Happiness is a complicated subject. We know it when we feel it, but it’s impossible to quantify and often difficult to intentionally achieve. Over at The Oatmeal, Matthew Inman argues that happiness may not be a worthwhile goal at all — not that we shouldn’t try to live a good life or find satisfaction, but that wanting to be happy may be a fundamentally self-sabotaging endeavor.
— Matthew Inman (@Oatmeal) September 2, 2016
Inman references Augusten Burroughs’ How to Live Unhappily Ever After, an essay published in the Wall Street Journal back in 2012.
In it, Burroughs addresses the elusiveness of happiness, and the toxic effect that can have on someone.
I am not a happy person.
There are things to do make me experience joy. But joy is a fleeting emotion, like a very long sneeze.
I feel contentment rarely, but I do feel it.
A lot of the time what I feel is interested. Or I feel melancholy.
And I also frequently feel tenderness, annoyance, confusion, fear, hopelessness, friskiness.
It doesn’t all add up to anything I would call happiness.
What I’m thinking is, is that so terrible?
Inman and Burroughs aren’t advocating for unchecked depression — if you’re dealing with a mental health issue, you should definitely talk to a professional about your treatment options — but for a change in perspective. If happiness seems neither sustainably achievable nor worth the constant struggle, it might be a perspective you’d enjoy.