the judge said: There are times when I feel nostalgic for a life I never lived but wanted to where I fell in love and had the high school love that frankly was impossible for my high school self and want to make the decision to attach myself to someone and affect that persons life for the sake of it but then I read testimonials like this.
This all seems..exhausting.
There are four basic categories of ways to increase happiness and avoid suffering
1) influence and change external situations
2) mind training
3) pharmaceuticals, supplements, diet and hormones
Within the category of mind training is a sub-category of philosophy, which includes internal narratives.
Your narrative seems to be that high reward is not worth high risk.
For the last several years I’ve been mostly pretty happy. Happy enough that it seemed noteworthy to me, and I’ve been trying to systematize how to create and maintain this happiness. For me a lot of this happiness involves relationships and sex and money. And chi-kung.
My narrative tells me that it’s not enough to just lower expectations and accept things as they are. That would be working solely on mind-training. That had not worked by itself for me – the external situations are hugely influential, no matter how much our philosophies tell us that they SHOULD not be.
Philosophy is useless in the dentist chair.
The external situations have huge effects.
I find that when things are well set up, I am learning and growing and enjoying and can not only be warm and content but have times of bliss and even extreme bliss.
But I can’t have that without risk.
The rewards that I’ve been personally experiencing are profoundly important to me.
I’m getting back on track to that bliss and wellbeing even now.
The down and difficult times are simply part of the process.
Buddhists have a conceptions of “samsara”, which is the fact that situations are interdependent and cause and effect is constantly causing flux and changes. Since happiness IS relative to external situations, happiness within “samsara” changes. The Buddhist “solution” to this is to try to detach from being affected by external situations through mind training.
It doesn’t work. Mind training is so helpful that I consider it essential to the good life, however as a philosophy of happiness it doesn’t work.
You need the externals. For me I need love in my life, to be at my best. That’s a fact.
Being happy is a strategic war. It’s not a series of battles, it’s a full out strategic war. You must plan, craft, put in the work, and win. Happiness is largely due to circumstance, and affecting circumstance is a life long strategic process.
As is mind and body training.
When people talk of the “hedonic treadmill”, mostly they are just making excuses for not wanting to try hard.
The concept of a hedonic treadmill is one of those dangerous partial truths. It’s just accurate enough to be dangerously wrong. The wider territory is that we can HUGELY affect our own happiness, and that happiness can grow and grow over time, with mind training and circumstance improvement. You can deliberately create and maintain not only an ongoing feeling of contentment, but even move into times of great happiness and bliss, and even extreme blisses.
That is not done on the couch thinking about “is it worth it?”
It’s done through Pavlovian training, one small step at a time. Giving yourself rewards and learning to feel and amplify those rewards for behaviors that you have chosen to use to win your war. Feel the happiness for the dollar earned. Feel the contentment for love you generate. Feel the pride for the music you make. And so on.
Rather than deaden these feelings so as to never feel loss, you feel them, and accept that samsara is the game. Use samsara. Use the fact of interdependent cause and effect to your advantage. Don’t detach from life. Evolution gave your fore-bearers attachments just so that you could have the opportunity to use them. Pleasure and suffering are foundational tools without which we could not win. Use your attachments as tools to win the war.
Life without love is losing at life.
To win any war you have to plan for the losses. You can’t avoid battles in order win. Heartbreak in life is a sign that you are out there fighting properly.