Throughout the history of mankind, many people have reflected on the concept of happiness. Have you ever tried it? During my research, I have realized that thinking about happiness (in the philosophical sense of the word) is a difficult task, because one does not know exactly what to fix.
So, it is permissible for any thinker to ask himself … what should I focus on and what concepts should I take into account to study happiness? Well, to start a reflection on any concept, you have to ask about everything that is not that concept. And even more if we are dealing with the elusive concept of happiness.
So I did and I hoped that, as in a winnowing process, in which the straw is separated from the grain by throwing the mixture into the air, the breeze would drag the straw (that is, everything that is not happiness) and what interests us , the grain (happiness), would fall in the basket (my mind) leaving at last to be discovered to be processed (analyzed).
What is happiness?
The first mistake is to assume that the social imaginary of “happiness” is correct.
When we think of “happiness”, we come to mind very colorful and luminous images, of people doing activities in which apparently they have a good time, in which those people are free: photos of smiles, rainbows, clown noses and emoticons crying with laughter. I invite you to do the test, stop reading and write in the search engine of Google Images the word “happiness”. What does this search teach us? Exactly what I have described, and if that were not enough, we propose concepts that could (or should) be related, such as friend, day, birthday, love, family, wedding, Coca-Cola, and many more.
And is not that happiness? Partly yes, but that also means partly not. That’s why we should not let the media or “what everyone says” make us believe that we can only be happy on sunny days, on our birthday, or when we drink Coca-Cola.
Since we have use of reason, humans use concepts to understand the world, and happiness is nothing more than another concept. Is it that nobody has realized that each society modulates the concepts to their liking and convenience ?.
I write all this to make you see that behind the smiles there are tears, that after each day comes the night, and that, hidden under the window of “perfect happiness”, there are many interests that our society is not interested in admitting. Although it is now when I realize, the opposite of happiness is unhappiness, and nothing else.
I propose that we doubt about everything we think we know about “happiness” if we have not reflected on it before, since that leads to a confusion that, apart from mixing concepts, leads us to live a life in search of something that we do not even know what it is.
This was how I unraveled the concept of happiness, in one of my retreats to the mountains, talking with my uncle about the subject when I realized (well, I realized) of all this and the idea that I have called: Unhappy joy and happy sadness. I present this idea because I feel that it should be made clear once and for all that being sad does not mean being unhappy. They are parallel concepts that make no sense to compare because they are simply not part of the same plane: the first is an emotion, and the second a feeling.
Sadness and unhappiness: a fundamental distinction
Too often, and more in psychology, these concepts of emotion and feeling are confused, that with examples we could understand as different things: when I am walking along the mountain with my dog and we see a snake, an intense mental state occurs in us. spontaneously it arises in the limbic system (in charge of the emotions) that makes us react with surprise and fear; two basic emotions (universal, which have both animals and humans) instinctive and adaptive that in practice have made our species have survived to this day.
When we finish the walk and leave Simba (my dog) alone at home, he will feel sad (another basic emotion) but never unhappy, since unhappiness is a feeling that differs from the emotions in that it comes to her through of conscious evaluation, that is, subjecting that emotion to a thought. And that is something that at the moment only humans do, thanks (or misfortune) to the development of the prefrontal cortex, we use the reasoning that through symbols and meanings lead our mind to create more complex concepts that animals can not understand , because so far they have not needed them.
Therefore, joy is universal but happiness is subjective. We all feel the same but we do not all think the same about what we feel. Is it understood now?
In short, a person can be very happy but be unhappy. That false “good” that we say would be a good example. And at the same time, a person who by any unpleasant external event may feel sad at a certain moment, will trust that his inner happiness remains in the face of adversity.