Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. In the felicitous words of Thomas Jefferson, the pursuit of happiness, not the pursuit of success, is set out as a core founding value of the United States of America. Bhutan, a small landlocked Buddhist country near the Himalayas, has promoted happiness since its fourth Dragon King, Jigme Dorgi Wangchuck in 1972 created the Gross National Happiness (GNH) index along the lines of the more commonly used economic index, Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Western economists are taking note. Early in 2012, Professor Jeffrey Sachs and his colleagues at Columbia University’s Earth Institute issued a World Happiness Report for the United Nations. European countries such as Denmark, Norway, Finland and the Netherlands rank highest on GNH; the USA ranks 11th.
In a 1960 interview near the end of his life, Jung listed the qualities of life required for happiness:
- Good physical and mental health.
- Good personal and intimate relations, e.g., friendships, family and marriage.
- The capacity for perceiving beauty in art and nature.
- Reasonable standards of living and satisfactory work.
- A philosophical or spiritual point of view sufficient for coping with the vicissitudes and vagaries of life.
Jung warns however about the direct pursuit of happiness. He reminds us that the factors that can produce happiness can, under certain conditions, produce just the opposite. He cautions that “the more you deliberately seek happiness, the more sure you are not to find it.” Further, he makes the point that “even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word “happy” would lose its meaning if it were not balanced with sadness.” He concludes that with respect to happiness: “It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.” Is that the same thing as going with the flow?
Jung’s take on happiness has proven to be a robust position, supported by a wide variety of research studies and clinical experience. Happiness flows from a life lived deeply and with wholeness, with a conscious awareness and acceptance of the highs and lows, the light and the darkness.