The Conquest of Happiness


 
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Part One: Causes of Unhappiness: Chapt I What Makes People Unhappy: Russell was so unhappy as to be suicidal through adolescence, but became happy as an adult through his own efforts.
Three principal causes of unhappiness -- the sinner, the narcissist, and the meglomaniac. Sinner is always victim of his own disapproval. Narcissist is self absorbed and is incapable of meaningful relationships like women whose only interest is in getting men to love them and then lose interest. Meglomaniac wishes to be powerful rather than charming

Chapt II, Byronic Unhappiness: This consists of perpetual pessimism as expressed in Ecclesiastes. See it expressed often by literary men. They need to go out and get jobs as laborers instead of trying
to force their writing and then see if they feel a necessity to write.

Chapt III, Competition: People often think they must work and compete to make a lot of money but they are incapable of enjoying it and their only enjoyment becomes the competition itself. Rich
people today collect pictures or take interest in the arts only as a business proposition or to increase their fame. Students are interested in education only as a means of making money. "Some American students took me walking in the spring through a wood on the borders of their campus; it was filled with exquisite wild flowers, but none of my guides knew the name of even one of them. What use would such knowledge be? It could not add to anybody's income." Competition considered as the main thing in life is too grim and will be replaced in a couple of generations with a more balanced view of life.

Chapt IV, Boredom and Excitement: In old days after supper "a happy family time" was the father sleeping, the wife knitting and the daughters wishing they were dead or in Timbuktu because not allowed to entertain themselves. Agrarian people rush to city to escape boredom. Boredom is necessary to have excitement; all great books have boring parts.

Chapt V, Fatigue: Worry is the cause of fatigue. Must learn to control worry by realizing importance of things in their proper perspective. Fear causes worry. Must learn to control fears by examining them rationally rather than giving in to emotion. Do this by examining fears and rationally determining what the worst possible case is. Part of the success of this method is that one becomes bored with examining the worst possible case even if it is terrible and goes on to think of something else.

Chapt VI, Envy: Children should be raised to think of themselves as fine people. Should learn to value what you have rather than envying others. Modesty is not really a virtue. Modest people need
much reassuring and do not attempt tasks they are capable of performing. Democracy is based on envy. Try to enlarge heart to dwell on advantages and be glad for others.

Chapt VII, The Sense of Sin: Problem here is bad teaching before the age of six. Ascetic element in Western Civilization. Nothing is wrong that does no harm to others or is not excessive.

Chapt VIII, Persecution Mania: Remember your own motives are not always altruistic, don't overestimate your own merits, don't expect others to take as much interest in you as you do. Don't imagine others have enough interest in you to persecute you.

Chapt IX: Fear of Public Opinion: Too much respect is paid to the opinion of others. People see unconventional behavior as criticism of their own behavior and are infuriated by it.

Part Two: Causes of Happiness: Chapt X: Is Happiness Still Possible: People who can't read can be happy. People such as his gardener who wages a perpetual battle with rabbits have something
to do and are happy. Scientists are happy and have happy marriages because they see their work as important and the public sees it as important. Literary people are the opposite. Scientists are honored while artists starve. If people can't understand science they assume it is because of an inadequate
education. The millionaire today may shower wealth on an artist but he does not believe the artist's work to be as important as his own. Meaningful work is a source of happiness as is devotion to a
cause. A hobby can provide happiness by absorbing energies. Football watching, collecting, or any other innocent pursuit is good. Affection and friendliness is a source of happiness too. "The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile. "

Chapt XI, Zest: One activity is superior to another in promoting happiness insofar as there is more opportunity to enjoy it. Turn your interest outward rather than indulge in introspection. Even
unpleasant experiences can be zestful if they do not impair health. For example being in an earthquake. At a meal we might find a person who considers the food a bore and eating a boring necessity.

We would find an epicure who starts eating hopefully but finds that nothing has been cooked well enough to suit him. Then there is the gourmandizers who eat too much and grow plethoric. The zestful
eater is glad of his food and eats with a sound appetite until he has had enough and then stops. The gourmandizer in life is the person who is so carried away with one pursuit that he leads an unbalanced life. The gourmandizer pursues his interest as a means of escape from reality, as a means of achieving oblivion. Loss of zest in civilization is due to restrictions. In savage life, impulses govern everything -- when tribe goes to war, the tom toms stir up warlike passions, but modern enterprises need discipline. A train conductor or engineer cannot be motivated by barbaric music.

Difficult to maintain zest under these conditions.
Chapt XII, Affection: Only way to get affection is to give it -- can't buy it with gifts, attention, etc. "On the whole women tend to love men for their character while men tend to love women for their appearance. In this respect it must be said, men show themselves the inferiors of women.... Affection in the sense of a genuine reciprocal interest of two persons in each other not solely as means to each other's good but rather as a combination having a common good is one of the most important elements of real happiness.... Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps most fatal to true happiness."

Chapt XIII, The Family: Great problem of modern life is the career woman who chooses a family. "She becomes tied to her house, compelled to perform herslf a thousand trivial tasks quite unworthy of her ability and training or, if she does not perform them herself, to ruin her temper....Weighed down by a mass of trivial detail, she is fortunate indeed if she does not soon lose all her charm and three quarters of her intelligence.... In relation to her children, the sacrifices that she has made in order to have them are so present to her mind that she is almost sure to demand more reward than is desirable to expect, while the constant habit of attending to trivial details will have made her fussy and small minded. This is the most pernicious of all the injustices that she has to suffer: that in consequence of doing her duty by her family she has lost their affection, whereas if she had neglected them and remained gay and charming, they would probably have loved her." 

Chapt XIV, Work: Exercise of skill and construction are the satisfying elements of work.

Chapt XV, Impersonal Interests: Interests that do not involvemaking a living etc can be called impersonal interests. The more of these a person has the better because it relieves the mind. The
conscious mind gets a rest. Men can do this more easily than women. Women are not as sympathetic to games and hobbies as men. They help one keep his sense of proportion. "It is one of the defects of modern higher education that it has become too much a training in the acquisition of certain kinds of skill, and too little an enlargement of the mind and heart by an impartial survey of the world.... I should seek to make young people vividly aware of the past." The more interests one has the better.

Chapt XVI, Effort and Resignation: One must bear with patience minor irritations.
 

 

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