values

Why Young Lives Lives Are Losing Meaning and Purpose III: The Happiness-Unhappiness Seesaw

By M.K. Styllinski

Photo: Nathan Dumlao | unsplash.com

[“Happiness is ] the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”

– Sonjia Lyubomirsky, positive psychology researcher


Reading time: (10-15 mins)

Are you happy?

The answer to this question will depend on your life experiences to date, your culture and your age. But there may be a universal set of principles which we might adopt in order to achieve some level of contentment with our lot.  It won’t surprise you that meaning, purpose and social support are integral to that state of being.  Although there is much to be happy and certainly unhappy about in our world, perhaps there is a way to transcend the weary swing from either pole?

Happiness generally exists as an emotional seesaw between the future and the past, with the present squeezed out of existence. We are constantly told that we will only be happy when we get the girl/guy, marriage, the car, the house, the income, the career. For the young, if ambition still exists, it is tied to relentless consumption and the economic uncertainty that comes with it. Happiness can only arrive it seems, when we are safe and secure or lost in the adrenalin of the moment. Many Millennials and Generation Z have been molded that way so that any kind of contentment is dependent on material gain, identity/image and peer group status. It’s normalised to the point that we don’t pay it too much attention anymore. Sure, it’s been that way for a long time, but the difference is that young people generally do not have the desire, will or capacity to wait longer than the click of a mouse to discover that true happiness might just be gained from something other than social media, porn, computer games and SMART society consumption in general. Why should they? What is there to be happy about when to make sense of reality you are offered a daily diet of lies and misinformation and a 24hr streaming of corporate CEOs, TV/movie stars and gold-toothed rappers as role models?

The message to our youth today is to strive for the gold at the end of the rainbow even if most conventional wisdom keeps telling us it’s a pot-holed road to nowhere. Yet, the technosphere is powerful. Superficial stimulants to engage for the short-term fix are endemic for the young and keep them tied to a variety of cultural addictions, which includes being driven into the opoid arms of Big Pharma and its disgusting exploitation of generations of spiritually disppossessed. Yet, the very state of happiness must be conditional and transitory since it is rooted in the ebb and flow of the personality subject to the above; that is either growing, thus in a state of flux, or undergoing stasis and prone to disintegration. So, we seek that unassailable “happy” state as a means to stave off discomfort (and opportunities to grow thereby) rather than to surrender and embrace the unknown and reconfigure what happiness really means.

Unfortunately, young and old alike are more miserable than ever before. Why is it for instance, there’s been hardly any change at all in the levels of happiness experienced by Americans since 1972? [1] Indeed, loneliness and isolation play a huge part as a product of our woefully value-less economic nightmare we call “progress”. In the U.S., nearly half of all meals are eaten alone; the average American has fewer friends than twenty years ago and by 2008, less than one third of people had socialised with their neighbours compared nearly half that number about twenty-five years previously.  It’s no better in the UK, with folks less likely to know their neighbours or have strong friendships than any other country in Europe. [2]

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The Hissy Fit Generation and The Loss Of Free Speech II: Microaggressions and Trigger Warnings (2)

“Trigger warnings might also communicate to people that they’re fragile, and coax them [to] interpret ordinary emotional responses as extraordinary signals of danger.”

— ‘Trigger warnings do little to reduce people’s distress, research shows’


The New Lexicon of “Offence” and Para-Morality

In the West, we are already suffering from information overload and a loss of quality communication. It seems people are more afraid of exchanging pleasantries with a stranger than ever before thanks to an overemphasis on negative news in the media as well as the addiction to our smart phones. If you simply want to say “hi” to an attractive man or woman; to chat with someone you don’t know over the deli counter, the gas station or in the street while waiting for a bus… there will increasingly be this niggling thought of saying the wrong thing and offending someone through a cultural programming that is changing our language as well as restricting it. We have a very real collective fear of saying the wrong thing that is causing a conformity to a flawed consensus that doesn’t exist, except in the minds of those who get paid to push this agenda. The Orwellian Offence Police are active in entertainment, universities, the work place and in government, with numerous examples of the most insane persecution imaginable.

The following phrases are in most left-liberal academic and social justice warrior’s lexicon wrapped up in the desire to virtue signal – that now overused phrase from the right –  used to dismiss the logic of free speech advocates and ordinary people in their daily lives.

Trigger Warnings According to the Oxford English Dictionary a trigger warning is: “A statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc. alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material (often used to introduce a description of such content)”. This is a very convenient way for the Establishment to make sure that its population self-censors. Trigger warnings were originally developed by psychologists for war veterans, victims of sexual abuse or common trauma as a means to flag content which might stimulate a re-run of painful memories. Unfortunately, this has now been extended to the university campuses and the arts & entertainment industry (which is perhaps less of an issue given the state of graphic sex and violence on TV) and is now used to provide protection from words and opinions this precious generation doesn’t like; any discomfort at all in fact, a far cry from the preventative measures designed for genuine victims of war, violence and/or sexual abuse.

This postmodern paranoia has infiltrated minorities and student life with a vengeance. Sex, race and politics are all foci for trigger warnings causing protests, demonstrations, self-important letters with lists of demands for faculty members and even their removal due to perceived bias, sexism, racism or the violation of their hallowed safe spaces. [1]

Trigger warnings have been imposed in many university curricula due to students’ demands. The control of university policy – whether it is ethnic minority students feeling victimised or screaming young feminists demanding attention – any kind of encroachment of reality and therefore distress has led to warnings on such books as Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald, and The Merchant of Venice. Yes, now Shakespeare is deemed threatening, a  trend that is also taking place in Britain, with Cambridge University picking up the PC gaunlet. [2]

To pander to this inner health and safety zone one student offered his university faculty tips on how to proceed: “For instance, one trigger warning for “The Great Gatsby” might be: (TW: “suicide,” “domestic abuse” and “graphic violence.”) […] Thanks to the vague tags within the warning, readers and unaffected students alike can approach a narrative without the plot being spoiled. Yet, at the same time, students who are unfamiliar with these works can immediately learn whether courses will discuss traumatic content. […] Professors can also dissect a narrative’s passage, warning their students which sections or volumes of a book possess triggering material and which are safer to read. This allows students to tackle passages that are not triggering but return to triggering passages when they are fully comfortable.” [3]

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