One usually wonders what the key to happiness is or what can one do to achieve happiness? Well, in order to attain happiness and contentment, it is crucial to understand what happiness is to you. If we were to look at the term ‘happiness’ generally, it is defined as “a state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy” (happiness, n.d). However, happiness is a relative term… to be truly happy is more than a good feeling, it is the feeling of truly enjoying your life but most importantly, being fully alive in each and every moment and gaining satisfaction through the littlest things in this uncertain world. Although happiness is subjective, the key to achieving happiness can be effectively explored through Adlerian psychology and can simply help change your life!
Ernest Hemingway once said,
The world breaks everyone and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.
It is no doubt that the world we currently reside in has placed us into a race by default, in which a majority of us are trying to get through a common ‘to-do list’ as fast as we can with the sole hope of achieving a successful and content life. However, as we have deeply engrossed ourselves into our work, education and other life priorities that would presumably guarantee us certainty and contentment, we have forgotten to take a step back and wonder whether the boxes that we’re ticking on our lists actually make us happy or do they simply make us seem more successful (success is a very relative term) and ahead of others in the society.
As mentioned earlier, it is very important to take a step back, reflect and observe whether the priorities and actions we are engaging in make us feel truly happy, because at the end of the day, whether we admit it or not, all of us are chasing the pursuit of happiness. We all want to cherish that feeling and keep a hold of it, and understanding what it is that gives us happiness can be explored through a branch of psychology known as Adlerian psychology; a psychotherapy approach based upon the work of pioneer Alfred Adler which is both humanistic, goal-oriented and aims to address compensation for weakness (Hoffman, 2020; see also “What is Adlerian”, n.d.).
Some of the teachings of Adlerian Psychology include:
1. Our past does not determine our future
- As per Adlerian psychology, trauma does not exist (Kishimi & Koga, 2017)
- The key to achieving happiness lies in your hands and isn’t determined by past traumas or experiences in your life
- In fact, Adler stated,
No experience is in itself a cause of our success or failure. We do not suffer from the shock of our experiences- the so-called trauma- but instead, we make out of them whatever suits our purposes. We are not determined by our experiences, but the meaning we give them is self-determining” (Kishimi and Koga, 2017)
- This quotation allows us to understand that our past experiences don’t have any influence on our future, however, it is the conclusion that we form as a result of those experiences and the meaning that we give them that then determine our lives
- We have full control over how we want to lead our lives, henceforth, it is solely upto us to decide whether we want to change ourselves to grow our allow our previous beliefs and experiences to repeat themselves in the future
2. ‘Feelings of inferiority are subjective assumptions’
- According to Adlerian psychology, when one feels inferior, they feel that they have no worth or that they are only worth so much (Kishimi and Koga, 2017)
- However, it is important to understand that inferiority is subjective
- It is the meaning that you attribute that makes you feel inferior. For example, if you are lower than the average height, you might feel inferior however this is because you are attributing meaning to your height primarily through comparing yourself to others.
- The moment you stop comparing yourself to others and understand that ‘feelings of inferiority are subjective interpretations as opposed to objective facts’, you will be able to view your insecurities from another angle as well (focus on the advantages of that supposed flaw in yourself) leading to contentment.(Kishimi and Koga, 2017)
3. Life Tasks → “Everything is an interpersonal relationship issue”
- In Adlerian psychology, ‘clear objectives are laid out for human behaviour and psychology’ (Kishimi and Koga, 2017)
- As per this belief, the two objectives for behaviour: to be self-reliant and live in harmony with society. These objectives can be fulfilled through ‘life tasks’
- These tasks are a compilation of ‘tasks of love’, ‘tasks of friendship’ and ‘tasks of work’; all of which are based in terms of interpersonal relationships.
These are just a few of the teachings of Adler that have been explained above. More of Adler’s teachings can be understood through the book, The Courage to be Disliked (most of my information on Adlerian psychology was obtained from the following book. It’s a great read and I would highly recommend it!)
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