Monday, December 8, 2008

Ballasting Happiness

If you know a worrier, you've surely discovered that such people play a perpetual game of "whack-a-mole". Alleviate a worry for them, and they'll instantly find something else to worry about. It's all about the mindset, not the worries themselves (if there are no real worries at hand, silly ones will be manufactured). They think they're plagued by worries, but, really, they're plagued by the desire to worry.

When you try to alleviate the circumstances that make an angry person angry, or a sad person sad, or an aggravated person aggravated, nothing is accomplished because circumstance doesn't create the mindset, it's the other way around. The mindset comes first. Slings and arrows are sought out and eagerly grabbed at.

Your Uncle Louie is not an Aggravated Person because things aggravate him. Things have aggravated him because he's an Aggravated Person.

How does this happen? Everyone, at a certain point, decides how happy they will be (as with most such choices, cues are taken from the happiness of family members and others around them). This decision becomes a bedrock part of identity - the "I am this kind of person" inner narrative we all maintain.

Aside from truly dramatic life events, people maintain a remarkably consistent happiness level over time. Even moody "up-and-down" types are consistent in their range. We maintain the equilibrium our self-image requires by taking on and discharging ballast - like a ship. And, just as we choose our happiness level, at some point we choose our ballast of choice: worries, anger, sadness, aggravation, etc. The ballast enables us to maintain our happiness at the correct level.

The world does not lack for ballast. In fact, potential ballast is infinite. Yet isn't it interesting how people vary in their eagerness for the stuff?

1 comment:

David said...

“Happiness? A good cigar, a good meal, a good cigar and a good woman - or a bad woman; it depends on how much happiness you can handle.”

George F. Burns

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