A discussion on responsibility over happiness
I encountered the following quote:
“All happiness or unhappiness solely depends upon the quality of the object to which we are attached by love.”- Baruch Spinoza, 17th Century Philosopher from the book Attached
Put simply, this quote says that how you feel about things entirely depends upon the people or things that you love.
I read that his quote and it just struck me as being incredibly unhealthy as a way to think and cope with life. I really just disagree with not only what it is saying, but also the mentality it is promoting in those that accept it as being something poignant and meaningful.
It is basically saying that they have no power over their own happiness or well being. That their attitudes and feelings are simply a product of what the people or things they “love” push upon them.
To me, I just find it more helpful (and absolutely needed in order to maintain my own sanity) to not just allow whatever anyone else (no matter how much I care for them) have the power to make the final decision on how I will feel…
That choice is for me, and me alone to manage.
Other philosophers seem to be on the same page with this…
“The essence of philosophy is that a man should so live that his happiness shall depend as little as possible on external things” ~Epictetus
When I brought this up, a friend had argued that If people were in control of their own happiness, that there wouldn’t be things such as sexism, racism, or bullying in this world.
This totally confused me, because all those negative things would of course still continue to happen, kind of BECAUSE of the fact you can’t control the words, or actions of others. And then to not claim your own level of response to those things, to just accept as meaningful whatever someone else’s actions express? Wouldn’t that just make you even more susceptible to being unhappy? If you are content for that to be ok, then you might as well sign up to be a doormat.
Its kind of exactly the whole point, about why its important to actually have more ownership over your happiness and well being. All those things do indeed exist and there is no avoiding them because we have absolutely no control over the actions or thoughts of anyone but ourselves… including those we love. All we have control over is how we react.
The reality is that even to those who have resolved to not let the presence of those negatives, control their spirit or well being, will be occasionally sad in response to situations. That is life.. but there is importance is in not being content to stay in that position…. to not give up….. to be willing ourselves to move on and let go of our own hangups, including those that devalue our own ability to look at a situation and decipher for ourselves how much merit we give to the opinions or actions of others. You can’t maintain sanity if your attitude is to blindly just accept and take on the feelings and thoughts everyone pushes your way.
I try to live by the motto of starting within.
It certainly doesn’t feel easy or very simplified by any means…. its a constant struggle. What it does though is help me try to remember that I should not bother with trying to control the things that I simply can’t control, and turn my focus more onto what I can do instead, and to be accepting of my own choices in reactions and not just merely accept being under someone else’s influence.
That is not to say that what others do never bothers me… believe me, it still does, and I still end up crying over some things… but its in not stopping there. Its in not letting their actions be the end of my journey through that situation.
By accepting responsibility over my own happiness and well-being it helps me find peace and come to terms with things quicker, and that leads me to be able to find peace and happiness internally even when the world around me doesn’t seem to want to encourage that in me.
Also I think there is a perception difference as to what “love” actually means… but thats a whole other post…. but on that note this video sums it up quite nicely.