“All unhappiness,” says the Bhagavad Gita, “is a result of false expectations.”

I might add that it can also be a result of habit. I would never have understood this when younger, but once habituated to unhappiness, the habitué might well, given a choice between happiness and unhappiness, willfully choose unhappiness simply because that has become their comfort zone.  Thus, when the Swedish mystic, Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1782), was permitted to visit heaven and hell, he learned that in the afterlife all people choose for themselves whether to go to heaven or hell, based on the preferences they’ve become accustomed to in life.

Related: Pleasure and Happiness, Good Angels and Bad

12 thoughts on “Unhappiness

  1. As a wise person I knew (long since departed) often said, “Disappointment requires adequate planning.”

    Or as Duryodhana snapped at his Kaurava brothers in The Mahabharata, “You don’t understand, I want to be discontented!”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Chris. Maybe the Mahabharata/Bhagavad Gita are the all-inclusive takes on unhappiness, encompassing even my habit-based model. After all, where does the habit begin? One has high expectations and becomes discontented when they aren’t met. This happens repeatedly. Those moments of disappointment are so painful that a mechanism develops for pre-emptive disappointment. If you’re disappointed in advance, you won’t be crushed later. Thus the habit of pre-emptive disappointment/unhappiness/depression forms as a kind of low-level steady inoculation against the devastation that follows high hopes unmet.


      • I agree with you, Gary. The Mahabharata/Bhadavad Gita are all-inclusive takes on just about everything relating to the human condition. As Krishna counsels Arjuna in the Gita, attachment, desire, expectation, prejudice, hostility and fear all put us on the road to being crushed (even in your habit-based model, in which we get attached to stratagems of self-deception in order to avoid devastation). Krishna is clear on this: the way to enlightenment requires nothing but the cessation of our desires and fears, the hardest work we can ever do.


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