If you could live ten years of your life in total bliss—with NO pain—but in the end, not remember any of it—would you do it?
According to my favorite philosopher buddy Aristotle, the answer should be “no!”
Aristotle is a big believer that true happiness comes from gaining insight and growing into your best possible self. Otherwise all you’re having is immediate gratification—which is fleeting and doesn’t grow you as a person.
In a way the above scenario is a description of someone who smokes crack or drinks into oblivion. At the time it feels like avoiding pain and seeking bliss, but in the long term you’re not actually enjoying real life, with its inevitable ebbs and flows which give you needed insights and exciting experiences that grow you—and let you know more about who you are, what you love, and who you truly love.
There’s a wonderful quote related to this topic: “We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts not breaths; in feelings, not in figures on a dial. We should count time by heart throbs. He most lives who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.”
Translation: Life has ebbs and flows. There’s no such thing as endless flow. Unfortunately life can sometimes feel like ebb, ebb, ebb, brief-flash-of-flow, more ebb, ebb, ebb. But every ebb offers the opportunity to think a new thought flavor and feel a new emotion flavor. The more varied the flavors of life you get to taste, the more interesting, layered, educated, self-developed, world-experienced, and mightier You will be!
Aristotle even went so far as to say that he believed “conscious insight” is the highest form of knowledge—more so than factual book knowledge—because it is the only knowledge that awakens you to your highest potential, which is what leads to the truest happiness in life.
Of course Aristotle also admitted: “To perceive is to suffer.” He recognized “conscious insight” can often come accompanied by some pain. For this reason Aristotle acknowledged that living a happy life requires the virtues of courage, discipline, and patience. You need these three virtues to endure some of the pain which “conscious insight” brings during challenging times, so you move forward to awaken and grow into your happiest, mightiest, best self.
Granted, it’s tempting to want to avoid putting in courage, discipline, and patience. However, it’s essential—otherwise you might be setting yourself up to endure even greater pain—the pain of experiencing more patterns of disappointment and failure—when you don’t learn and remember those empowering lessons.
Carl Jung said it well when he said: “The foundation of all mental illness is the avoidance of legitimate suffering.”
How true. You must never confuse “repression of your pain” for “inner peacefulness.” If you choose to completely ignore your pain during challenging times, you will risk winding up expressing it pathologically (aka: reliving patterns of failure, acting out passive-aggressively, becoming perpetually cynical, taking on an addiction, etc).
For all of these many reasons, Aristotle believed that the main reason why so many people are unhappy in this world is that they keep foolishly confusing “pleasure” for “happiness.”
The Big Difference Between Pleasure and Happiness:
1. “Pleasure” is simply about immediate gratification of your body/ego.
It’s instant in bringing a feeling of joy—but this joy is fleeting—thereby pleasure is unsatisfying in the long run.
2. “Happiness” is about seeking longterm growth—for yourself as a thriving individual.
It’s about surrounding yourself with experiences, people and habits which nourish your soul/core self. Happiness is often not immediate. In fact true happiness often requires the virtues of courage, discipline and patience—before you feel the joy of growing into your highest potential self—which again is what “true happiness” is all about. (For example, even learning how to play the piano, play tennis, learn to cook, communicate about a difficult but important intimate conversation—all of this takes courage, discipline, and patience—and is well worth the courage, discipline, and patience for the true happiness gained!) And unlike “pleasure,” true happiness is not fleeting—because happiness is about the nourishment of your soul / core self—and your soul / core self are forever a part of who you are. So when you grow your true happiness, you forever grow who you are as a person! Happiness thereby creates long-haul joy, because it increases your soul’s self-development—hence the joy lasts as long as you last—because the joy created becomes an integral part of who you are as a unique, thriving individual.
Happily once you experience that clunk of “conscious insight” about this important difference between pleasure versus happiness, you’ll find yourself experiencing a clearer 20/20 lens on where you’re most likely to find more true happiness in your life! Plus it might become clearer what the answer to the quickie question above might be:
That Quickie Question Once Again: If you could live ten years of your life in total bliss—with NO pain—but in the end, not remember any of it—would you do it?
Once you in keep in mind Aristotle’s point of view on the empowering “growth formula” potential of “conscious insight”—you’re less afraid of the “pain” mentioned in this question—and more afraid of the “not remembering” mentioned in this question! After all, without having any memory of the lessons you’re learning in life, all you’re having is immediate gratification pleasure of the body and/or ego—which is fleeting and superficial—and doesn’t grow you as a person—and thereby this isn’t true happiness at all!
Karen Salmansohn is a bestselling author and award-winning designer with over one million books sold. She writes a lot about Aristotle’s philosophies on “the good life” in her books THE BOUNCE BACK BOOK and PRINCE HARMING SYNDROME which you can read more about at her site: www.notsalmon.com