Do you deserve your pancreas? Your bladder? Of course you do. No matter what you have done, or think you have done, you deserve those organs. You were born with them. Every part of your body is unconditionally yours, regardless of what good or bad you have done in the world. You don’t have to earn your eyes or your elbow; they’re yours.
You were also born with an innate propensity to be happy and you deserve that too, in the same way you deserve your kidneys and your kneecaps. No matter what you have done in the world, or think you have done, you deserve happiness.
Besides, who would benefit if you were to remain unhappy?
Yes, we can lose an eye, a kidney, a kneecap, and we can lose our happiness. But that doesn’t mean we have lost the right to have that eye, that kidney, that kneecap, and if we become unhappy it doesn’t mean we have lost the right to be happy.
Happiness is not a reward for being nice, it’s a birthright. The worst human beings you can think of deserved their fingers, their bladder, their nose . . . and their happiness. So do you. If you lost your happiness, you deserve to be happy again.
Q. Shouldn’t bad people be made to feel unhappy? Don’t they deserve unhappiness?
We wouldn’t punish someone by removing their left leg. In the same way, we shouldn’t punish someone by reducing their happiness. They deserve their happiness as much as they deserve their leg.
There are other ways to punish. Let’s say two people commit a crime and are sentenced to jail. One goes to a standard jail and becomes unhappy. The other goes to a magical jail which helps her feel valued and connected, and happy. Which prisoner do you think is more likely to feel remorse, and upon leaving jail be less likely to commit another offence?
Exactly. As for the prisoner in the standard jail, made to feel unhappy, who will benefit because she has been made to feel unhappy? Will she benefit? Will anyone benefit? Hardly.
“The unhappy one might be deterred from committing another crime.”
Recidivism is high in ex-prisoners from standard jails.
“If a criminal is made to feel unhappy, the victim can feel justice has been done.”
Poor compensation. Many victims still resent the criminal long after the jail sentence has been completed. I suspect that a victim would feel far better if the perpetrator emerged from jail happier, well adjusted and rehabilitated. At least then the crime would have some meaning.
“I don’t agree.”
Whatever the case, core happiness isn’t a commodity that should be taken away, in the same way that a kidney should not be taken away. It’s a birthright. We all deserve happiness, including you. No exceptions.
“Are you saying that if someone commits a crime they should be punished by being helped to become happy?”
The idea of purposely taking away a person’s happiness to punish them is draconian. Sure, take away the prisoner’s pleasures, but let’s help them increase their core happiness. All of us will benefit.
“That would require a change of attitude in millions of people, and cost billions of dollars.”
If we stay focused on helping prisoners become happier and well-adjusted, I claim there would be less recidivism and fewer prisoners. Further, if we focused on helping everyone in society increase their core happiness, we might well create fewer offenders. The initial cost would be enormous, but the costs would decrease. We’d all benefit in the long run.
“What would Hitler have been like had he been happier?”
“So, no matter what I have done, I deserve to be happy?”
You do. You have the right to be happy. And if you’re not happy, you can aim to be happy, because you deserve it.
Here are some happiness myths:
– The positive thinking myth. We are often told that we need to look on the bright side if we want to be happy. We need to see the glass half full. But is that helpful advice?
– Myth: we need money to be happy. Surely we need money to be happy, don’t we? Without it we would be in dire straits. So, why is it a myth?
– Myth: to be happy we need to be kind. Countless times we are told that becoming a kind person will make us happier. Why isn’t that true?
– Myth: We are happier with only a few possessions. Will having fewer possessions make us feel happier? How does that work?
– Myth: We need to suffer before we can be happy. Helen Keller once said: ‘The hilltops would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.’ Is she right?
– Myth: We need to reach our full potential. The life coaches offer to help us become better people, yet in another breath tell us to accept ourselves for who we are. What’s going on?
– Myth: With wisdom comes happiness. Time and again we see in the movies a strong correlation between wisdom and happiness. Do we need to be wise to be happy?
– Myth: We need close relationships to be happy. It’s the biggest, most common myth about happiness of them all. Nearly everyone says it. Yet, it’s not true.
– Myth: We need good health to be happy. That seems obvious, doesn’t it? After all, we won’t be happy suffering the black plague. But does good health bring core happiness?
– Myth: We can choose to be happy. This is one of the most pernicious myths going around. Of course we can’t choose to be happy!
– Myth: Happiness comes from having low expectations. Don’t expect much and you won’t be disappointed, goes the saying. But does that equal happiness? Of course not.
– Myth: We need to foster compassion to be happy. The Buddhists are particularly keen on the idea of fostering compassion. So, should we foster it?