The strange and dangerous cult of happiness.

In 1993 veteran Australian self-help guru Michael Rowland published a book titled Absolute Happiness, a hopelessly bloated tome of platitudes that meandered in circles without giving any real practical advice. Nevertheless, it sold very well; people want to get as much of this happiness stuff as they can. The idea was that our natural state was to be happy all of the time. Apart from the nonsensical fact that such a state would render happiness itself moot, only drug addicts and lunatics could accept such a premise at face value.

Rowland was quite literally besieged by eager acolytes desperate to attend his courses that accompanied the book, proving that there were far more lunatics around than even he gave credit for. The vast majority of them were women. I know because I worked for him. The men who attended were either there by order from their wives or mothers or they were young hippy boys who fancied a life of blissful happiness without the yuckiness of shooting heroin into their veins.

But it really was a female thing, and a female thing of a certain age and station in life.

Nowadays the cult of happiness is known as self esteem. It’s the same thing but in a different package. Self esteem implies that a woman is not just happy but she is happy due to her ingrained awesomeness, which is thus a virtue. You go girl! That’s a lot of pressure for women to shoulder, being happy all the time and being awesome as well as virtuous. Something’s gotta give.

I have written about this happiness plague before, almost 2 years ago to be precise. What did I have to say then about it?

What we see in Western marriages is the common predicament of one half of the marriage cutting and running as soon as they encounter any real problem. If you are taught to believe that you need to be happy all the time, and if you find yourself in a period in your marriage where you are unhappy, and if there exists fault free divorce, why the answer is clear – change your partner and get your happiness back with your new “love of your life.”

Aww geez …

My manosphere comrade in arms Dalrock wrote a post yesterday dedicated to my current predicament – Whose job is it to keep mama happy?

Like Heidi’s chaplain friend, Dr. David Clarke at Focus on the Family (FotF) explains that women being discontented in marriage and men being happy is a sign that God made women better at marriage than men.  According to Clarke a wife’s discontentment isn’t something she needs to overcome, it is a virtue, and proof that she is better at marriage than her clueless husband.

If happiness is our supposed natural state, and if we believe the claim that women are inherently virtuous as a result of their happiness, then that doesn’t give the man of the house much of a chance when she feels her happiness points beginning to slip away.

In my initial post the day after the wife walked out I shouldered some of the responsibility with the claim that I failed to keep her. What does Dalrock think of that?

But in this case he is mistaken.  If it were true that husbands are responsible not only for upholding their own vows, but also for making sure their wives always wanted to uphold their vows, then marriage vows would be a profoundly foolish thing.  They are not foolish, but there is no denying that they would be foolish if you accept conventional wisdom, including the teaching of modern Christian leaders like Heidi’s chaplain friend, FotF, FamilyLife, and Pastors Dave and Doug Wilson.  If a man doesn’t believe in biblical marriage, then not only does marriage have no moral meaning, but the very idea of marriage is downright absurd.

Ironically Adam uses a phrase that echoes how we used to understand the issue in the past.  He says “the truth is that I failed to keep her”.  In the past we (especially women) would say she can’t keep a man of a woman who wasn’t able to marry and stay married.  This was a brilliant term, because while on the surface it was technically misstating the issue, it accurately captured the fundamental problem as well as pointed to the solution.  Discontentment tends to come from a lack of thankfulness, and this is true in men and women.  But this is true in a specific way for women when it comes to feelings of sexual attraction and romantic love.  Women who fear they are going to lose the best man they can get tend to automatically become attracted to him.  As Heartiste puts it, female tingles are born in a defensive crouch. Even if the woman the phrase was used to describe wasn’t able to straighten out her own course, other women on the road to discontentment would hear the term and see the larger truth that such women aren’t typically trading up, and especially in the long run tend to fare very badly compared to what they foolishly discarded.  This fear of losing what she had both helped her be generally thankful for the good man she was tempted to discard, as well as tended to cause her to feel greater sexual attraction to him.

