My doctoral dissertation was on happiness. I studied professional female writers’ perception of happiness in relation to their affiliation with an enabling institution. By the time I stopped, it was no longer ‘the thing’ in the field. A lot has changed in the field of pp since it’s inception. A lot has changed for me too.
Eager new scholars wanting to be the ‘go-to’ authority in pp decided to down play it’s importance several years ago. It became commercialized. Used to sell everything from toothpaste to burial plots to pop culture books. Lots of books. So many books.
So much has changed since I originally joined IPPA ten years ago. I let that membership go. For now. I’m not good at chess.
I became miserable in my pursuit of the study of happiness. My personal and professional life went through an existential crisis. My devotion to the field cracked after a series unfortunate events.
Scholarly pursuits are meant to have doubts. I was talking and writing about thriving, when in truth, I was barely surviving. I gave up on happiness. I was negotiating with my Higher Power to allow me a glimpse of happiness by settling for contentment, for peace, for … calm.
I allowed the opinions of others to be the voice in my head. I gave permission to other voices to tell me what to do, what to think, how to be. That was my biggest limitation. To give up a piece of myself in trade for some peace. I compromised my well-being for the false sense of who I thought I should be. I wanted to belong to this community, but realized, I wasn’t being authentically me. Neither was the community.
True happiness didn’t come to me until I was forced to journey through emotional darkness.
Our own happiness is our own. Nobody else’s to define, to shape, or to mold. When I stopped listening to everyone else’s definition of happiness, my own came to me:
It’s a bit poetic for the scholarly set but I define happiness as:
The Quiet, Gentle beacon of well-being as we navigate our life’s journey.
Each of us has a path toward understanding what true subjective, absolute, and clear happiness is. Ten years after my initial work as a graduate student in happiness research and practice, I’ve completely redefined what happiness means to me.
It is the quiet, delicate, confident emotional companion that offers me the assurance that when I am in my darker places, I have a beacon of light to bring me back to joy.
Happiness is not a pursuit, or a final destination. It’s the lighthouse. It’s not internal, nor external. It is merely one emotion among many to be appreciated for what it is. It shares it’s space with our equally important sadness, joy, love, excitement, fear, anger, peace. None are more important than the other. They all matter for us to be complete and whole. Happiness is not an end point. It’s a part of being human.
About the Author: Karen Henry [Daly], MA CRM owns Henry Healing as a holistic well-being practitioner and writer. She’s a former university professor and current scholar practicing the infusion of positive, existential and community psychology.