Mr. Berghout The Four Levels of Happiness adapted from the work of Camile Pauley & Rev. Spitzer, S.J.
Beginning Reflection 2 What makes you happy? Why? Create a list writing one thing per line. Or, describe in a paragraph what the “perfect day” for you would be like that would bring you the most happiness.
Lesson Objective You will be able to define each of the Four Levels of Happiness presented, their limitations, and identify which level of happiness you are currently pursuing most regularly. 4
Looking for Happiness We’re all looking for happiness. It’s the one thing human beings want more than anything else. In fact, everything else that we want in life, we want because we think it will make us happy. Now the word “happiness” is a little tricky. You may be tempted to think that it can be measured by how you feel or how much you laugh every day. 5
It’s easy to think that happiness is all about having things “go my way,” or about being cheerful, giddy, or carefree. But, although such feelings may point to a kind of happiness, is life really just about being in a good mood? 6
Sometimes people can be feeling pretty good, but have a deep sense that something in their life is missing. Alternatively, people can feel pretty sick, but still be happy. You’ve probably met people who laugh a lot, but are not happy at all. 7
When it comes to finding happiness, our culture doesn’t seem to help much. Everywhere you look, you’re told that happiness comes from__________________________? From things like sex, money, power, fame, beauty, and entertainment. 9
We think real happiness is much more than what the culture says. We think real happiness is about being fulfilled at our very core. It is about being everything that we, as human beings, were meant to be. And it comes from finding ultimate meaning and purpose in life. 13
And it leads to deep freedom, lasting hope, and real peace. It may seem unrealistic. You may doubt that it even exists. But every one of us, from the very beginning, has an “end”, “a set purpose” written into our very nature that directs us to want more than just physical things 14
This desire that God has placed in every human is what makes us uniquely human. It is the desire for unconditional love! You see, as it turns out, there are different kinds of happiness, and they’re not all equal. Some types last longer than others. Some use more of our powers, talents, and skills. Some are more fulfilling. 15
If we truly want to be happy, it’s best to understand the difference between the types of happiness, and direct most of our energies toward the levels that are most fulfilling. Keep in mind that each level of happiness fulfills a particular desire in your human nature so it is good, however, the trouble starts when we begin to live for lower levels of happiness as if they were the highest, or when we purse them in ways that are unhealthy. 16
Happiness Level 1 The first and most basic level of happiness comes from things outside ourselves and involve one or more of the five senses. The pleasure they give is immediate and direct such as eating an ice cream cone, buying a brand new car, going on vacation. Their pleasure is short lived and intermittent. They must be replaced by yet another ice cream cone, or new car, or vacation. Until such replacements take place our happiness is on hold. ( 20
Happiness Level 1 So problems quickly creep in when human beings begin living for physical fulfillment. You see, unlike animals, human beings have the capacity to choose what they believe is most important in life. If we choose Level 1 as our most important goal, we will soon become restless and bored with material things. If we believe that the only thing that makes life worth living is physical pleasure and possessions, we will begin to feel like we are living beneath ourselves. And we will eventually develop a very low sense of self-worth. 21
Happiness Level 1 For example, you pick up a bag of potato chips, and start eating two, three, four, five. Before you know it you're at the bottom of the bag. You didn't really want any more, but you couldn't stop. You passed the point of diminishing returns and now you feel sick. While physical pleasure is an essential part of enjoying life, at the same time, we have to know how to control it and harness it. 22
Happiness Level 1 If you don’t believe it, read the biographies, and even autobiographies of people who made this mistake. Living for things ends up throwing us into real crisis. We call it Crisis 1: Physical pleasure is: transitory! leaves you depressed! an end unto itself! unsatisfying! 23
Does she look like she found happiness doing drugs? 24
Happiness Level 1 But there is a way out. It involves turning to Level 1 into a means to a greater end, instead of pursuing it as an end in itself. That means directing our physical desires toward something bigger – something more important. A MEANS, NOT AN END Imagine inviting someone over for a fancy, four-course dinner. After serving the melon, they thank you and get up to leave. "Where are you going? We're just getting started. The best is yet to come!" 25