As good as that is, the next passage really struck a nerve with me.

Telling a woman she can’t keep a man simultaneously acknowledges that something is broken in her and helps her work on fixing that problem!

My wife accused me of breaking something in her. This really hurt me at the time. What had I broken, how had I done so, and even more importantly, why would I do such a thing? There were no answers available; the accusation was inherently nebulous. I was just bad.

The fact is that happiness is not our default state and self esteem is just another term for narcissism. If you can catch moments of happiness in your life then that’s wonderful. Acknowledge them and then let them go. But searching for happiness as a default state of being is simple lunacy. In affect you’re no better than a drug addict.

Fixing the problem is the other big point here. If you’re unhappy then only you can address that problem. No other person can make you happy. Declaring to your spouse that you’re unhappy and then somehow expecting that they come up with a solution is bizarre. Almost as bad is declaring to someone that you’re happy when they’re happy. The enormous problem here is the amount of pressure this puts on the other person. Apart from their own fleeting happiness they have to operate under the knowledge that your happiness will also take a dive if they stumble. It’s an incredibly selfish and immature thing to say.

(I want to add a caveat here – these posts are not about public therapy for my own circumstances. As this blog is for men, a direct and dramatic issue such as this is a real opportunity to help other men avoid the same mistakes.)

Michael Rowland’s time as a self-help guru came and went. The techniques that he tried to teach to embed this constant state of happiness were too challenging and required too much effort on the part of the layman. The women who attended his courses were simply there to achieve a temporary emotional high through the inspiration from being around other people who were on the same journey.

Nowadays we have social media, power careers, and the Church for that.

25 thoughts on “The strange and dangerous cult of happiness.

  1. earl

    ‘The idea was that our natural state was to be happy all of the time.’

    It’s not the wrong idea…but it’s wrong in the place where this can happen.

    To be happy all the time on this Earth can’t happen because of the fallen nature of men. In fact I’ve heard it referred to as a ‘trail of tears’. We have things like sorrow, sin, death, suffering, adversities, and calamities…to deny this is to deny the reality we live in. We won’t truly be happy all the time until we are in Heaven with God. That’s why those rare times we experience true happiness on Earth should focus us towards God.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Klaus

    I wish I could remember who wrote it but I once read that folks should aim for contentment, rather than happiness. There’s a lot to be said for consciously trying to appreciate what you have.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. earl

      ‘But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him (Jesus) who strengthens me.’ Philippians 4:10-13

      Like

  3. Telling a woman she can’t keep a man simultaneously acknowledges that something is broken in her and helps her work on fixing that problem!

    Well, it can’t be her fault. Somehow this is now considered to be truth

    Like

  4. Simon Thompson

    The greatest delusion is the “Domestic violence” industry. The male domestic violence shelter is known as Jail. At least he is free from woman there…

    Like

    1. MatrixTransform

      People in Aust, well at least in Melbourne, will recognize the billboards and TV advertisements pimping the idea that ‘all disrespect [of women] leads to [domestic] violence” ??? yeah?

      Well, on the surface it look s like a re-education campaign for boys and men right?
      Then consider this little nugget….

      What if they aren’t pointed at men? What if they’re really pointed at the waamen?

      and the message goes…
      That useless errant dick-ridden, misogynist must submit submit to your will,
      must supplicate himself to your version of how-the-world-really-works,
      If he says or does anything that leaves you feeling uncomfortable in the slightest.
      If he speaks his mind… sticks to point….puts his foot down.
      ….then surely you’ll be the next victim?

      It is disturbing.

      Alinsky: …the ninth rule: The threat is usually more terrifying than : the thing itself.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Burgess

    My wife of 25 years walked away 2 years ago. She began her farewell speech with “I’m not happy…”. My first thought was she wasn’t happy with her job or our house or one of the kids since that was the typical opening line I heard every 5 years or so since the day we married. This time, apparently, I was the reason for the unhappiness.

