Monday, March 15, 2010

Happiness and the two selves

What your in-the-moment self considers happiness is entirely different from how your reflective self defines as happiness. The latter decides whether you consciously feel satisfied with your life, but it’s the former that determines whether you are truly happy deep down.

That is the conclusion that Daniel Kahneman suggests from his research into how we can feel very differently about an event when looking back than how we actually felt while experiencing the event as it happened.

For instance, have you ever looked back fondly on some past event or past era in your life and thought that you were happy but didn’t realize it at the time? That you wish you had lived more thoroughly?

Conversely, have you ever enjoyed an experience but then looked back on it, focused on some negative aspect, and then begun thinking of that formerly “good time” as a bad time?

This is what Nobel laureate Kahneman calls the conflict between the “experiencing self” and the “remembering self.”

This certainly dovetails with the concept of mindfulness—focusing on the here and now—which is a fundamental part of the Philosophy of Tea. In other words, if our in-the-moment self is the one who truly determines our happiness, then would not focusing on the here-and-now as much as possible make us happier?

This is something worth contemplating over a cup of green tea—or would that not be in the moment?

You do not need to be in a place like this to be completely in the moment, although it definitely helps.

—Mellow Monk

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