Happiness Level 2 The second level of happiness is ego-gratification. (Ego is Latin for I) While Level 1 is about “feeling, good,” Level 2 is “feeling good about myself.” It is the kind of happiness that comes from turning the attention of the world in upon myself, and it is usually experienced in one of four ways: 1. Winning or being better than others, 2. Achievement or success 3. Power or control, and 4. Popularity or admiration 26
Level 2 Happiness Notice that Level 2 happiness can be very good. Competition is important for improvement; success gives you a sense of pride in your work; power and control can be very important for managing a team or directing people; and popularity is useful if you are trying to encourage people to do something good. 28
Happiness Level 2 Notice that Level 2 gratification lasts longer than Level 1. It requires more from you (some talent or skill), and affects more people outside yourself. For example, winning a race takes months or years of practice and exercise, and can leave you satisfied for a long time while eating a hamburger only uses a few motor skills and digestive juices, and satisfied for only a few hours. 29
Happiness Level 2 The good news is that keeping focused on Level 2 will make Level 1 healthy! If I am eating and drinking and sleeping so that I will be in top performance, I will not overeat, binge drink, or oversleep. I will do these things in moderation because they are mere means to a greater end. 30
Happiness Level 2 The bad news is that human beings can choose to live for ego gratification, in which case they will begin to seek winning for the sake of being better than everyone else, achievement for the sake of being successful, power for the sake of control, and popularity for the sake of being admired. They will begin to live for these things as ends in themselves. 31
That which I think is the most important thing in the world (me) has received approval. It’s all about me! 32
Happiness Level 2 Living for Level 2 happiness quickly leads to Crises 2 – the “comparison game.” In Crisis 2, we are constantly looking at how our lives compare with everyone else’s. And the result is a tendency to look at the world simply in terms of “win, lose, or draw.” 33
Happiness Level 2 On days that I am feeling like a “winner,” I will find myself holding other people in contempt. I will feel aggressive to the point of wanting to mow down others. And I will constantly have to “up the stakes” in order to prevent other people from overtaking me. 34
Happiness Level 2 On days I feel like a “loser,” I will become bitter and jealous at the successes of other people. I will be angry at God and blame Him for my weaknesses. I will also likely believe that God is also stuck in Level 2 and doesn’t care about my problems. And that will make me resentful of anybody who isn’t suffering as much as I am. 35
Happiness Level 2 If I happen to be experiencing a “draw,” that is, I’m stuck somewhere in the middle, I will likely feel intense anxiety about “going nowhere” and I will become suspicious of everyone around me. Even people I used to love will become suspect as I guard my spot and look for a chance to prove myself. Obviously, Level 2 happiness is a recipe for misery if we live for it as an end. 36
Happiness Level 2 The healthy way out of Crisis 2 is to use Level 2 as a measure to a greater end. That is, direct our skills and talents toward making a difference to someone or something outside ourselves. 37
Happiness Level 3 The third level of happiness is contribution in the world. Instead of being focused on myself, I’m focused on making a difference to others. This is the kind of happiness we feel when donating money to a charity, visiting an elderly person, or cheering up a sad friend. Anything I do to make a positive difference with my life can lead to an incredible sense of fulfillment. Our happiness, we learn, cannot be separated from the happiness of others. The common good is an integral part of our personal happiness. 38
Happiness Level 3 There are five basic areas that people want to be a part of in Level 3. All human beings experience a desire to be a part of: 1. Truth 2. Love 3. Goodness (or “justice”) 4. Peace 5. Home (belonging) And when we participate in them we feel happy! 39
Happiness Level 3 Notice that a person stuck in Level 1 or 2 Happiness will have no use for these five goods. To him, these goods will seem wimpy, a waste of time, or even counterproductive to what he really wants – physical pleasure and ego-highs. Unfortunately, the very goods that he looks down on are the very goods he needs so much in order to avoid Crises 1 and 2. 41
Happiness Level 3 42 Remember how keeping focused on Level 2 kept Level 1 healthy? The same thing is true here, with Levels 2 and 3. When we are focused on Level 3, Level 2 stays healthy. For example, let’s say I am helping a student on a retreat with a personal problem, and Ms. Clarke walks in and shows the student a Bible passage that speaks powerfully to him.
