Sunday, 10 May 2015

Stop Thinking Yourself Unhappy: Reality, Perception and Attribution

Faces, or a vase?
The other day, I stumbled onto - let's say a "heated debate" online. The argument was this; one man was letting the world know that he did not believe in good intentions, that everything happened for purely selfish reasons and that all humans were fooling themselves if they thought that they cared about each other. Others argued that he needed more joy in his life, that reading negative news stories all the time would of course make him think that, that people are ultimately good and that unhappiness comes from perception, not reality.

To that last comment, he responded with "What kind of hippy bullshit is that?" - and it really got me thinking. It is part of Buddhism, I believe, that states that suffering comes from perception. What does that mean, though, in a real, modern sense? Was our friend right in claiming it as "hippy bullshit", or is it, in fact, a profound sentiment? Is the world full of bad, nasty, selfish people, or is it full of goodness and light? Well, both things are true, and that fact alone illustrates the importance of perception.

Let's say that Jill met Jack one night in a bar. They really hit it off, shared a few cocktails and then he walked her home. At the door, Jill was about to invite Jack inside, where he politely kissed her on the cheek and said he had to be up early the next morning.