Musings on Mormonism



You Can’t Control for Happiness

I seem to be entering a new phase in my interpersonal relationships here in DC, and I like it. Perhaps it is not a new phase so much as an old phase revisited after having acquired greater insight and maturity through experience. Either way, I think I can best summarize the new emphasis in this way: chill out and enjoy life and the people around you. In large part, this shift has been possible because of the friendships I’ve been able to form with my neighbors, who are a great bunch of girls. Associating with them helps me be a better and happier person, plus their house is a lot less ghetto than mine. In a way, it is like having a family again – although incomplete, there are discernible parallels, for which I am very grateful. I feel that my social life in DC up until now has been more solitary and self-centered than is healthy, but it is starting to turn around as I am now able to enjoy a greater sense of community.

This city seems to attract people who are preoccupied with being in control, and mostly sub-consciously. I don’t necessarily mean self-control, which I think is a virtue, but rather being in control of all situations, the desire to be the one pulling the strings instead of the one whose strings are pulled. I do not think this inclination is all bad, and certainly I think it is understandable for all who live in this  dangerous and uncertain fallen world. Nevertheless, I think preoccupation with being in control stunts our personal growth and curbs our happiness, and I think it is something we all grapple with to one degree or another.

I think preoccupation with control is a particular hindrance for developing healthy interpersonal relationships and sharing the gospel (two things which are closely related and, as I see it, require many of the same skills and attributes for success). Both require a sincere sharing of thoughts and feelings in a context of respect and love. Also, both must be done with a respect for individual choice, and certainly cannot be forced. It seems to me that love, openness of thought and feeling, and a respect for the freedom to choose can clash very much with being in control. However, ultimately the fruits of the former are so much sweeter than the fruits of the latter. Yet, relinquishing control in these two areas of life, as necessary, is easier said than done. It requires patience, trust, and a certain calm inner strength and confidence which can seem quite elusive (but is, fortunately,  even more attainable in this life than we may realize). Also, it requires that we put forth an effort to offer something precious and valuable (our friendship or the gospel) without expectations for recompense or fear of failure. In other words, that we give people an opportunity to act and accept an invitation, that we do the right thing, without worrying too much about the consequences.

Anyway, these are just a few of my abstract thoughts on the matter. What do you think?

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Comments

  1. * SECRET DIARY says:

    fabulous post

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 8 months ago
  2. * Tammy says:

    Just happy that you’re happy =)

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 8 months ago
  3. * Bryce says:

    Thanks, Tammy! Don’t get me wrong – I’m still figuring things out. I can already see myself getting a bit too passive and Buddhist. However, I don’t think dispassion is the answer to all our problems, nor the ultimate path to happiness. Really, I think purpose, passion, and an agenda (perhaps “goals” is a better word) are prerequisites to happiness, so long as they are kept in a healthy balance and don’t become our preoccupations.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 8 months ago
  4. * Scott says:

    Also, it’s difficult to control for happiness when we are so prone to distort our memories of what made us happy in the past or our predictions of what will make us happy in the future. I am a big believer in augmenting present happiness by maximizing our current circumstances–most people have at least a vague sense of what would be a satisfying use of their time, and procrastination is probably the biggest thief of this kind of happiness. Good post.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 8 months ago
  5. * Bryce says:

    Thanks for the comment, Scott! Very good points – it seems we have a way of thwarting our happiness by dodging reality in one way or another. I think on your Goodreads profile I once saw you had a book called “The Drunkards Walk”, which, as I recall, dealt with this very subject. I remember that it scared me a little at the time (as I have been quite engaged in trying predict my happiness the past few months, and didn’t want to consider that my efforts were somewhat in vain). Hmmm, now, you’ve got me thinking…so thanks!

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 8 months ago
  6. * SKISLN says:

    Close–Kristin read “The Drunkard’s Walk,” a mathematics book whose subject was how probability and randomness rules our lives; I read “Stumbling On Happiness,” a psychology book whose subject is how we make poor rulers of our own lives. Different disciplines, similarly disempowering.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 7 months ago
  7. * Bryce says:

    Haha, thanks for the clarification! I’m definitely going to look into that book.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 7 months ago
  8. * Elliott says:

    For the first half of my mission I had a bit of a preoccupation with control–and yes, controlling happiness, especially others–which was reinforced by a well-meaning (and good) mission culture that emphasized record keeping, goal setting, self discipling, obedience. Needless to say, I had some learning to do (aided by some great mission companions),and as you say, it “requires patience, trust, and a certain calm inner strength and confidence which can seem quite elusive”…I found that, surprise surprise, a lot of the desire for control came from insecurity and pride. Great post.

    PS Blog is not only reading great, but LOOKING great.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 7 months ago
  9. * Elliott says:

    P.S. Just read over some of the other comments…I second Scott’s comments (whoever you are).

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 7 months ago


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