The Happiness Series:
Part II – Happiness and the Mind
BSc, MSc, DipAdvHyp
In Part I of the Happiness Series, we took an initial look at what happiness is and we identified two types of happiness: transient happiness and enduring happiness.
We discovered that transient happiness is a short-term, superficial and unstable form of happiness that arises from outside of yourself while enduring happiness is a long-term, deeper and more stable form of happiness that arises from inside of yourself.
Let’s now take a look at the nature of the mind itself and what emotions, including happiness, actually are.
When we think of the mind, we think of our identity and the things that we experience as conscious, sentient beings, such as our thoughts, ideas, feelings, intuitions, opinions, beliefs, memories, values, desires, and so on.
While these things represent the subjective aspect of the mind—meaning the aspect that we experience—there is also an objective aspect to the mind that defines, shapes and forms the things that we experience.
So, what is this objective aspect of the mind?
Well, your mind is, in fact, a dynamic system of living mental energy. The origin of your mind—which some call the soul, but which we shall refer to as the Self—generates complex patterns of mental energy that you subjectively experience as thoughts, feelings, intuitions, etc.
It’s useful to think of these energy patterns as a kind of language that defines and gives meaning to our subjective experiences.
In human languages, there is an objective aspect, commonly known as the syntax, that concerns the grammatical rules and patterns that languages adhere to.
But there is also a subjective aspect, commonly known as semantics, that concerns the meaning that language conveys.
Music provides an excellent way to understand this objective-subjective distinction. We subjectively experience music as audible sound, and music has the potential to convey many different emotions as we listen to it. This is the semantic aspect of the music, the aspect of music that we experience.
However, this experience is defined by musical syntax, including things such as key signature, harmony, melody, form, dynamics, and so on. We cannot have the subjective semantics of music without the objective syntax to define it. Without a clear musical language, music would not resemble music at all, and would instead be nothing but a chaotic mess of disordered sound.
The mind operates in the same way. The semantic aspect to your mind refers to the thoughts, feelings and intuitions that you subjectively experience, while the syntactical aspect to your mind refers to the mental energy patterns that define, organise and structure these experiences. Without a clear mental language, your mind simply could not exist.
The objective and subjective aspects of the mind represent two different sides of the same coin. However, most people are only aware of the subjective side, since this is the side that concerns the human senses, feelings and perceptions; in other words, everything that is experienced.
If you want to know 1) what happiness is, and 2) how happiness can be achieved, then you must learn to understand the syntax that underpins the semantic experience of happiness. To understand the syntax of your mind you must look beyond your subjective experiences and consider the fundamental language that defines your thoughts, feelings, intuitions and perceptions.
A Brief Interlude
A great deal more can and will be said about this topic in due course, such is its importance.
My world view and the intellectual foundation that defines both my life as an individual and my approach as a hypnotherapist is based upon the wondrous knowledge contained in the books by these authors. I cannot recommend them enough if you are someone who wishes to know more about who you are, why you are here, and why existence is the way it is.
But for now, let’s continue and take a deeper look at what emotions are.
What Are Emotions?
Emotions are nothing but the subjective experience of objective mental energy patterns. Just as certain words arranged in a certain form convey a certain subjective linguistic meaning, and just as certain musical notes arranged in a certain form played at a certain speed within a certain dynamic range convey a certain subjective musical meaning, so too do certain patterns of mental energy produce certain subjective emotional experiences.
Let’s take a very simplified look at how this works.
Pleasurable emotions are the subjective experience of objectively harmonious mental energy patterns; in other words, mental energy patterns that are complete, integrated, united, balanced, symmetrical and consistent.
On the other hand, painful emotions are the subjective experience of objectively dissonant mental energy patterns; in other words, mental energy patterns that are incomplete, disjointed, disunited, unbalanced, asymmetrical, inconsistent and conflicted.
Happiness is a pleasurable emotion because it is a subjective experience of inner mental harmony.
Think back to a time when you felt happy. When you feel happy, you experience a sense of wonderful peace and tranquillity, as though everything in your life is just right with little conflict or tension. You accept the conditions of your life, and you feel comfortable and satisfied with the circumstances of your life. Everything feels in balance. Everything seems to happen easily. Nothing is pulling you apart inside, and your inner world feels calm and efficient.
In contrast, think back to a time when you felt sad. When you feel sad, you may experience a sense of loss, tension or conflict. You may feel incomplete, or you may feel as though nothing is as it could or should be in your life. You do not accept the conditions of your life, and you may feel disempowered, believing that the life you desire is out of reach. Nothing feels in balance. Nothing seems to come easily. Everything is a struggle. Things may pull you apart inside, and your inner world feels strenuous and inefficient.
Notice how in the case of happiness, there is a profound sense of mental harmony and balance. Your thoughts and feelings are working in tandem, you feel complete, and there is little conflict or tension.
On the other hand, notice how in the case of sadness, there is a sense of disharmony and a lack of balance. Your thoughts and feelings are not working in tandem, you feel incomplete, and there is conflict, tension or some form.
This principle applies to other emotions too. Regret, disappointment, fear, stress and jealousy are all painful emotions, and they are painful because they reflect disharmonious mental energy patterns. Joy, euphoria, excitement, passion and serenity are all pleasurable emotions, and they are pleasurable because they reflect harmonious mental energy patterns.
Why Is This Important?
Well, if we want to feel happiness more often, we must know what happiness is. If we understand that emotions are nothing but patterns of mental energy, then we have a suitable means of knowing and understanding what happiness is rather than merely feeling what happiness is.
If this is confusing, don’t worry. The topic of the mind is very complex and requires far more than a few sentences to explore thoroughly and comprehensively. I will be writing a series specifically dedicated to exploring the nature of the mind along these lines in due course.
However, for now, I believe it is a useful start for you to begin to look at happiness more objectively as I have described above, rather than thinking about happiness solely in terms of how happiness feels.
This has been a very deep and complex insight into the fundamental nature of both happiness and the mind itself. However, you now have the necessary foundation of essential knowledge that will help you to understand the next part of the Happiness Series.
In Part III, we will explore the final key that unlocks the knowledge of what happiness is and how happiness can be achieved. This key involves a consideration of the dynamic nature of the mind, and we will begin to discover that it is this dynamic, ever-changing nature that gives value, meaning and purpose to not only happiness but to life itself.