The Happiness Trap

The Happiness Trap

Last week, we asked an open question – Are we happy?

It seems like a lot more people these days really aren’t happy.

But continuing along the happiness subject – below is an excellent piece from wonderful “Zen” speaker and author Brenda Shoshanna.

The Great Addiction

By Brenda Shoshanna

brenda shoshanna - The Happiness TrapMost of us base our lives around the desire for happiness. This is the ultimate craving that rules our days. Our actions are based on the wish to feel good, not only about ourselves but everything connected our lives. The question we unconsciously ask before we undertake anything is will it bring me success, profit, connection, friends or a good name? Will I feel a thrill as a result of what I do? Will it fill me with joy and pleasure?

This is not to say there is anything wrong with any of those outcomes, but as a driving force for our lives, as a foundation upon which we stand, this kind of happiness crumbles easily. It is based on outcomes and circumstances, which are always fleeting. So much of our upset, anger, discouragement comes when, to our dismay, the results of our actions do not bring happiness at all. A relationship we cater to turns sour, intense efforts bear no fruit, the physical regime we’ve been on for good health brings illness instead. We lose weight only to gain twice as much soon after. Everything seems to be going wrong. The operative word here is “seems”.

It is not unwanted results that are to blame for our distress. If we look deeper we can easily see that we are simply caught in the happiness trap. Addicted to our idea of happiness, nothing else will do. Everything in our world must produce happiness for us, or we decide that we’ve failed. Or, others have failed us. But what has really failed is our idea of what happiness truly is, and how it is attained.

The great poet Kabir tells us, “A feeling here one minute and gone the next cannot be called love.” In the same vein, a feeling here one minute and gone the next cannot be called happiness. True happiness arises as a byproduct of a life well lived. It comes unbidden as a result of a different motivation, doing deeds of worth, dedicating our lives to that which is most meaningful and uplifting for all. Many times happiness arises after struggle, persistence or taking actions that are hard for us. Deep happiness, which we cannot shake off, often comes naturally as well after facing that which we have run away from, seeking temporary pleasure instead.

When my focus is not only upon myself and what’s good for me but instead when I focus on ways of making others happy and living according to my highest standards, happiness arises relentlessly. Happiness comes in the form of self-respect, contentment and a sense that all is well. No matter what circumstances arise they are not bothersome as the main thrust of my life is to be a beacon of love and truth. In all circumstances. No deeper happiness than that.

This is the way to easily escape our obsession with feeling good every moment and mistaking that for true happiness.


How does your craving for happiness express itself? What do you seek to feel good? What will you do to achieve this? What actions do you refuse to take?

How well has this served you?

Take a moment to see when you have experienced the deepest sense of happiness, or well being. One that didn’t fade quickly. Where did that arise from?

For today, give up your usual way of seeking happiness and turn around. For today, focus on someone else who you can make the day happy for. What do they need and want? Can you offer it?

Notice how good it feels to make that offering. See what happens to both them and yourself.

Then spend some time dwelling more deeply on what a life of true happiness would look like for you.A happiness that was not dependent upon how things did or did not turn out, or upon what suited you.

“Apples given – And oranges received in return.”
– Shiki

happiness - The Happiness Trap

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