With all of this technological advancement, where do we stand as far as the advancement of emotional intelligence? I am afraid to say that I see a lot of evidence that it has experienced a dramatic decline. So much so that we are no longer even sure of what certain emotions are.
My father-in-law has many family journals and letters dating as far back as the early 1800’s. I love to feel the emotion with which they are written. The quality of emotional expression rivals some of the great literary works of the same period. The focus appears to be less on what was being done in their lives and more on how they were finding meaning in their life experiences, ultimately enhancing their sense of being. I see little evidence in the general writing of today that such standards have been maintained. Letters have been replaced by impersonal emails and acronym filled texts whose deciphering often requires the help of my children. In short, there is a lot more non-verbal information sharing that takes place today than there is verbal communication.
Let me illustrate. Some time ago while getting my haircut, my hairdresser mentioned that she had been talking to a mutual acquaintance the day before. This acquaintance had moved out of town a few months prior so I asked if she was back in town (assuming that the conversation was in person). My hairdresser then clarified that they had been texting. I claimed that she was not actually talking to this acquaintance, as texting is not talking. We had to agree to disagree. Do you see my point about where our society is?
Nietzsche stated that “communication that is not face to face is not communication.” We are losing relationships due to our reliance on forms of technology that are not truly able to reach the heart.
Another similar incident caused me great concern. Much of my clinical time is spent in a playroom setting with young children. Recently, I had a session with a three-year-old boy. We have some old cell phones in the playroom which children can use as they please as part of their therapeutic play. This young child handed me a phone and kept one for himself. He then proceeded to imitate a texting motion. As he was doing this, he was looking at me and saying, “Talk to me.” Obviously, this young boy had more experience with technology than he had with conversation.
We are losing touch with humanity and, while we may be sharing more information, we are are communicating less than ever before. The biggest casualty of this behavior is our relationships. We are social beings who thrive on relationships. Without relationships, we are losing the only truly reliable source of happiness, but there is so much more to losing hope in happiness.
Losing Hope in “The Pursuit of Happiness”
Our society is losing hope in happiness. Many believe there is no such thing as happiness–that it exists as a fairy tale of the past. Why are we losing hope in happiness? Because the world tells us that happiness is to be found in material gain. Every commercial, every billboard, every print ad, every pop-up promises increased pleasure and satisfaction at the hands of the advertised product or service. We buy into this and place our hope in things. Things are fleeting, temporary, short lived. “Things” can never be more important than, or replace, a healthy relationship. When we realize that these “things” do not produce the happiness they promise, we feel deceived and wonder if happiness is a myth.
I remember asking my mother when I was about seven years old, after reading a magazine ad, if Coke really “adds life,” thinking I would live longer if I drank it. Her response was disappointing to me. Unfortunately, many adults have adopted this child-like mentality, believing the lies of our consumer society. I have never heard of anyone saying at the end of their life that they wished they had spent their life getting more things.
Even the word “happiness” has become diluted and overused. Where is the emotional depth of expression in our world today? What has happened to having a sense of well-being or contentment? We speak of contentment today as if it were undesirable, as if it is settling for something less than we had hoped. Contentment is a transcendent state that comes from living with a sense of peace, calm, acceptance, and love. Contentment is the smile that we all hope to have on our face as we pass from this life to the next, signifying an authentic life of pure love for others and a love for all that is greater than we are as mortals. Contentment and well-being are happiness elevated to an immeasurable degree, but how often do you hear someone describe themselves as living with a sense of well-being or contentment? This is what needs to be restored.
We need to regain hope in more than momentary pleasure. The only way we can get a different result is by doing something different. Do not deceive yourself by thinking that if you just do the same things with an increased amount of effort that you will get a different result. We can stem this societal state of rapidly declining happiness. “How?” By daring to believe that we can be happy and live with contentment despite our circumstances. Your circumstances do not define your attitude; your attitude defines your circumstance. Perhaps no one defined and lived this principle better than Viktor Frankel as expressed in his life story entitled Man’s Search For Meaning. He found happiness in the midst of a World War II Concentration Camp. Reach out and say “yes” to life. Reach out and put your trust in love, not things that will pass. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Take time to talk instead of texting. Believe that what you and your higher power believe about you matters more than what others think about you–no matter what. Empowered Life Solutions Happiness and Healthy Living can guide you in your authentic “Pursuit of Happiness”.