Truth or happiness?

I used to think the purpose of life was to find the truth.

But if I pressed deeper I’d have admitted there was a “why”.

I wanted to find the truth because I believed “the truth shall set you free”. So what I really wanted was not truth but freedom.

I thought that if I understood myself I could control myself, and if I understood reality I would know where and how and why to feel good in it.

The only reason I wanted the truth was because I thought that knowing the truth would help me find happiness.

Why not just pursue happiness directly?

Even as a child I had spent too much time ignoring my own feelings and listening to the advice, admonitions, and demands of others such that by the time I was old enough to think and act independently, I was deeply confused about the right way to live and the right goal to have.

I was able to doubt that “happiness” was even a worthwhile goal.

Is happiness real? Or is it just selfishness and self-delusion? I read a lot of things that added to my doubts about happiness, feelings, and the purpose of life.

I couldn’t doubt that knowing the truth would give me the answers I needed to move forward. Yet I was unwilling to admit to myself that I was really just pursuing happiness under the guise of truth.

I clung to the veneer of objectivity and impartiality that the search for truth conveys, all the time increasingly adamant that truth and happiness were one.

Deciding to believe in happiness

It took many years of depression and anxiety to finally convince me to change, a real change that did not come in the form of further doubting, further questioning, or trying out yet another set of teachings.

I decided to finally accept my own sense of happiness and good feelings as a trustworthy guide.

I finally admitted that my pursuit of “the truth” was only really secondary to my desire for happiness anyway.

I want to be happy, and I want to feel good.

And now it is clearer to me than ever that my search for truth, and my belief that truth would bring happiness, was really about finding an objective justification for being happy in the first place.

I was convinced that we are all meant to be happy, but still felt that I had to justify my particular happiness to others, as though my happiness was an unpopular opinion, needing facts and logic to defend it against scrutiny and attack.

Rediscovering happiness

Lately I’m discovering that there really were things that made me happy when I was younger, but I abandoned them out of embarrassment at my own childishness and impracticality.

It turns out I’ve been dismissing my flashes of inspiration and excitement as daydreams and fantasies. Or I’ve sought to make them seem serious and respectable to myself and others.

Inspired by swords and armour and tales of knights and castles but too ashamed to admit to childish fantasies? Turn it into an academic side-interest in European history and hide all your swords under the bed so no one will ask you about them.

Wish you had magic powers like the characters in your childhood fantasy novels? Turn it into an eccentric curiosity over esoteric spiritual practices: bi-locating saints, flying yogis, and Daoist immortals ascending into heaven in broad daylight.

Take these seeds of inspiration and good feeling and you can do one of two things: plant them and see what grows, or grind them into a thin and unappetising paste.

There’s a reason why INFPs are sometimes labelled “Dreamers“. Our happiness lies in bringing our dreams into reality.

8 thoughts on “Truth or happiness?

  1. Central to happiness..discernment of needs in terms of considering the needs of others before one’s own.

    Thus one fulfill one’s proper part in the whole of being…Edgar cayce and bible stuff:)

  2. notably fitting, effective, or well adapted ..
    One cannot find LASTING happiness without proper discernment of how the whole of being’s proper response to the needs of others. Where one willing to deny self and suffer for the sake of others, which requires spiritual discernment so as to be avoid self deception such as a false martyr complex which can render ones efforts less effective

  3. Associating truth with duty and other positive action raises the question of identity. You may not find fulfillment with what is proper as much as you do being proper (and being seen as proper). The truth makes you less happy than being a seeker of truth. Maybe there’s some stuff there about the truth needing to be more than just true; e.g. it must also be personally useful, or improve your behaviour. At the same time, simply knowing better does not oblige you to do better. You can disassociate knowledge from action.

    • “more than just true” – yes, my object was The Truth…a transcend answer that would give me knowledge and understanding and freedom.
      A transformative truth, which I expected to find because I knew (by feeling) that there was something wrong which needed to be put right.
      So even my conception of truth shows that it wasn’t about simply being true. It had to be the kind of truth that would set me free…whatever that looks like.

  4. If we cannot find happiness outside in outer things like cars and big houses then it must come from within.

    It’s when we look inside that we see that our very own happiness is tied to and intrinsically connected to the happiness of others. Here we can find a certain freedom to be of use to others in their search for happiness while finding more and more for ourselves.


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