Monday, October 3, 2016

What is Happiness?

photograph of Sigmund Freud by Max Halberstadt
Everyone who has ever embarked upon a course of therapy entertains the notion that someday they will be changed, different and yes happy. Few people can probably define what happiness is (is it a form of hedonism where desires are satisfied, or a spiritual attitude which totally by passes the notion of gratification?). But that is a mute point, since no one would embark on treatment unless they believed that the outcome, which could be quantified, was positive. You think you want to go from here to there. Years pass and you have gotten to know your physician, or social worker or healer well and you keep waiting for that great come and get it day. As you get older your faculties start to fade, yet the longing for the missing piece of the puzzle remains (Freud wrote a paper called "Analysis Terminable and Interminable"). Your libido decreases, you become arthritic, the palette of experience from which you will produce your great artistic work (if you are a musician, writer or painter) begins to narrow. Yet you remain tenacious in your faith. In any case, the therapy has begun to furnish you with other rewards. It’s a kind of salvo for the pains of every day existence. Even as you experience a diminution of your powers, you at least look forward to seeing someone on whose metaphorical shoulder you can cry. He or she has become the repository of a life time’s worth of memory and, in fact, if there is any monument to your life, it becomes the putting one step in front of the other, the showing up which is the substance of the therapeutic work. Still you hope. You can’t live without hope. Perhaps the next week or the next month will bring your desired epiphany and then finally the day comes, not the day of revelation, but the day of your ending, the day on which you cease to be. None of the things you wished for or thought you wanted may have happened, but is there anyone who would say that you were a lesser person due to the years of introspection and all the attempts to live a better life?

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