In our world, happiness becomes a hard goal to achieve, as every human being tends to hurt and ignore others in order to be happy. Since eternity humans have been striving to find happiness – and meaning – in daily pursuits. In pursuing happiness, moreover, we, humans, believe our own happiness should come at someone else's expense. Trained in business and management, Goldstein – now a licensed psychologist – develops an interesting but brief argument on happiness and unhappiness ("About Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D."). Tapping into powerful impact quotes usually exercise, Goldstein calls for more giving and sharing in a blog post ("The Key to Happiness & Unhappiness: Shantideva & Einstein"). To appreciate Goldstein's presentation of happiness and unhappiness, a deeper analysis is required. This critique aims, accordingly, to show that sometimes one's happiness relies on the unhappiness of others.
Goldstein starts his discussion by a quote from Shantideva, introducing notions of happiness and unhappiness. He refers to humans' bad nature in general being self-focused, ignoring everyone else, to achieve happiness and assures readers if one should seek one's happiness alone, no happiness will be achieved at all.
Goldstein proceeds to quote Einstein. According to Einstein's quote from New York Post, humans are part of a bigger whole which all humans should be connected to. Unfortunately, most humans act as if everything is separate and individuals are isolated from others. Humans, urges Einstein, should be free from own imposed prison and seek to embrace everything.
Goldstein concludes her argument by an informal quoted practice emphasizing how social humans are and how important humans should connect to one another and deepen relations. Finally, Goldstein urges readers to foster connections and relate more deeply to family, friends and strangers.
Two features are notable in Goldstein's post. First, in a very straightforward manner, Goldstein states his purpose very explicitly. Couching her purpose against a convention he follows in his blog, Goldstein says: "Every Monday, I cite a quote or a poem that is related to mindfulness and psychotherapy in some way and then explore it a bit and how it is relevant to our lives." Then, specifying his own reasons Goldstein appears to invite readers to share with him his "state of greater understanding" as he cites quotes and poetry.
A second interesting feature in Goldstein's post is his message receiver. Goldstein appears to be not addressing a specific reader base per se but everyone at large. This is evident in his usage of collective "we" and his open invitation for all to "let’s get practical and start creating change today". The medium, i.e. online blog, is one which is open for all to read. By presenting his ideas in a blog – without restricting use or asking for showing specific credentials – Goldstein is driving home a happiness message for all.
Overall, Goldstein's post is a good example of how one's (un)happiness could rely on the (un)happiness of others. This is evident on how people in modern life – particularly in a competitive context – are prone to favor own interest at others' expense. Contrary to common belief, giving – no less than money – to others could make one particularly (un)happy. In a cross-sectional study, for example, findings show spending (holding) money on (from) others generates greater (un)happiness than on oneself (Dunn, Aknin and Norton). Anecdotal evidence shows, as well, wealthy people who (do not) give donations to charities are (not) happier than wealthy others who keep hoarding money and accumulating wealth, excluding others. Likewise, one's happiness can come at someone else's happiness. For example, seeking to advance professionally and to satisfy one's manager can come at a co-worker's professional – and personal – happiness. By emphasizing "I" against "You" one achieves an imagined happiness at another's expense.
Goldstein's argument about happiness is relevant to modern life. Indeed, as individuals are subject to stress increasingly – at work and home – seeking relief and not least happiness cannot be overemphasized. The increasing competition between peers in class and at work makes people's pursuit of happiness not only a preferable outlet for routine stressors but a necessity in order to be able to survive. Interestingly enough, an inverse relationship has been found between stress and happiness (Schiffrin and Nelson). That is, as stress decreases happiness increases. Unsurprisingly, individuals find greater relief in short run and happiness in longer run in giving and sharing. Therefore, given Goldstein's argument, individuals are happier when connected to broader circles of family, friends and strangers.
Consider AUB. As students strive to achieve higher GPA competition increases. Each competing student does her best to place herself first, above everyone else. For her, happiness is about being first. To be first, her logic so goes, she should ignore everyone else and focus on herself. Apparently a praised form of academic competition, seeking to focus oneself alone is – given Goldstein's argument – a question of happiness or unhappiness.
Competition – as an expression of happiness or unhappiness – is a human experience par excellence. In every human activity one could find a form of competition. Probably, sports are one most notable example of competition. In World Cup Finals, for example, competition is fiercest. As teams compete, players could engage in unacceptable behaviors which lead to one team being very happy and another unhappy. By forgetting sports is, at essence, about collaboration, players perform acts which seek self interest and ignore others and hence unhappiness, one believes on both sides. Indeed, happiness cannot be at anyone's expense. As referred to in Goldstein's post, humans are social animals, meaning humans can only enjoy happiness – and, for that matter, any feelings – if shared. Put differently, happiness is a collective pursuit for all, not a separate endeavor isolated individuals seek alone.
Interestingly still, happiness may not be a pursuit after a specific object or person which, once attained, should land happiness once and for all. Indeed, philosophers have long argued as to happiness elusive nature and to how dogged pursuit of one object after another may not lead to more happiness but could be an endless cycle of achieving endless goals. Instead, philosophers believe, happiness – and, for that matter, meaning – can be created in process. That is, in pursuing happiness, individuals should care less for end results as to how outcomes, if any, are achieved. Therefore, consistent with Goldstein's argument individuals are happier by giving and sharing experiences in which all are involved in.
"About Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D." Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.: Mindfulness & Psychology. Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., n.d. Web. 4 Jul. 2015.
Dunn, W. Elizabeth, Lara B. Aknin, and Michael I. Norton. "Spending Money on Others Promotes Happiness." Science 319. 5870 (2008): 1687-1688. Web. 4 Jul. 2015.
Goldstein, Elisha. "The Key to Happiness & Unhappiness: Shantideva & Einstein." Mindfulness & Psychology. PsychCentral. Web. 4 Jul. 2015.
Schiffrin, H. Holy, and S. Katherine Nelson. "Stressed and Happy? Investigating the Relationship Between Happiness and Perceived Stress." Journal of Happiness Studies 11.1 (2008): 33-39. Springer Link. Web. 4 Jul. 2015.