Friday, June 10, 2011

Just something i wrote for my writing class on happiness and well-being

My view of well-being mainly consists of internal peace, self-actualization and having your needs met. Internal peace in better terms would be contentment in every possible way or simply having most of your wants satisfied, self-actualization is essentially being the best you that you want to be, and having your needs met is having the needs every human being has fulfilled. It would seem that the first is quite impossible to achieve, that is, to have everything that you might want, and that is partially true. Erich Fromm, explains two different forms of existing in his book To Have or to Be, which is being and having. People that base their existence, their sense of self and by extension their well-being on having would nearly never achieve the first, and because of that never really have well-being. People that be on the other hand are much more likely to attain internal peace and self-actualization.

The first thing I should address however, is needs. Human beings have many needs that range from material to emotional. I would define having your needs met as to not being deficient in either. Material needs, or material well-being, consists of the usual things, having a roof over your head, food to eat, clothes on your back and anything that makes life convenient to allow social participation and autonomy, as per Michael Marmot. Emotional needs include the need for love, joy and security, which one would normally get from their family, friends or spouse. While it is not necessary to have much of any of these mentioned above to be considered having your needs met, it is still important to not be lacking in any of them. To have all your material and especially emotional needs met is not easy, but it is not too daunting to achieve either.

Internal peace and actualization however is much more difficult to come by, especially if your sense of identity depends on having. A person whose sense of self is base on having essentially places his identity into the things that he has, such as cars, mansions, money and even power. And by basing his identity on such things, it creates an anxiety and also an unending hunger for more. A person that has fears losing his possessions, as it would amount to losing himself. This dread creates a sense of insecurity which also helps to feed the aforementioned unending hunger. A person always desires to grow, to expand the self, and a haver does so by attaining more, more wealth, more power. However, having more also creates a greater fear of losing what he has, and this insecurity urges him to attain even more, creating an unending cycle of want. Not every one of them experiences this cycle though, but all of them experience the fear in losing what they have. This fear also creates a distrust for others who might covet what they have, thus alienating them. A person that has would be fearful of death as he tries to cling to his material belongings even as he dies while knowing that he would lose them, a monument to which is the Pyramids, the attempts of the pharaohs to being their material belongings with them to the afterlife. It is this very cycle of want and the fear , that stops any haver from achieving internal peace.

A person that bases himself on having is not actualized because I believe that any person that is truly actualized would never base their identity on material and fleeting things. Thus it would be right to say that it is not the form of having that stops actualization, though the fixation on it would, it is more the lack of actualization that leaves a person to base his self-identity on what he has.

On the other hand, there are those that base their sense of self on being. A person that is I believe is much closer to self-actualization, as he focuses more on being himself than to be something he does not want to be to attain something that he does not truly want. He bases his growth on his experiences and thus his progress by what he does in life. A person that wants to be would respond spontaneously to life, with courage and yearn to be productive with their hands or with ideas. This leads to or, it could be argued, is led to by actualization. A person that is focused on being enriches his life with nourishing things as he hungers for life, on the way growing as a person, thus actualizing. It could also be seen that a person that is actualized would be more focused on being and would go forth and live his life fruitfully, either way, being and actualization go hand in hand. 

Internal peace is then achieved as easily as being, as a person intent on being gets what he wants with the simple act of existing. While of course more pleasant experiences would be preferred, but a person that is would experience adversity as an opportunity to grow and experience something new or challenging, rather than an obstacle to attaining their material desires. It would sound like being focused on being would make a person fear the inevitable end of life, but it is only true for the haver. A person that is would at the end of their life have everything that they have ever done, achieved and experienced which most importantly, are things that they will keep even as they die. A being person also has no reason to fear losing their self-identity, or their experiences, as it is not something that can be taken from them, short of dementia. Internal peace and contentment is pretty much a given for a person that lives their lives as a being .

In reality, it is likely that no one is fully living in the polar form of being or having but more likely somewhere in between, but to attain well-being we should stop desiring empty things and just be.