THE CONTENTED PIG
What is it like to feel really happy?
In Volume I we devoted an entire chapter to an examination of the happiest of moods and the feeling of happiness, but to summarize here, the happiest moods are wonderful moments, filled with joy and profound contentment. When we are in a happy mood, everything is right with the world! We’re more sociable, more secure, more complete. And, more pertinent to our present discussion: we feel like we’ve arrived in life!
Abraham Maslow, in his study of “peak experiences” (those ultimate happy moments in life) (xxx), found that when people are in the happiest of moods they are, as he described it:
“…non-needing, non-striving, non-wishing, and non-hoping.”
In other words, ultimate happiness is a state of completeness. There’s nothing to wish for, nothing to want for, nothing to strive for — you’re already there!
My own earlier studies on the “best moments in life” (xxx) found much the same. In the best of moments, there is a sense of fulfillment that can be mesmerizing. All goals seem to vanish for the moment. Ambition seems irrelevant.
After all, where else is there to go, when you’ve already arrived?
It’s a good question — and one that many critics of happiness seize upon. In Volume I we examined a number of concerns that philosophers and social critics have raised about happiness. One of the most prominent, as we mentioned then, is that happiness leads to a sense of complacency. Such critics, therefore, argue against the pursuit of happiness as an ideal, since they believe that a happy society would be a nonproductive society. Happiness, in this view, is seen to be an opiate — and those who become addicted to it become lazy, a-motivated, and forsake all progress. Simply put, they become “contented pigs — wallowing around in their own bliss — too happy to do anything of merit.
Yet is this fear of happiness justified? Not according to the collected research. In fact, just the opposite is true…
Think about your own happy moods.When you’re feeling “on top of the world,” what do you do? Are you so entranced by the feeling that you do nothing at all? Do you just sit there agog, and wallow in the mood? Are you paralyzed with pleasure?
In some, extremely rare happy moods, the answer might be “Yes.” But most of the time the answer is a definite “No!” Most of the time when we’re feeling happy, we tend to be more energized than we do placid. Instead of just sitting there, we get “pumped-up.” Our energy soars. We become more talkative and sociable. We want to interact with people; visit with our friends; do something fun with our family. We’re driven to activity and our interest is heightened. We want to do things. We’re motivated to work on our projects, get a few things done, and be a bit more productive. Even chores seem enjoyable when we’re in a happy mood.
Happiness doesn’t make us lazy and complacent. It makes us energized and busy. That is why I have always called happiness “The Great Motivator.”