Happiness in a Bottle?

I was in Missouri this past weekend for the True/False film festival. The True/False film festival is a documentary film festival that I love going to every year. While I was there I was fortunate enough to meet this Jordanian psychiatrist. We stayed up until 2 a.m. one night smoking hookah, drinking wine and talking about life. He had moved from Jordan to the U.S. as an adult and I could tell he was still trying to understand Americans.We talked about America and his profession. He told me the majority of his patients didn’t like talk therapy. They were obsessed with instant gratification. “They want pills. They want to numb out whatever they are feeling so not to deal with it. You should see the looks of anger when I write them a referral for some talk therapy rather than pills.”


“I could see that,” I replied. We are not accustomed to having to go through the work of our mind or emotions to find happiness.”

“What is this happiness?” He asks. “Americans are so obsessed with the idea of happiness. They want to be happy all the time. It’s impossible, what one should aim for is to be peaceful and content. You can’t be happy all the time.”

I had never thought about a culture obsessed with happiness, but since that conversation I realize how much it’s sold to us. A new car will make you happy. A granite countertop will make you happy. Things will make you happy. Pills will make you happy. We are obsessed with instant gratification.

I start to wonder if it’s a unique phenomenon. Other cultures must want to find happiness too but perhaps they are more comfortable in the placid and tranquil contentment. Perhaps they don’t seek the highs we do.

I wouldn’t know; I’m American.

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  1. eme - March 11, 2011

    So maybe I should reset the bar and bring it down a notch to content?? ;) welcome back, jen! Happy to be back? :)