that drives us to seek relief. They are interested in our desire to seek relief from pain, which drives us to spend our money on their products or services. The simple truth is that a contented individual is not looking for relief. It is the discontented individual who finds ways to better his or her situation and seek relief through proposed action.
It is the action that generates profits. If channelled well, the action generates profit for the individual searching to fill the implied “void,” the company that is marketing the product and additionally, the company which that person works for. As long as the individual continues to work and remains connected to the economy while searching for the means prosper that individual generates profit. Unhappy individuals seek to better themselves. Unhappy individuals are more profitable than happy ones.
Modern economies are based on monetary growth. Entire nations are dependent on taxable growth. This growth comes from commerce; the exchange of goods and services for money. The problem is that happy people don’t buy much.
It’s the unhappy people who, in the attempt to escape their situations, pay for the economy, the economic growth, corporate profit, taxes, bank fees, etc. If everyone were happy, no-one would need anything. The economy, the way it is, would stop. So to drive the economy, the big influencers (church, state and commercial enterprise) highlight your faults and weaknesses and offer comfort, in exchange for your effort, energy or money. Unhappy is big business!
Our happiness is monitored and influenced constantly. Maybe not directly in an attempt to generate unhappiness, but Organized Religion, State and Commercial Enterprise are well aware of what their marketing or propaganda departments are doing. They compete to maintain a level of profitability, without any concern for the unhappiness they cause as collateral damage. It’s a simple fact: Happy individuals are commercial nightmares. They don’t buy anything, they don’t seek to better themselves, they don’t pay for relief, solace, support or salvation; they don’t need anything! Happy individuals are content unto themselves.
In order to be motivated to earn more and then to part with their hard earned money, people need to be made aware of what they can do better, what they deserve, what they don’t have and what they could be – if only they buy the products or services that insinuate this relief from the lack or hurt they feel.
“Big business” wants you to believe that you can get happiness through the purchase of a new toy but the truth is more sinister. Modern commerce “drives the want” by showing you more entitlements – and as such, increases the gap between your reality and your perceived entitlements (expectations). In highlighting your shortcomings and convincing you that you’re entitled to their product, they help cultivate your sense of unhappiness and present you with their product as the cure.
The negative side effect of all this marketing is that we are constantly bombarded with messages that attempt to convince us that we’re not good enough. Or, at least that we are not as good as we could be and that we deserve a better life than we are currently living. Happiness itself is simply not very profitable. Selling the promise of happiness is highly profitable, but it requires each individual to be convinced that they are not happy yet.
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