The Pursuit of Happiness

As a student of philosophy I am often struck by how the values of culture can influence each individual, whether we know it or not. Religious faith, for instance seems to correlate with a longer lifespan, less alcohol abuse and better marital life. It may be that the values of the church/synagogue/mosque simply influence a greater commitment to family and one’s personal medical hygiene.

Marriage and divorce are also influenced by the culture at large, but maybe not in the best way.

In the post modern era, we tend to see our leaders as self serving and not all that wise. And without accepting that all leadership is flawed, the modern mind often rejects community norms, in favor of self fulfillment. So, steadfastness to community values like a commitment to marriage and children is weakening as our institutions weaken. What we have on the other side is the undisputable value of individual happiness. After all, if we have one life to live, why not enjoy it to the fullest?

But there is a rub. We are human beings and by virtue of being human, much of our happiness (and yes, torment too), comes from being a creature of relationship. We love, we marry: and we have kids, parents, brothers, sisters, friends, coworkers and pets. Get the point? Human beings are social beings, and therefore, we live a web of relationships. If individual happiness trumps everything, then we get divorced when we are unhappy, we fight for our rights because we think we were wronged and we tell ourselves that our children will learn from our example and become self centered as well.

Love requires more. Think about it.


Dr. Banschick is a child and adolescent psychiatrist. He has been quoted in The New York Times, The Huffington Post and The CBS Early Show. He is currently finishing the second of three books in The Intelligent Divorce series, which are devoted to teaching parents how to raise well adjusted kids during a divorce. You can reach him at mbanschick@gmail.com or at www.theintelligentdivorce.com

2 comments

  1. Marissa says:

    This blog represents a good valid point. I agree that we only get one life and it is very important that each person be able and eligable to do what they want with their life. However throughout our lives we have made choices and these choices come with consequences. Therefore i think it is more important when contemplating a divorce to think about more than yourself especially if their are children involved. The happiness of the person is significantly important but people must become less selfish and realize that their are other lives involved when it comes to the decision of a divorce. Parents need to think more about how their decisions will affect their children. Not only is the happiness of the parent important but the happiness of their children is just as equally important.

  2. Marissa says:

    The pursuit of happiness is very significant. However in the situation of divorce usually there is more than one life that is affected. I agree that a person does only get one life and they have the right to choose how they want to spend it and theres nothing wrong with that. Except in the situation of divorce if the two people are married and do have children together. The parents should not only take into consideration the happiness of theirselves but also how their decisions will affect their children. I just think before the decision of divorce is made that parents need to start putting more thought into how this decision will ultimatley affect their childrens lives. Not only is the happiness of the adults important but the happiness of the children is also just as important.

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