Coping in the Pursuit of Happiness

How to cope with bad news? It’s all around us, I know. But what’s GOOD? Is nothing good in your life? For a lot of people the answer is, “Much is good in my life.” My advice, then, is spending more time thinking about what you have that’s good — and working to maintain it. If nothing were good in your life, then you would be in survival mode. Survival mode is, quite literally, trying to survive and get the basic minimum established — food, shelter and clothing. That’s how humans have lived for most of their history, and that’s how many humans still live today. If your life is still way past that bare minimum, then you’re doing comparatively well, even if a lot of major things out there are going wrong right now.

I think that sometimes people want assurances. They want to somehow KNOW that everything obtained up to now that’s good will absolutely stay in place. But that’s not how it works. The more we gain, at least materially, the more we are subject to losing. If you have nothing, then you have nothing to lose. If you have much — and all of us Americans/Westerners do, compared to anyone who has ever lived — then you are subject to high anxiety over losing what you value. So is it better to have nothing?

Life is about the gaining and keeping of values (both material and internal). At some junctures, we’re more focused on the gaining of new values. At other junctures, we’re more concerned with keeping and maintaining what we have, or even getting back what we lose. All of this qualifies as the pursuit of happiness. Happiness does not end merely because you find yourself having to get back something you lost rather than experience an easy life of endless, uninterrupted gain. Life has its ups and downs. If you try to fight this fact you’ll become much more frightened, depressed or neurotic than you otherwise would be. Yes, it’s true that there are evil and irrational forces in the world, people who make life much more difficult than it needs to be. But they exist. Get used to it. Fighting them, getting around them, or doing whatever it takes to minimize their influence is part of what life is about.