“I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that – I don’t mind people being happy – but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep”, and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position – it’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness”. Ask yourself “is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is. ”

-Hugh Mackay

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  • Reply Kimmie March 18, 2015 at 10:47 AM

    Oh this is good…Really good! Thank you for posting

  • Reply ericast1 March 18, 2015 at 10:54 AM

    Thanks, I think I needed to hear that.

  • Reply Galia March 18, 2015 at 11:00 AM

    Could not agree more. This post makes me both happy and sad at the same time…

  • Reply Livia March 18, 2015 at 11:19 AM

    Louis CK talks about a bunch of stuff in this clip, but he describes how facing our sadness actually allows us to experience true happiness instead of feeling just mostly satisfied all of the time. And then he makes a dick joke and Conan rolls his eyes. Profundity and absurdity together, as always from Louis CK.

  • Reply Sarcastically Katie March 18, 2015 at 9:03 PM

    I love this. Needed to hear this today, thanks for sharing

  • Reply Angie March 18, 2015 at 11:06 PM

    The brilliant Hugh Mackay! His book The Good Life is based on this premise – a really interesting and insightful read.
    Anyway, great post (again) Madeleine. Your blog is one of the rare spots on the Internet that is entertaining but also makes me feel uplifted…often the rest of it (the Internet!) gives you that feeling after reading a crappy magazine…at the hairdressers…which I have just done…so a dose of intelligence was in need!

    • Reply sweetmadeleine June 18, 2015 at 1:02 PM

      Thank you so much Angie.

  • Reply createdfamily March 21, 2015 at 1:16 PM

    Timely. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply Rula Mazigi June 17, 2015 at 4:28 PM

    I was referred to you and this post by Ali Macaluso ( Very insightful and intuitive piece. It would be interesting to see how people’s perceptions about reality might change if they approached daily circumstances and people and events and their own thoughts and feelings (all “happenings”) at any given moment by asking themselves “is this contributing to my wholeness?” Maybe we wouldn’t be so quick to react to sadness by trying to find an escape route through food, sex, drugs, television, materialism etc. – basically, all manner of consumption is, at best, a way of avoiding the present emotion or feeling or thought…but even worse is the use or the indulgence of the mind in a thought or emotion as a way of avoiding the present moment – which is really an indulgence in pain and suffering – an indulgence in sadness and avoidance of joy (I won’t say happiness).

    It’s true that we try to avoid ‘sadness’ and pursue ‘happiness’ as we have been conditioned to avoid pain and pursue pleasure, but isn’t it also true that our actions are in direct opposition to our intentions? Isn’t it true that ‘sadness’ or pain is often used (unconsciously) as a means of attaining ‘happiness’ or pleasure and vice versa? I have, and have seen many others, pursue sadness and pain by indulging in happiness and pleasure, which, of course, are only very temporary and superficial pleasures which lead to temporary and superficial ‘happiness’ which can lead to no other destination but sadness and pain. Similarly, I have and have seen many others pursue happiness and pleasure by indulging in sadness and pain…there is no end to such a cycle.

    Am I using the idea of “sadness” or is the idea of “sadness” using me? Am I pursuing the idea of “happiness” or is the idea of “happiness” pursuing me? Who am I who avoids and pursues? Is there such a thing, a REALITY, that is ‘sad’ or ‘happy’, or is the experience of these states nothing more than a projection, an image or identification of self with an image or idea in the mind?

    These are all questions that were launched as a result of reading this poignant article. I have to say that any experience which provokes the mind to question the reality of experience (yes I know it sounds paradoxical) is worth experiencing.

    Thanks for stirring the mind – I do believe that WHOLENESS is a good word to describe what we are all essentially searching for. Another word I suggest is SECURITY, after all, it is our ultimate fear of decay and death that makes us so insecure, and causes us to feel fearful, and what is the pursuit of happiness if not the pursuit of security in this utterly insecure life?

    But I would suggest that this wholeness or security can’t be found anywhere along the continuum of happiness and sadness, which by nature is ever changing, ever moving from high to low and back again. Rather, wholeness is the realization that there is no such scale, no such measurement, no such continuum along which any self can slide. How can security be found in that which constantly changes? It can’t. So we must find that which never changes in that which constantly changes. That which is secure amidst all the insecurity. That’s the challenge I see here.

    Thanks for the read 🙂

    • Reply sweetmadeleine June 18, 2015 at 12:58 PM

      Thank YOU for such a thoughful, intelligent and insightful comment!

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