Wellness Syndrome

Does being happy & well make you narcissistic? It turns out it can, depending on how you approach it.

Before I start this post I need to admit – I do have a book called, The Humanist Approach to Happiness and I am guilty of peddling happiness, from a humanist perspective.

What started this reflection is a BBC radio program called Thinking Allowed. One episode was about happiness and the wellness syndrome - http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05w3wfc

Like anything, it turns out that if you focus too much on happiness, to the exclusion of other things, it’s not good for you. It’s kind of like water. Water is great, but too much of it can drown you or throw off your internal salt balance.

Happiness is the same. If we focus too much on our own happiness, we become narcissistic. Instead of thinking about how to improve society, we are focused on how to improve ourselves.  Which is fine, we should be improving ourselves, just not exclusively.

I make this exact case in my book, which if you haven’t read it – you really should. The Humanist approach to happiness is that we are happy when we are helping others.  Happiness occurs when we are connected to others through service to others.  The pursuit of happiness, the way a Humanist does it, isn’t narcissistic. And if it is, it isn’t humanism.

One of many definitions of Humanism is that it is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and our responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.  *Note – this is the same tag I have at the top of this blog*

The problem with pursuing wellness and happiness is that it can become a syndrome. An ideology that pairs happiness and wellness with morality. If you are happy, you are good. If you are well, you are good, how could it be otherwise. It becomes a form of “biomorality.”  Which is really unfortunate because not everyone is bio-inclined to be happy or healthy. It’s as stupid to pair morality with wellness and happiness as it is to pair it to wealth.  (There is a book about this problem and how to avoid it called The Wellness Syndrome – see here - http://www.wellness-syndrome.com/)

So, while I do encourage people to live ethically full lives, that are hopefully happy. I never tell people they need to be happy all the time or they are failures. No one is happy all the time and that should not be your goal in life. Your goal should be to lead a full ethical life that aspires to the greater good of humanity.

Everyone, regardless of who they are and what sorts of biological challenges they might have, can at live life to the fullest of their individual ability, whatever that ability or disability might be. That is the choice. We should not consider ourselves failures if we aren’t well or happy. The real judge of success is: did I do my best and did I try to make the world a little bit better?

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