Are you happy?
Are you happy? While many people believe that accumulating wealth leads to happiness, on the contrary, money can't buy happineess. In fact, external factors in general have a limited impact on happiness. Wealth and social status do have some effect on your happiness, but they only account for about 10 to 20% of it.
Happiness would likely be out of reach if it was purely an external phenomenon. This is because our desires are limitless - the amount of control one have over the world, on the other hand, is very limited. Love, is a good example. There is no way to ensure that your lover will always love you back. So, if your happiness depends on that, you are likely setting yourself for both heartbreak and disappointment.
A person might get excited about buying a new car, for example, only to have that joy squashed when a newer model arrives. That is what happens when you seek happiness from external sources, instead of focusing on your inner being.
Hence it is useless to cling onto temporary things like cars. Accepting that is the first step towards finding inner peace and tranquility. True happiness comes from reaching such a high state of inner well-being that you are no longer affect by failure.
Happiness is not the same thing as pleasure
Pleasure might seem like the fastest and easiest road to happiness, but sooner or later, you will come to a dead end. Pleasure is momentary by nature; it occurs under certain circumstances at a certain time. A pleasurable experience can quickly become neutral or unpleasant because pleasure is so unstable and fleeting. Your favourite food might be delicious and gives you pleasure for a while, but too much of it will make you sick. Long-lasting happiness, on the other hand, should not be confused with pleasure; such things are short-term and will not have much influence on your well-being.
A study found that even winning a lottery does not change a person's happiness that much. It causes a temporary spike in happiness but does nothing to prevent that happiness from falling back to normal levels.
Happiness is about freeing yourself from worries about life
While suffering is universal and unavoidable, our pain does not actually stem from the suffering that we experience. Instead, it comes from the unhappiness that we create. If a person loses her job, for example, she will be unhappy. That unhappiness does not actually result from the loss of the job itself but from the person's fears and worries about the loss of wealth, status and career prospects. Giving up this unnecessary worrying is the key towards true and long-lasting happiness.
Freeing yourself from your own ego
The concepts of identity and status are closely connected to unhappiness. This is why it is important to detach yourself from your ego. A person who clings to a specific self-imge will do anything to make sure that that image is recognised and accepted. The ego is simply too fragile to be a reliable foundation. When you think highly of yourself, you are putting yourself at risk of being emotionally shut down when things go wrong. This is why it is important to detach yourself from your ego. By doing this, you become less vulnerable, and develop an inner strength that leads you towards true happiness.
Humility is also another important part to ego-free happiness. If you are humble, you do not need validations from other people, and this gives you a sense of freedom that can prevent much distress and disappointment. Hence, humility can be seen as the source of inner freedom. Also, when you become humble, you focus more on other people's concerns (instead of your own).
Achieving long-lasting happiness is hard work. It requires overcoming your ego, reconciling yourself to negative emotions, and reorienting your world view. While it takes time, you will achieve a long-lasting happiness that is more fulfilling than any temporary pleasure from wealth or fame.
(Adapted from "Happiness" by Matthiu Ricard)
As part of the International Women's Day initiative, we are covering an article on "What Women Want". This is based on the book "What Women Want," by Daniel Bergner, a writer for The New York Times Magazine.
This article is for anyone who wants to:
a. understand women better
b. get new perspectives on sex and relationships
c. uncover more about one's own sexuality
Social norms often dictate women's sexuality, and simplify it.
Ancient texts and religions reveal that the repression of women's sexuality has long been present since the early days. Then, in the sixteenth centure, when male scientists discovered the role of the ovum for reproduction. Because women could conceive regardless of whether they felt desire, men concluded that there is little reason to pay attention to female pleasure.
In modern times, women are supposedly the more restrained sex. This is a stereotype that that encourages women to behave in the way that we think they should. The problem hence lies: whether it is through religion, social convention or science, women are told how to feel and act. It is a combination of these influences that perpetuate the status quo.
Men and Women's Sexual Desires
en has long been compared to animals tamed by society, as creatures that express their true nature in socially acceptable ways, such as watching pornography or casting predatory glances at women on the street. On the other hand, women are said to long for emotional safety and monogany - the direct opposite of the wild and restive desires of men. In reality, the range and power of women's desire might be completed understood.
Dr. Chivas, a scientist specialising in sexology conducted an experiment with a plethysmograph. This is a light sensor that could be placed inside the vagina to measure women's reactions to provocative footages. The women watched a variety of scenes: heterosexual and homosexual intercourse, masturbation and even bonobos mating. The conclusion was astounding. Women, regardless of sexual orientation, were aroused by all kinds of footage, even images of copulating apes. Men, however, reacted along more predictable lines. This study showed that women often misunderstand their own desire.
Women's sexuality is complicated by anatomy and social environment
Anatomy could be one factor that led to this differing awareness of women's own sexuality. While men could easily tell that they are aroused from teenage years onwards, from how the penises grow and shrink from sexual excitement, it is often harder for women.
In additional experiments by Dr. Chivers, it was revealed that women's desire does not necessarily fit into societal standards. This seems to debunk the assumption that the female libido thrives on emotional connection alone.
The complexity of women's desire can be explored through their fantasties. Nine different surveys asked women if they were fantasized about being overpowered or coerced into sex. The results gathered from 355 college women revealed that 62 percent had had such fantasties at least once.
One possible explanation is that being desired is central to women's libidos. Women's sexual desires, according to Professor Meana, depend heavily on the extent to which they feel desired by their partner. Particularly in cultures where sex is a taboo topic, some women may find a way to embrace their own sexual drive through such fantasies, while avoiding the shame imposed on them. For example, they might fantasize about being raped, because this way they have no reason to be ashamed of wanting sex.