The Psychology of Happiness and Riches

Happy Face iPodStudying what makes us healthy, wealthy, and happy is much of what I do. I even took a master’s course in Transpersonal Psychology, which views all manifestations of mind as a symptom of spiritual growth and evolution. What some might call a nervous breakdown, others might view as a spiritual emergency. How we react to what happens to us and use it to self-develop is influenced by how we view our world, whether positively or negatively. In this respect, Transpersonal Psychology doesn’t come from a basis where the client is viewed as being sick or mentally ill, instead behavior (such as depression, mania, and some forms of psychosis) is viewed as a natural evolution for that particular person in the conditions and mental climate they uphold. It’s growth, even if some growth shows up as abnormal, with respects to our cultural standards. In other cultures, it may be quite normal.

The Recession and Abnormal Psychology

Something that has truly puzzled me lately, with this recession, is the number of people who have literally taken to criticizing everything in their lives, even when they do have it quite good when compared to others. The ones that are suffering economically are mostly silent, but those that have a lot to crow about, now feel it’s time to look poor, regardless of their conditions. I have come across more people whining about their supposed lack, when from my point of view, they are luxuriously, materially, wealthy. So wealthy in fact, that they don’t flinch about sending back a plate of salmon at a restaurant because it tastes “fishy” or buying a pair of $100 shoes because their feet “need” it.

I finally have the answer in this article: 10 Tip From Happy People . It turns out happy people are more prejudicial, according to recent studies. This behavior shows up as snobbery, like when someone thinks that the Ramada Inn is not good enough, and only the Hilton will do, for a night’s stay. If they don’t get it they whine about how unfair life is and how entitled they are to get something that literally 95% of the world doesn’t enjoy. Instead of being ecstatically grateful that they have money for a hotel room at all, they whine about the quality of the room as if it’s just not up to their standards. Yet, in the next sentence, they’ll tell you how poor they are and how much sympathy they demand of you for their sorry state of affairs.

All this time, I was beginning to think that this behavior bordered on some sort of pathological narcissistic disorder. Now, I’ve come to understand it as a natural outcome of living a pampered life where every whim is satisfied and no self-discipline is ever attempted.  It seems you get so happy, so comfortable with your elevated standard of living, that you automatically become more “discriminating” and this shows up as complaining as a means of expressing happiness in a covert fashion. It happens so subtly to the person who is enjoying a large degree of success in their life, that they literally have no idea what a snob they’re being. It’s just a natural extension of living a life of luxury. No one is immune to the powerful, seductive, and destructive effects of material wealth, and that’s what got me thinking. How do I balance my spiritual growth with increasing wealth, if prejudicial behavior is a natural outgrowth of living a life of unmeasured luxury?

Self-Discipline Starts Within

A friend of mine and I had this conversation that the older generations had more self-discipline than the newer ones. Even when they had the money to buy bigger houses and more toys, they were frugal and kept their money stashed for a rainy day. This, in turn, led to them escaping some of the entitlement phenomena we see in the younger generations that are spoiled to a point where they’re not happy unless they’re complaining. We both decided that to maintain some level of spiritual balance with material wealth, it appears we have to invoke a measure of self-discipline and live simply, so that the mind doesn’t turn into something pampered and spoiled, and instead remains sharp, appreciative, and grateful. The mind can control the spirit, but only if we allow it. It’s up to us to cultivate humbleness, simplicity, and frugality, if we want to. We don’t have to be forced into it by a recession to be happy to learn to live with less.

Simple Exercises to Strengthen Gratitude

  • When you have a choice to drink coffee with sugar or without, give it up for a day. Now, you know how sweet your life is on other days.
  • When there’s a party, wait to be the last to get your food. Now, you know how blessed you are to eat of abundance every day.
  • Build up someone else’s achievements, instead of your own, for a change. Supporting someone elses’s efforts, helps us to recognize when someone takes the time to help us with our own, leading to an appreciation of others.

Whether it’s through diet, spiritual exercises, or donating time and money, when we are blessed, if we fail to recognize it and pass it along, we waste a valuable opportunity to create not just happiness, but contentment and joy not only for ourselves, but for others too.


2 responses to “The Psychology of Happiness and Riches

  1. Your insights here are refreshing. I love how you position the importance of self-discipline as it relates to wealth.

    It’s amazing that in the simplicity of self-discipline we find abundance. That in the suffering of sacrifice we find character. And in the self-control of saving we find wealth.

    It reminds me of what I read from Dave Ramsey that wealth is really more about a makeover of your heart than it is of your checkbook.

    I’ve noticed that often in my life (and for others also) that we are chasing an “invisible finish line” where we think the next thing will make us happy. Until at some point we realize that if that were true then we’d be supremely happy already.

    The strength to transform our culture and our own views comes from the rare reinforcement of this message of self-discipline. Thank you for sharing!

    See you in the “stairwell”
    Rory Vaden

  2. Hi Rory,

    Thank you for this pithy comment. As you say, there is much to this analysis of happiness and material wealth. Greed seems to be a natural outcome, but in covert fashions. Like when someone expresses continuous lack, yet has plenty, and in the next breath slams a CEO for getting a multimillion dollar bonus. It’s actually the same energy, they just don’t realize it. It’s an ideal that what we have is not enough, and everyone is entitled to “more, more” and if we don’t get it we have to either take it without permission or complain loudly that we didn’t get it. Once each individual begins to shift this energy in themselves, you will see others follow suit. Until then, greed will be the order of the day. A little self-discipline, IMO, is called for – from everyone – in these days of recession.

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