Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Happiness Project: Ego Program

Today I will write about happiness. I will not waste your times with clichés about it. You know that happiness is what we all are seeking. Defining happiness, just like any other complex concept, is not an easy thing to do. Again, like all other complex concepts, the easiest way to define it might be through answering the question "how can I become happy?". Answering this question won't only help us to define happiness but it would help you define your identity, your ethical base, and the ultimate goal of your life.

Achieving happiness is done through performing activities. Those activities can be classified into two main categories. First there is that category of activities you have to do avoid pain, depression and sorrow. The second category of activities include those activities which should be done to achieve happiness in the positive way of bringing it rather than just avoiding what would prevent it.

Those activities are so numerous. They literally involve most if not all of your life activities. To discuss them, it is best to consider what I would like to call "the happiness project". I know that introducing artificial terms like "the happiness project" might feel confusing, but I think it would be greatly helpful in considering the issue at hands. I would further like to divide this happiness project into two main programs. First there is "the Ego program" and on the other hand there is "the Transcendence program".

So, what are those two programs all about? The Ego program has two main tasks; first it is supposed to help you solve problems that might hinder happiness. Secondly, it is supposed to help you satisfy your basic psychological needs. Regarding the first task; problems can be classified into the following; there are those problems related to the deteriorating nature of the universe. "The deteriorating nature of the universe" might seem like a complex notion, but it is much simpler than you think. Everything in the universe happens in a way that increases entropy. In other words, everything in the universe deteriorates. This is the most well establishes fact about our universe. Every thing gets old, decomposed or lost. In clearer terms; one day you will die, the people you love will pass away, your belongings might persist longer than you but one day they will be gone as well. It seems like a big problem, isn't it? Any way, this is not the only problem you might face. There are those problem imposed upon you by the social construction we are involved in. the clearest example of this category of problem is financial problems, career problems and legal problems. The third and the final category of problems you might encounter is that of the problems related to the limitations of your own physical and mental abilities. Clearly, you might get disappointed because of the failure of your performance to meet your expectations. Most of those problems can't be radically resolved. However, you can get your way around them. It is the task of the Ego program to determine whether you can get your way through those problems or not. Those problems which are so subtle and which exceed your intellectual capacity to deal with shouldn't be considered within the scope of the Ego program. So, what about what might be considered as solvable problems? This leads me into discussing the main feature of the Ego program. The Ego program is based on reasonable systematic factual thinking. The problem you might encounter can't be considered solvable except if it can be managed through this way of thinking. You must be able to specify the problem clearly and determine the steps you have to take to solve it. Your thinking must be clear, well organized and focused to do this adequately. If you are overwhelmed by the problem, this won't the right time to move to solve the problem. There are certain states at which you should not activate the life program. Those states are those of exhaustion and depression. When you are experiencing those states, this isn't the right time to activate the Ego program. It would be the time to activate the transcendence program as I will argue later. I will not go into the details of the ways you might solve problems. Problems we all encounter are endless and they differ from one person to the other. The general guidelines I can state are the following; problems can only be managed through clear, emotion free, articulate thinking, don't consider problems when you are depressed or exhausted, first determine whether your problem is solvable or not, if it is solvable, think about the practical steps you have to take to deal with it through on reasonable systematic factual thinking. Other specifics of solving problems are left to your intellectual abilities.

Now, I will come to the second task of the Ego program which is to satisfy your psychological needs. Psychologists argue that you have five basic categories of psychological needs; biological needs which include eating, drinking, and having sex, security needs, attachment needs, self esteem needs, and finally self actualization needs. I will not consider the first three categories of needs here. After all, our shared culture is supposed to provide you with the norms needed to guide you through satisfying those needs. I might have some remarks about such norms but I will consider that later. What I am more concerned with right now are the self esteem needs and the self actualization needs. First, I will consider self esteem needs. Psychologists have traditionally defined those needs by appeal to social factors. They have argued that you would gain self esteem if you were recognized positively by the society. However, I don't like such a collectivist definition. I would prefer to seek a more individualistic definition. You are equipped by nature with a positive feed back mechanism that would inform you about your most significant abilities. Social recognition might be a useful guide but it is not your sole guide or even the most important one in helping you to identify your most remarkable abilities. You can know your most important abilities by your own self. Once you have recognized those abilities, you would satisfy your self esteem needs. It is not just a motivational claim that you must be having an ability which would satisfy your needs of self esteem. If you are a human being, you must be having them. You might not only recognize them but they are there. To help you identify such abilities, I would like to attract your attention to the fact that such ability would be the result of your personality traits, the level and nature of your physical and mental abilities, and the environmental factors that affected your maturation. It might be a difficult task to determine such abilities, but this should be your main concern till you determine them. Try making a list of the activities you would like to do. Try doing them. Don't care about what would people say in the beginning. As I have argued before, you have what you need to determine by yourself whether this ability is what would make you like yourself or not. Again, the search for those abilities can only be done through reasonable systematic factual thinking.

What about self actualization needs? I can define this set of needs by arguing that it is achieved through following a plan which would allow you to reach the maximum potential of your remarkable abilities. Self actualization is not achieved by the strict achievement of your maximum potential. You might never reach such a maximum potential. Sky is the limit when it comes to the potentials of your performance. I think this is why some argue that man is always running after a moving goal. This is what led some thinkers to argue that man can never become happy enough. However, as I have argued what is required is not to achieve your maximum potential but what is required is to follow a well established plan to realize them. Psychologists have argued that in the late adulthood of your life, you have to achieve what they have called generitivity to be psychologically stable. In simpler words, when get old, you should be able to look at your past life and find that you have accomplished something. They have argued that one of the best ways to deal with the problem of approaching the end of your life is to be able to frame your past life as if it was a valuable portrait. However, I think that following you dream would definitely lead into great achievements in life, even if it doesn't rise up to you expectations. Even if you haven't achieved much, I think the portrait of a man trying to achieve something is still valuable enough. There is a further point which I would like to add here. Determining the maximum potential of your abilities and making a successful plan for doing so can only be established again through reasonable systematic factual thinking.

Those are the main tasks of the Ego program. I still have to mention some important practical points about the Ego program. I need to further remind you that the Ego program alone is not enough to achieve happiness. The Transcendence program might even be more important. However, that's enough for today. I will write more about this issue later.                

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