I’d Give Up Being Happy To Be Happy

Tonight a friend of mine drunkenly called me after hitting up a bar too many (or maybe it was the perfect number of bars).

We were having a pretty funny and awesome one-sided drunk conversation for awhile (I was unfortunately just sitting soberly at my desk), when the tone turned slightly negative. It was a still pretty awesome conversation, the way one sided drunk and negative conversations can often be (admit it), and things were said such as ‘sometimes people can just suck! Why?? Why do they suck??’ Rambling rants commenced.

Then my friend suddenly said “I just want to be happy. I’d give up being happy to be happy.”

I laughed and asked what in the world that meant.

“I don’t know,” was the reply, “I’m drunk. I’m rambling.”

“Haha, I see.”

“But I just want to be happy now. Not just later.”

My friend made an offhand drunk comment, but it got me thinking about long term happiness vs short term happiness- or long term happiness vs short term pleasure.  Right now, I’m kind of down and I just want everything to be okay. When I’m feeling upset,  sometimes I just want the shortest road to feeling better. Even though I know what will lead to happiness in the long term, there are times I just want things to satisfy me now.

Wanting pleasurable experience after pleasurable experience without sacrificing for the long term is called the hedonistic treadmill. Some people spend their whole lives on it. That short term patchwork feel-better “happiness” is actually just pleasure, whereas deeper and true lasting happiness is something far different. A good example is eating platters of nachos on the couch instead of exercising, when your goal is to get fit. The platters of nachos may be delicious and give you short term “happiness” (pleasure), but seeing results from your workout regime would give you way more long term happiness.

Right now I find myself grappling with this a lot, in much less obvious ways than the nacho example. I see the hedonistic treadmill issue pop up when I’d rather stay in a non-ideal situation rather than go through the discomfort of demanding better things in my life. Or when I want to feel peaceful all the time and can’t face occasionally upsetting but natural feelings in order to work through them.

Do you recognize a pleasure-addiction syndrome in your life- even a subtle one? What can you do to better face occasional unpleasantness and sometimes very scary feelings in order to have greater happiness in the long run?


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