Happiness vs. constant pleasure

Yesterday I’ve read about the most famous Hungarian motivational speaker, Péter Szabó. In late december Mr. Szabó is filling a stadiums for 10.000 people to attend “the largest European motivational show” called “Breakthrough II”. Tickets cost 75 to 750 USD in a country where the net average wage is about 12.000 USD / year (5 times less than in the US). It’s early October and the tickets are sold out for a while.

On the website of the upcoming event one can find quite usual marketing pieces of self-help: “Are you happy? If you are unsure or your answer is no, come to the show!”, “If you wake up in a bad mood sometimes or bad mood reaches you without reasons, come to the show!”, “What if you could always make yourself feel good?”, “What if you could leave worries behind and could program yourself to happiness mode?”


Through these headlines one gets the idea that being worried, sad or feeling bad from time-to-time is something one simply shouldn’t do. As if it was something to be ashamed of.


The truth couldn’t be farther. How can we imagine happiness without pain?


“We think of our pleasurable emotions (such as joy, satisfaction, pride or confidence) as being “positive” or good, and our painful ones (such as anger, fear, envy or shame) as being “negative” or bad. In short, we’ve deified pleasure, “feeling good”, and demonized pain. But this view of happiness is profoundly unhelpful to us. In fact, seeking to maximize pleasurable feelings and avoid pain is a life-strategy that has seriously damaging consequences, because it flies in the face of a far more fundamental drive of human nature: the drive for progress, for genuine improvement in our relationship with life.”

“Advertisers are determined to convince us that happiness is something that can be bought, ready-made off the shelf. They encourage us to go straight to pleasurable feelings as directly as possible, perhaps via boozing, over-eating, watching TV, or escaping into fantasy. But this passive consumption of pleasure leads only to stagnation and deterioration in our lives. Rather than consuming pleasures, we need to generate them through our own best efforts to progress our relationships. In this, there can be no short cuts nor substitutes.”

Nick Baylis: The Rough Guide to Happiness


I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t pay 1 euro listen to a lecture by someone who advertises pain-free or sorrow-free happiness. As far as I can recall all of the things that have really satisfied me came with risks, pain and often sadness and worries. Let it be training for a sport event, trying to start -and maintain- a relationship (let it be family, romantic or friends), planning and completing a new travel or -ultimately- to learn how to be happy…


What do YOU think about the connection of pleasure and happiness? Let us know in a comment!

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