Despite our incredible growth as a species, our advances in technology, our nurturing of morality; we aren’t getting any happier. In today’s increasingly hectic, meritocratic, capitalist society, we find ourselves working toward a future which we naïvely believe to be “better” than the present. But there is a point in everyone’s life where we think “hold the phone, where is this better life I’ve been working for?” — cue the mid-life crisis. The pursuit of happiness seems futile, right? Well, perhaps not. Recently I’ve begun reading about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s flow, a psychological theory on human behaviour.
Our success-driven society is a consequence of our selfishness, characteristic of the ego. Our self-image is based around a set of dreams and goals. The ego is an attention-seeking narcissist dwelling within every one of us. Unfortunately, she is a very persuasive attention-seeking narcissist. Our choices and experiences either satisfy our ego — a wonderful success, or they don’t — a horrid suffering. Our ego, and consequently our goals, are largely born and nurtured in our subconscious. It is society which selfishly conditions our goals to suit it. Sometimes, anomie occurs; society’s needs do not allow for the simultaneous happiness of its members. This discourages flow.
Csikszentmihalyi (seriously, how is that pronounced?) had a point. One of my favourite things to do is jam. When I’m drumming with a band, and we find the elusive “groove”, it’s wonderful and I find myself more relaxed and playing better. I believe the groove to be synonymous with flow. It is the key to happiness and is exactly what we must aim for. Our society harbours increasingly poor conditions for the cultivation of flow.
We aren’t getting any happier, but we could be. We need to grow up, we need to stop playing this pathetic game of one-upmanship with each other.
“I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.” — Martha Washington