Happiness – A Theory

What is the relationship between our inclination to judge and our well being? No one likes to be judged, yet, it often seems, the impulse to judge runs strong within us.

The desire for the good opinion of our peers may be more fundamental than the quest to adhere to an absolute. But we are unlikely to put it to ourselves in this way. It seems we are more likely to say: I believe in such and such principle, and that is why I blah blah blah. If we monitor our own behavior closely, however, we may soon find that any given principle has little to do with it. Can we teach ourselves to not mind when others think ill of us? If we strive to present a truer picture of ourselves to others, might we not improve our standing, through candor, and, so, ironically, lessen the sting of judgment?

What sort of potential for happiness is there in a world in which we care deeply about how we are perceived, yet we are possessed of an abiding urge to judge everyone else (and not so as to increase their esteem)? We seem to like it when our relative standing is above that of our peers. The stage is set for: 1) diminishing others through judgment; 2) deceiving ourselves into viewing others as inferior; 3) some combination of 1 and 2. In such a milieu, there should be a good number of us who correctly, and, unhappily, perceive ourselves as being judged. Note, though, that, if we consider the bias and diminished capacity of those doing the judging, we may discover good reason for giving their judgment short shrift, even if we have difficulty transcending our aversion to being judged.

One possible solution for us, in all the above examples, and perhaps many others, is to see those around us who pursue their own biology as doing no more and no less than that; seeing that they are not our enemies, and that we need not change them; seeing, rather, that the pursuit of happiness involves changing our own perception of the situation, rather than our milieu. Such a project is arduous; if our own biology acts like a spring on a screen door, we must train ourselves to hold the door open, to perhaps come closer to seeing things as they are. We can recognize the behavior of others that might displease us as behavior we ourselves exhibit, to one degree or another; behavior with strong evolutionary origins; and we can use this insight to fuel our resolve to do something different. It may not be easy, but it seems that it is possible, to transcend our biology in this manner, and, hence, to avoid the blues.

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