Happiness Level 3 43 If I am stuck on Level 2 Happiness (ego), I will get irate and jealous – since I want to be the one to help the student, because I want to show that I know the Bible really well, and can provide good spiritual direction. I will want to tell Ms. Clarke to mind her own business, or I will say “fine, you do it,” and stomp off. But if I am motivated by Level 3 Happiness (contributing or helping others), then what I really want is for the student to get help.
Happiness Level 3 44 My goal of helping the student (and not boosting my own ego – Level 2) can sometimes be met by stepping aside and inviting other people to share their talents too. That is, by the way, what makes a really good leader. Notice I can be going through Level 3 motions (helping someone with a Bible Reflection) with a Level 2 attitude (doing it so I get recognized or appreciated).
Happiness Level 3 45 Real Level 3 happiness matches a Level 3 attitude with a Level 3 action. And it does lead to great satisfaction. Notice also that Level 3 is higher than Levels 1 and 2 because it’s longer-lasting, requires more from me (some self-sacrifice), and affects more people outside myself than Levels 1 and 2 do. But unfortunately, Level 3 can soon lead to Crises 3. “What do you mean?” you ask. “What could be better than doing for others?”
Happiness Level 3 46 “What could make me happier than contributing to peace, truth, love, goodness and home in the world?” Well, the problem with Level 3 Happiness is that human beings don’t just want some truth, we want all the right answers to all the questions that exist. We don’t want just some love; we want to be loved unconditionally for all eternity.
Happiness Level 3 47 We are not just satisfied with some goodness; we want absolute justice and fairness for all people everywhere. We don’t just want some peace; we want perfect harmony with all that is. We don’t just want some home; we want to feel totally at home in the universe. Human beings were made to want perfect, absolute, infinite, eternal, ultimate, unconditional, and unconditioned Truth, Love, Goodness, Peace, and Home.
Happiness Level 3 48 And the trouble with Level 3 is that we are trying to satisfy this desire for perfection through an imperfect world. It will not be long before we realize that no human being, not even I, can be perfectly truthful, loving, good, peaceful, and authentic all by ourselves.
Happiness Level 3 49 Human beings are imperfect. We all know we make mistakes know matter how hard we try to be good. As much as we would like, we are unable to solve all of the problems of the world. … We have limitations; in fact, we die. As much as we try, we cannot satisfy our own desire for perfect and eternal love.
Happiness Level 3 50 We look around and see there is still hunger. … We look around and see there is still poverty. …
Happiness Level 3 51 We look around and see there is Hatred, and Aggression. … Dishonesty. … Injustice. … Violence. … Death. …
Happiness Level 3 52 In a nutshell, if we are stuck on Level 3 Happiness, we will eventually experience Crisis 3: frustration, despair, bitter disappointment, and dashed expectations. We could eventually become cynical, believing that life is all about wanting something that we can never have. We may eventually give up trying altogether!
Happiness Level 3 53 Why do people do this? Why are we not satisfied with the imperfections of the world? Why do we try so hard to find ultimate love, justice and truth when we can never get there on our own? The answer is quite simple, really.
Happiness Level 3 54 It is because the desire for ultimate love is written within our hearts. And it did not just get there by itself. It was planted there by Ultimate Love and Perfection, Himself: AKA God! How do I know this is true? Try making Level 3 a means to the end of Level 4, and see what happens.
