In Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, the eldest sister of the Bennet family, Jane, has only just become betrothed to Mr. Bingley, the man she has been in love with since first meeting him.
Jane’s family, while having some financial means, are far from secure. Jane’s marriage to the wealthy Mr. Bingley will both complete her personal wishes and provide her family with lasting financial security. In reporting her engagement to her sister, Elizabeth, she declares, “Oh! Lizzy, to know that what I have to relate will give such pleasure to all my dear family! How shall I bear so much happiness!”
I am more than a little convinced that happiness is the most difficult emotional state of all. First, because the ecstatic experience of a happy moment can only last briefly. Our nervous systems are no more prepared to bear perpetual ecstasy than to bear perpetual grief, anger, or any other high state of arousal.
Second, the day-to-day aspect of happiness which entails a sense of contentment and well being, is also variable. We are not meant to be content or secure all the time. Discontent and some discomfort are necessary ingredients in growth, innovation, and creativity. Without them we stagnate.
The trouble is that the presence of happiness is always followed by its loss. If we are of a mind that this loss is normal and to be expected, we accept it without much difficulty. If, on the other hand, we interpret a loss of happiness as a tragic event, we easily go from merely feeling a state of ordinary to experiencing a state of un-happiness. If we continue to dwell on this, soon we are depressed and miserable.
Meditation on My Un-happiness
Is my state of misery today anything more than an absence of happy or content feelings? Am I sitting and waiting for the next happiness fix that life throws my way? If I am not content, what actions in my life am I not taking?