Happiness is most often perceived as our emotional reaction to various things that happen to us in life. It is thought of as something that the world gives to us – or that the world takes away.
Acting upon this philosophy, many people work hard to get the circumstances of their lives “just right” so that happiness can be theirs. Some even manage to realize their dreams and discover that true contentment still eludes them.
As a society, we have seen this phenomenon played out on a broad scale throughout the history of modern science.
When the scientific method first achieved mass credibility it seemed to promise the solution to all of our social ills. Diseases were conquered and undreamt-of conveniences and freedoms were introduced to the lives of average people.
Yet it’s obvious to anyone with eyes and ears that we don’t have a human population that’s generally any happier now than it was fifty years ago.
We’re not any happier as a result of all of these profound external changes because our happiness doesn’t actually come to us from the outside world.
It comes from within us, and we can only experience it fully if we let ourselves accept it. We can’t be happy unless we give ourselves permission to be.
For some people this takes effort. There are many internal beliefs that can prevent us from feeling fully satisfied with our lives. We may be convinced that we’re unworthy.
We may be focusing on (what we perceive to be) our failings in life in a way that makes us feel inadequate and/or guilty. We may believe that we live in a dark and dangerous world where true happiness is impossible.
Modern science offers no inoculations for these sorts of inner disturbances. Only we can truly understand their nature and work through them to (hopefully) free ourselves of their influence.
Until we do so, we aren’t really giving ourselves permission to be happy despite all the ways in which we may chase happiness and strive for it.
Our inner denial of it – or resistance to it – will block the feeling even if everything in our lives seems to be “going perfectly well”.
This is why some people can experience their whole existence as empty even if they possess great wealth, fame, and social clout. Nothing in this world can bring us happiness if we can’t accept the feeling itself.
We can’t be happy if we believe we must “prove” our worth through toil and/or suffering. Happiness will elude us so long as we try to justify our existence or atone or punish ourselves.
The responsive universe is more than willing to be good to us, but it can only be as good as we allow it to be. Ultimately, happiness is our gift to ourselves – and suffering is self-imposed.