The Happiness Addiction

In recent times, we’ve seen so many drug and alcohol binges and deaths among the rich and famous, it’s fair to ask what’s going on.

In the wake of the deaths of Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston and billionaire Eva Rausing come the ghostly photos of celebrity Macaulay Culkin — predicted to have only months to live — and photos of the sexy actress Brigitte Nielsen, former wife of Sly Stallone, lying like a bag lady, drunk in a park.

We can comprehend that drug problems plague the Jane and John Does of this world, but when we see people who we’d deem as having magnificent, blessed lives, beyond and above anything we could imagine — amazing bodies, careers, money, going to fabulous resorts and parties and not having to worry about the drudgery of housework and mortgages — it does beg the question about the nature of addiction. Out of the spotlight, rates of addiction are rising, with new temptations every day through the growing digital world: computer games, on-line porn and gambling, social networking.

During my childhood, alcoholism and workaholism were the drugs of choice. The number of people I’ve met who grew up with an alcoholic parent is staggering. It’s just that the rich and famous provide a spotlight from above, reminding us that no one is immune from suffering, or from wanting to escape pain and live off ‘‘happiness hits’’ no matter how artificial or ephemeral.

And, more importantly, reminding us that nothing has changed, rather it is getting worse with the ‘screen’ being our new dopamine hit — the excitatory reward chemical released through addictive behaviour.

For some, addiction is a problem of faulty brain chemistry. But more often than not it’s a problem of the Soul, an inability to come to terms with what Buddhists call ‘‘the true nature of reality’’. Doctors treat the problem, not the cause. A leading cause in the West is the false expectation that happiness is our birthright; and that it lasts. And yet in a society so competitive and materialistic, it’s hard to feel blessed with what one has. Even at the highest levels there’s someone higher, richer, prettier, seemingly happier and always younger. There’s little acceptance beauty will fade; loved ones will leave or die; health will decline; Life will happen.

The only hope for any of us to really escape our societal malcontentment is to find meaning greater than self-gratification, and self-soothing through denial, to accept suffering is a normal part of the human condition, and that everything passes. Until then, the ghostly, anorexic faces of reality will stare at us from colour magazines and billboards as a reminder of the failure of our cherished Western ‘‘Happy Ever After’’ myth.



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3 Responses to The Happiness Addiction

  1. David Penglase 31 August 2012 at 8:22 am #

    G’day Ruth, How wonderfully stated “to find meaning greater than self-gratification”. Keeping up with ‘the Joneses’ is a zero sum game. As a parent to two young adult sons, and having researched this topic extensively, I’m convinced that what’s needed is more education (and positive examples) to demonstrate that it’s our intentional choices and intentional actions that will lead to us living a more happy, flourishing and prosperous life. Warm regards, David

  2. Feedback 27 August 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    ThKs for the article. How right you are. Great that you wrote this. Given western cultures vulnerability to inner meaning I’m glad to hear social commentary on same. We need to challenge ourselves to look deeper for answers and meaning. Whatever way weachieve that doesn’t matter. Good to see people talking about it, well done!

  3. nomadd 26 August 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    I think the main problem today is that far too many people are watching Hollywood movies which are full to the brim of fictitious life styles of the American people.
    I am always stunned by how people really believe all that crap that churns out of Hollywood, where everybody seems to live in majestic palaces, when in fact vast areas of America are poverty stricken with under educated, and brain washed citizens having the lowest standard of living in the western world.
    I only watch French movies which are more down to earth and therefore, do not lead me astray.
    When you are brought up from birth with golden opportunities being presented, is it any wonder that so many people are dissatisfied.
    Unfortunately, many of the current generation expect to start off in life where great numbers of older persons spent their lives striving to reach their goal.
    I am always dismayed and astonished at the way so many Australians consume drugs and alcohol as though it was in short supply. Never bothering to look around and see so many others who have absolutely ruined their lives and their families.
    I am glad that my parents in England never drank alcohol, not once did my father take me to a pub for an entertaining night.
    Therefore, over the past fifty years or so I never went into pubs, instead I preferred to dine in sumptuous restaurants and drink a couple of glasses of wine, never any more.
    In the fifties I walked and hitch-hiked across Afghanistan and was constantly showered with the offer of drugs, with no consequences from the law. Needless, to say, I did not try and I was never tempted to sample drugs.
    Over my life I have been fairly happy and have not sought nirvana, nor any god in the sky to transform my life, since I have enough sense to know that self achievement is the only way to go, and be contented with very little.
    An extravagant life and wealth is the way to ruination. You only have to read history to discover that is so.
    Moderation in all things is my motto.
    I must admit that I have a good laugh at all the advertisements, mainly for women, which describe wonder drugs and tucks in order to become younger.
    You will never get younger, only older, just become used to that and accept your final destination is death.
    No, there is no after life as you will disintegrate into bones, and like the vast majority of people, become completely forgotten.
    How many people lay flowers at the grave of Julius Caeser, even if they can find it ?

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