A subjective and relative concept

The French writer and politician André Malraux said: "Happiness is for fools", in the sense that it is utopian to believe that one can reach an absolute state while one is in a relative world; and that you have to be a fool to believe that you will succeed one day.

"We should die when we are happy," Jacqueline Dulac sang, demonstrating the difficult, if not impossible, quest that represents the attainment of perfect happiness and the ultimate value of this state.

Many philosophers, intellectuals and researchers have spoken out on the question of happiness, and the only conclusion that everyone agrees on is that happiness is a subjective and relative notion. It is because happiness is so subjective and relative that so much discussion and debate surrounds the hypothetical definition of it and above all, the different ways to achieve it.

Happiness, a social paradox

Nowadays, happiness seems more external than internal, and the image of success imposed on us by society is such that an admission of unhappiness equals that of having failed one's life. This is undoubtedly what explains the reason for a certain paradox, which is that the vast majority of individuals tend to consider themselves happy or very happy, while everyday life sends us more and more signals to the contrary. 

Many thinkers criticize contemporary society and its different demands, for being more focused on consumption, on the notion of having than of being, and on the obligation of performance.

Some even claim that the many pleasures of modern society, artificial, sensational and ephemeral, mask the true pursuit of happiness, distance the individual from minimal but essential spirituality and reduce happiness to a simplistic, materialistic and quantifiable notion.

Happiness, a question of aptitude and attitude

Is the attainment of happiness linked to the ability of each person to accept or refuse life as it is? Are there people who have a greater aptitude for happiness than others?

Abraham Maslow, the father of so-called "humanistic" psychology, believes so. He identifies two essential factors that define this ability to achieve happiness: to solve concrete problems rather than living withdrawn and to escape social norms or social condition.

In addition, he asserts that one achieves happiness by attaining a higher degree of self-realization.

There are also several other models and theories that value, among other things, research and concentration on the "present moment" to achieve a certain level of happiness. In fact, any activity that requires concentrating attention on the here and now would bring us closer to this state, the goal being to recreate these conditions as often as possible in everyday life. This attitude then becomes a kind of philosophy, with happiness springing from a host of small daily acts.

Happiness can also be expressed through "cosmic participation" or the feeling of participating in something greater than oneself, something that both encompasses and contains us. We are referring here to the very meaning of life and to a much more spiritual definition of happiness.

From a more existential point of view, would happiness be accessible only in the hereafter, after death? Some believe so, and feel that our journey on earth is only a preparatory step. For these thinkers, it is not the goal that counts, but the journey towards that goal.

Most thinkers and intellectuals agree that happiness does not happen alone. It requires work on oneself. The world we have in our heads is not the real world, and it is the opposition between the two that makes us unhappy. Dissonance and illusion are never good to maintain, and we must strive to ensure that the world we have in our heads is as close as possible to the real world.

A personal evaluation

So! Is happiness an abstract concept, a concrete reality, or does it waver between one and the other? It is certainly not easy to define it. This is not the purpose of the IBL (index), we do not claim it. However, it is the evaluation that interests us, an assessment that is rooted in people's perceptions of themselves and the life they lead.

And who knows, perhaps on this site you will findelements that will help you in your personal journey ...