    Growing up, I cannot recall ever hearing the phrase “I’m not happy” a single time from my parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles. Life was what happened. Pronouncing yourself happy or unhappy about it was probably considered arrogant by my elders.

    I believe it to be the height of shallowness.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Carl-Edward

    Who, possessing a developed mind, can be constantly happy? A six-year-old at a birthday party is happy. One can be content, satisfied, pleased with one’s life – but this is another matter.

    Living in southern California, one has met people who go about with idiotic smiles (seemingly) painted on their faces, and are incapable of recognising an idea. Equally, in certain quarters, there are those who consider rational speech: ‘negative’. So many people here talk of one another as if they were batteries, with positive and negative charges running through them. I remember running into a silly little bitch from east Texas (who frequented a bar I liked), in the foyer of a would-be grand hotel in Los Angeles, where a surprisingly sane man had taken her. When I greeted her, she put her hands over her ears, and shrieked: ‘Nothing negative!’

    Like

  7. earl

    ‘My wife accused me of breaking something in her. This really hurt me at the time. What had I broken, how had I done so, and even more importantly, why would I do such a thing? There were no answers available; the accusation was inherently nebulous.’

    The fact she couldn’t (or wouldn’t) answer the question tells me it could have been a passing feeling.

    However…was she aware of the concept of sin?

    Like

  8. Post Alley Crackpot

    “My wife accused me of breaking something in her.”

    Naturally, this is the sound of The Hamstar rattling the bars of the cage: she feels entitled to A Lifestyle which you are no longer providing or never were going to provide.

    “The Hamstar” is the female rationalisation hamster triumphant, a part of the female psyche that believes it needs rock-star levels of deference and respect.

    All of the complete and utter bollocks that this woman you’ve been married to has been offering in terms of “justifications” simply serves The Hamstar and its perverse aspirational dreams for A Better Tomorrow.

    Which is why you’re right to realise that this involves the cult of self-esteem, but it also involves the cult of self-improvement bent toward perverse ends.

    How else could The Hamstar believe that becoming an All Too Close To The Wall divorcee with a kick-arse career would be a win?

    Consider yourself lucky that The Hamstar emerged to screw up this false ideation of marital bliss before you were stuck with an even more demanding post-wall woman to deal with in a divorce, but more than that, consider what led to recent events over many years.

    One distinct possibility: the rationalisation hamster led her and then led you to her country of birth, in which The Hamstar would be able to return triumphantly and would be able to gain status as compared to Her Life Somewhere Else.

    If that’s true, then this isn’t a recent turn of events, it’s a multi-year battle, and you’ve been at war without realising it.

    “Confuse the enemy. Keep him in the dark on your intentions. Sometimes what seems a victory isn’t really a victory and sometimes a defeat isn’t really a defeat. Whether in attacking, counterattacking, or defensive tactics, the idea of attacking should remain central, to always keep the initiative.” — General Vo Nguyen Giap of Vietnam

    Liked by 1 person

  9. davidpr90210

    “My wife accused me of breaking something in her.”

    I have experienced similar unfounded accusations in the past. It is the female version of gaslighting. Something akin to “if you don’t know why I am angry, then there’s no point telling you”.

    For the record though, my condolences for your current state of affairs.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Dave

    “If a man doesn’t believe in biblical marriage, then not only does marriage have no moral meaning, but the very idea of marriage is downright absurd”.

    This is indeed an inescapable nugget of truth. With the loss of religion, the social standards that it required are now null and void. Sure, you may get some lag time between religion giving way to secularism, with people raised to be moral and good, but without a greater context to define moral and good, we just are reduced to the all too common refrain I hear when debating (not that the average person today is anywhere near capable of the term) people on issues like religion or homo marriage ‘Oh for f’s sake, its 2018!!’. As if their acknowledgement of the (current) date renders all use of reason and logic, not to mention history, entirely superfluous.