55 “At a certain point in life, the profound desires and cravings of our heart reach a point of eruption in us. Yet, at the same time comes the awareness that we cannot bring about what we want – we do not have inside us what is needed to fulfill and satisfy our longings. And so, with our infinite yearnings we turn to the Infinite and cry, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down.” Our experience of helplessness before the fact of our boundless human need moves us to ask for fellowship with God’s Son, Jesus Christ the Lord…” -First Sunday of Advent, Year B, Magnificat, vol. 10, No. 9, November 2008.
Happiness Level 4 56 The fourth level of happiness begins with the leap to faith. It involves the belief that perfect and ultimate Truth, Love, Goodness, Peace and Home really does exist as a real Person. As you can guess, it involves belief in God. Many great philosophers have used Crises 3 as a “proof” for God’s existence. After all, how could you desire more than the imperfect goodness of the world, if there were nothing more than that?
Happiness Level 4 57 Why are we not satisfied or content but yearn for more justice and peace for all? Where would you, an imperfect being, get the desire or yearning for perfection, if perfection did not exist? But Happiness Level 4 involves more than just belief in God. It requires surrender to the unconditional love of God.
Happiness Level 4 58 It is believing that God wants to be with me and love me into all eternity. Level 4 is the happiness that comes from allowing Ultimate Love to fulfill all of my deepest desires by surrendering all of my other desire to Him. Now, for someone who is not familiar with that kind of faith, it may seem quite difficult to believe that such a Person exists. In fact, even people with faith sometimes struggle with believing that they could be loved that much.
Happiness Level 4 59 In a nutshell, it’s hard to trust that God is really that good! This is where a little four-step quiz might be helpful: 1. What do you want more than anything else in the world? I mean, what do you really want? (Is it to be loved?) 2. If what you want is to be loved, is it possible that God, who is perfect, would not have love as a part of His nature?
Happiness Level 4 60 3. If love is a part of God’s nature, then would God, who has no limitations, be able to love unconditionally? 4. If God loves unconditionally, would He want to be with you for all eternity? (The word “Emmanuel” found in the Christian bible, means “God with us.”). What it comes down to is this: When we’re truly honest with ourselves, we have to admit that our greatest desire is for God to love us unconditionally and eternally. The leap of faith is pretty much the only way to experience that kind of love.
Happiness Level 4 61 But when we take that leap, we find a happiness that sets all the other levels of happiness free. Remember our discussion about “means” and “ends”? When Level 3 was an end in itself, we became frustrated, disappointed, and cynical. But if Level 3 is used as a means to the end of Level 4, then Level 3 is healthy. I no longer expect that I, or other people, will be perfect. I don’t get cynical, because I know that God is in charge, and He is working with all human beings to invite all of us to participate in love. He is the one who can save everyone – not me! So I gladly give that job over to Him.
Happiness Level 4 62 Notice also that Level 4 is the highest level of happiness because it is the longest lasting (in fact, it last eternally!), it requires the most of me (nothing short of total surrender), and it affects every human person (because God’s invitation is for everyone). Catholics believe human beings are meant for nothing less than the unconditional love of God for all eternity. This is real happiness: Being fulfilled at our very core. It is about being everything that we, as human beings, were meant to be.
Happiness Level 4 63 With Level 4 as our goal, all of the other levels make sense and find their proper place. And we find deep freedom, lasting hope, and real peace. Happiness Level 1 – physical pleasures! Happiness Level 2 – ego highs! Happiness Level 3 – the satisfaction in helping others! Happiness Level 4 – desire for God!
Concluding Reflection 64 Now that you are knowledgeable about the Four Levels of Happiness, look at your original list you made of what makes you happy, and why it does and identify what level it is on: 1, 2, 3, or 4. What are habits or ways of thinking that can help you focus on the higher levels of happiness? I’d like you to respond to the question by making notes
The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit 65 God gave us the gifts of the Holy Spirit to assist us in our quest for happiness. Each of the Seven Gifts and Charisms God gives us are meant to help us not settle for anything less than Level 4 Happiness. They allow us to see things as God sees them, and to properly use all of the levels of happiness as they are meant to be used – as a ladder – to reach Him – our ultimate Happiness! Amen! The End
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