Why “Happiness” Is A Phony Bill of Goods
Don’t get me started with the word ‘happy.’
I cringe when I hear that word, as I’ve said here, especially when it’s described as an achievable quest.
“Happy” is not static state of mind, nor a realistic pursuit. It’s a fleeting, volatile emotion.
Walter Doyle Staples, PhD, author of “Happy 95% of the Time” seems to agree.
“Happiness comes and goes,” he says, “and we eagerly look forward to its return. Between these periodic occurrences, however, we often suffer…”
So why is this book titled as it is?
(When I was asked to review this book by Career Press, I was dubious, at best.)
Walter Staples does have first hand, personal experience with anxiety and depression. He suffered with mental health issues as a young adult. His mother, wife and daughter endured mental health struggles too.
His health improved, he says, when he embraced a new way of thinking and relating to the world; when he began focusing on ‘inner’ work, and less on outer superficiality. As a result, he says, he became a calmer, more content, more spiritual individual.
His practices and ideas, towards the goal of greater life satisfaction, are the focus of this book.
Topics In The Book
This book offers sections that include:
- ‘Authentic’ happiness.
- Extrinsic versus Intrinsic happiness.
- Spiritual problem solving.
- 8 Ways to “Stop” thinking.
- Depression and stress reduction information.
- “Inner fitness.”
- The role of The Ego.
The Book’s Strong Points
There are some particularly useful sections in this book.
The one on ‘ego,’ for example, “when you let go of ego you let go of pain” is rarely discussed in the mental health realm, and it’s important.
The section on “mind traps” helps readers analyze their self-defeating thinking patterns. As thoughts pass through our minds we can ask: Are these thoughts rational, proven, accurate?
Ideas about “Inner Fitness” and the “Great Wheel of Life” focus on ‘inner self ‘ practices which contrast sharply with society’s prevalent, shallow obsession with appearances and materialism.
“Everyday happiness,”as Dr. Staples coins it, based on what he terms ‘extrinsic’ and ‘intrinsic’ factors, results when one cultivates gratitude, kindness and compassion (towards ourselves and others.) This is a good reminder.
The Book’s Weak Points
Messages, ideas and concepts in this book are worthwhile.
Overall, unfortunately, the book is confusing, wordy, lengthy and ideas are repeated excessively.
Long lists of quotes laced throughout many sections (albeit excellent ones) were distracting, and cliche platitudes, scattered throughout, diminished the work’s strength.
Many sections also required a more direct use of language.
Dr. Staples suggests, for example, that people ‘stop thinking.’ But – not thinking is not possible. We learn in meditation practice not to avoid thoughts, but to gently observe them, then let them pass. The author’s intent, I believe, is to suggest that ‘over thinking’ is detrimental. And that’s what he should have said.
Or – as Dr. Staples urges: “Know you have NO limits!” Knowing our limits is essential in determining our strengths. He means (I suspect) don’t imprison yourself with irrational thinking.
Win, Lose or Draw?
Despite its potential, despite its good intent, this book gets bogged down in its own excess.
I could not escape the book’s “happy 95% of the time” slogan. It’s a misleading promise, one already exploited and overused in a culture obsessed with the endless (fruitless?) pursuit of joy.
‘Happy,’ as a bill of goods, as an unattainable goal, a media mantra, and an exercise in futility, exists only in our minds, in our dreams, in our hopes.
It is not real. When it is, it’s fleeting, like a whisper in the wind.
I suspect that a treatise on ‘contentment’ was the genuine goal behind this book. ‘Content’ is different than ‘happy.’
Contentment is possible.
By titling the book “Happy 95% of the Time,” however, this opportunity was lost.
About This Book: “Happy 95% Of The Time” by Walter Doyle Staples, PhD, is published by Career Press, and is available at amazon.com