In order to give you a sense and direction of the subject matter of my book, I have provided its table of contents, some of the introduction and capsule samples of some its conclusions (there are fifty more in the actual summary).
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Explaining Unhappiness is the result of having spent thirty years of my professional life talking to troubled souls and a lifetime of introspection and research. At the risk of appearing immodest, I believe I have written a definitive explanation as to why human beings have always found it necessary to make themselves unhappy. And more important, how this new understanding will allow them to stop doing that.
Serious books inevitably start with an instigating question, and the question that this book answers is, “What are you afraid would happen if you weren’t unhappy?” It is not a question of my own making. A former teacher, colleague, and friend asked me that question; it struck me with such force that it eclipsed every other existential question I have ever encountered. Why? Because this is the question that everybody is asking all their lives, without ever fully realizing it. We are also deeply engaged in the assumptions contained within it.
What are we assuming when we ask, “What are you afraid would happen if you weren’t unhappy?” First, we’re suggesting that it is possible not to be unhappy regardless of the present circumstances in which we find ourselves, that unhappiness doesn’t just happen, but that it may be self-imposed. Further, this chosen state may have less to do with what is happening in the present and more to do with warding off a fearfully anticipated future. Finally, we must also believe that, somehow, unhappiness pays off. We are forced to conclude, then, that we value unhappiness, which qualifies as the apogee of human contradiction. It would mean that people who seek help actually value what they hate. They are souls in pain hitting their heads against the wall in their therapists’ offices, perversely ignorant that they are choosing to do so, and asking their therapists to treat their headache.
This book is unlike others in the field of self-help psychology. Its pages contain no surveys revealing what groups of people are likelier to be happy, no exercises, quizzes, or personal inventories designed to give readers a deeper understanding of what is wrong with them. It does not offer any steps to self-improvement, realizing your potential, personal growth, or increasing your ability to cope, because these traditional goals of therapy assume that there is something about people that has to be put right.
What I am proposing, instead, is that human beings are not defective. I believe that emotional problems—unhappiness, if you will—are produced in a way that might be likened to a person holding his breath. Such a person does not have to be taught how to breathe since his ability to hold his breath would imply that he already knows how to do that. Think of the old joke that goes, “Doctor, it hurts when I do this,” raising his arm. To which the doctor replies, “Don’t do that.” My approach to unhappiness is similarly passive: it seeks change through inaction.
My analysis makes no appeal to religion, mysticism, or the supernatural, not because these approaches to peace of mind are necessarily misguided. In the end, it may well be that the bliss we seek may, indeed, lie with the transcendent. My only interest here is to present a strictly earth–based, psychological analysis of human self-definition, and that will only be possible by reexamining human self-consciousness at its foundational level.
A book about happiness should be easy to understand and help people feel better about their lives. It should be inspirational, particularly in its original sense, which means to breathe life into something that is essentially dormant. It should not merely rehash the obvious, stitch together off- the -shelf psychological nostrums, repackage homilies or even offer encouragement instead of reasoned analysis and ultimately fail to satisfy anyone who longs for both. This is not to condemn the genre or those sages who voiced profound insights and fresh perspectives. I hope to be offering you the best of what it should be.
Some conclusions discussed in the book are:
Dissolutions–Excerpts and Extrapolations
Fiction: The goal of therapy is to raise consciousness.
Fiction: Learning how to cope is the touchstone of successful therapy.
Fiction: Pride is either a virtue or a sin.
Fiction: Letting it all hang out is good therapy.
Fiction: We are free to choose.
Fiction: Criminals are either sick or evil.
Fiction: To err is human, to forgive divine.
Click here to download the introduction as PDF.