    If the tv and radio gives them the green light to think or act a certain way, then its not only justified, but YOU are the out of touch one. Or as grandpa Simpson said “I used to be ‘with it’, but then I forgot what ‘with it’ was”.

    If however one’s behavioural standards stand to be judged eternally by God, and this was taught to people as children, the very concept of divorce would be close to impossible. Society would enforce it, but people would naturally self regulate too. Indeed, happiness, if it existed on earth, would best be found in loving your husband and creating children with him.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. TechieDude

    Wow. Great post, as was Dalrock’s piece.

    I had something similar happen to me, although the wife didn’t say she was unhappy in a generic sense. And, I’ll admit there were circumstances that I couldn’t control that got her to that state.

    Nevertheless, the gina-tingles stopped. And when that happens, it’s all about her, and what she wants and needs. Even though she can’t express what that might be. Since we are pretty devout, her more so than me, we at least had a vehicle to put things on the mend. And this allowed her, at least on some level, to articulate what was bothering her. But once the coals in the gina furnace cool a bit, it takes time and effort to relight that fire. After a year or so I’ve managed to keep a few embers burning.

    Marriages have seasons. The ebb and flow of happiness, stress, misery is a continuum. That’s what life is. Doesn’t change because you’ve included someone else in yours.

    It doesn’t help that society imbues women with an unearned entitlement to happiness – “40 is the new 20”, “Donna got her groove on”, it goes on and on, singing that the grass is greener over there. These women rarely see the wreckage of women that pulled the bail chain after 35 all around them. Hell, I could go to a church bingo and count at least a dozen. There are consequences to doing this. No one is exempt.

    To defend Adam, When he said “the truth is that I failed to keep her”, that’s true to some extent. It’s rare they don’t give some sort of sign, one that should be noticed and she should be called out on. The way I explained it to my wife when it finally came to a head was that first, I’m a deeply flawed, sinful man. I’m keenly aware of my faults, and don’t need her to itemize them for me. When she said she did this or that to give me a clue that I didn’t pick up on, I said “Look, I’m a man. We don’t get subtlety at my age. I’m battered and exhausted by my own problems (a health crisis), and sorry if I didn’t pick up on things. But I can’t own your problems too, even if I figured out what they were. You need to speak up.”

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Meerkat

    Just from listening to your podcasts, your wife and by extension you come across as aspiring perfectionists. Be it the floorboards or your furniture, it seems like you guys were aiming to get it perfect. You also mentioned how you were both working hard and this house purchase was a culmination of your years of hard work and you were finally settling down to enjoy the fruits of your labour.
    It seems she is unable to relax and enjoy domesticity and is thinking that there is always something better out there. I can’t make any other sense out of how you can dump your husband who you are supposedly deeply in love with after going through so much financial and logistical upheaval for no apparent reason

    Like

  13. Pingback: My Unhappiness Is Your Fault! | Σ Frame

  14. Dave

    Heh…. self help gurus…. I’ve seen so many women actually mention they read Tony Robbins or some other self help guru in their bios on dating websites…. but then that equates to the general expectations in women that someone else (most likely a man) will always solve their problems for them.

    In a woman’s world everything from virtue to problem solving is just a book or vending machine away.

    Like

  15. Apex Predator

    What did I say when this first happened? Read Dalrock! I’m glad he piped in on your situ, and gave some needed consolation. Hindsight is 20/20 brah, I had to burn down a 9 year relationship (Basically common law marriage) to also learn this the very hard way. Even though I ‘knew’ just as you knew, that it was counter to reality in many ways.

    Heartiste says it best, watch what women DO, not what they say. They are incredibly duplicitous in this way and it is something every man needs to be very aware of. (There are exceptions to all rules of course but speaking in gross generalizations)

    Like

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