Existential Psychology

Happiness Is A Byproduct

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Happiness is a byproduct of function, purpose, and conflict; those who seek happiness for itself seek victory without war.”
– William S. Burroughs

If you ask people what they want out of life the answer is almost always “To be happy.” That’s all well and good but the problem is their lack of insight about the fact that, as Frankl once put it, happiness cannot be pursued it must ensue.

In other words happiness is the byproduct of an orientation towards life. It’s the outcome of a way of being in the world, a way of being that doesn’t make happiness the primary goal, that doesn’t really even take it into account in the first place.

So what is this orientation towards life, this way of being that leads to happiness without trying for it? From our existential point of view it starts and ends with self-actualization. It’s the conscious and active decision to develop unique potentialities, to engage with objects in the external environment that allow for the manifestation of the inner life. In the concrete sense it’s when that inner Self is expressed in a way that feels authentic that happiness ensues.

In the more general sense, when people believe that they are on the path of self-actualization they’re happy and when they don’t they’re not. It’s really that simple, and it doesn’t matter how ideal conditions seem to be to the outside observer. If these conditions don’t align with the authentic vision people hold of who they are and who they are supposed to become the result is unhappiness. When these conditions do align the result is happiness.