What makes you happy? It’s question we are often asked and something for which we spend our lives searching. We devote time to hobbies that make us happy and surround ourselves with people that can contribute to our happiness. If we are unhappy for more than a day, we worry and wonder, ‘is something wrong with me? Am I depressed?’
In his latest book, Perpetual Euphoria: on the Duty to Be Happy, French writer and philosopher, Pascal Brukner, argues that the compulsory pursuit of happiness in Western society could actually be bad for us, reports the Toronto Star.
‘I’m annoyed to see that it has turned into an obsession for every modern person,’ Brukner tells the Star. ‘There is no barometer to define happiness, that’s why it’s a very difficult ideal.’
In the interview, Brukner says that in the ’60s, “we passed from the right to be happy to the duty to be happy.’ This was in part due to captialsim and the obligation it put on people to create good consumers. How often do you see commercials on TV showing people unhappy as they use the product being advertised?
But the pursuit of happiness has become a burden, in many ways. ‘We feel guilty to be unhappy,’ says Brukner. The democratic society we live in only perpetuates that burden because we are constantly told we shouldn’t be satisfied by what and that we always deserve better. Brukner says, ‘(this) nourishes a constant dissatisfaction.’
When asked about his own happiness, Brukner answers, ‘I think it’s more interesting to have a life full of adventures and romance than to have a happy life.’
Brukner has made me consider my own definition of happiness. I don’t think it’s about being on a happy high all the time but living life, experiencing life and embracing all the emotions that come with that (good or bad). You can’t appreciate the highs without the lows. What does happiness mean to you?