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The Centre for the Pursuit of Happiness
Have you ever wondered why so many people seem to be unhappy?  Why so many people in the Western world in particular seem to be constantly in search of that elusive goal?  At least that seems to be true for the adults. Yet children seem to be happy - or at least the young ones.  Is it really the nature of humanity to require psychological counseling and drugs to function as adults?  And what do children know that the adults do not?

Could it be that our culture teaches us to be unhappy?  Could it be that our institutions reinforce these teachings?  Could it be that those of us who are parents are working hard to ensure that our children grow up insecure and miserable?  Is it any wonder, then, that adults who seek counseling generally spend most of that effort revisiting their childhood, trying to make sense out of the dysfunctions of their upbringing?

Philosophically, people seem to be divided between two opposing opinions as to the happy nature of human beings.  Some believe that people are born knowing how to be happy - how to learn, how to explore, how to grow - and the best that parents can do is to protect their children from the efforts of others to indoctrinate their children by force or coercion.  Others believe that happiness, initiative, and the ability to live a meaningful life must be taught, and thus the role of the parent is to train their children how to live lest they be faced with lazy and miserable adults once the children grow.   

The first view of child rearing is organic, with the parent's role as nurturer and protector. Growth is natural and automatic.  The second view is industrial, with the parent's role as engineer and builder. Growth is the result of conscious design and effort on the part of the parents.

This philosophical difference of opinion is critical to understand, because it underlies, we believe, the epidemic of unhappiness that plagues the Western world today.

It can be said that the average parent today teaching their child how to live a happy, meaningful life is like the blind leading the blind.  What these adults are really doing is ensuring that their children will end up as lost and confused as the parents are, and ensuring a long and profitable career for the psychiatric profession.  Parents, teachers and institutions who carefully guide the lives of children are actually interfering with the natural efforts of those children towards self discovery.

When we teach our children, often we are, in reality, unknowingly indoctrinating them with cultural concepts that have little to do with their ultimate happiness.  Many of these concepts impose limiting points of view. Yet for a child the limitless nature of reality can and should be a constant source of fascination and excitement. Once a person identifies themselves with a limited point of view, other views become a source of threat and danger instead of growth and positive energy. Only when one abandons fear and limitations and embraces the infinite unknown is a state of happiness possible. It is only then that change is fun instead of threatening.  Static things no longer hold great value. 

Achieving a state of comfort with change and uncertainty occurs naturally as children grow. However, children who are sheltered too much or on whom are imposed limiting world views will cease developing and stay in a stunted, adolescent emotional state that does not allow for personal happiness. 

When adults who revisit this stage of their life through psychotherapy learn to ignore the fears they learned in a dysfunctional childhood and to embrace a broad and open view of the nature of reality they will naturally reject those learned opinions that are not truly their own. They will accept those shadow aspects of themselves that they had previously kept in the closet and will begin the process of reconciliation of their own nature, and introduction to their true self. 

Only when adults understand that their unhappiness stems from the core fact that they are not living their own life, that in fact they do not even know who they really are, will they understand the critical need to allow their children the time and space for self-discovery.  As well, adults who are stuck in a sort of permanent adolescence of "quiet desperation" must take the time to get to know that one closest to themselves, without fear of judgment. Learning to accept, respect, and ultimately love oneself is not only the key to happiness, it is the necessary prerequisite to the ability to love others, and thus the key to world peace and prosperity.





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