Why You Can’t Find Happiness


If you’re like many, you may find the title of this post intriguing. I would think that it is fair to say that most are consciously aware of, with or without acting on, a desire to reach a place where they do discover happiness.

There is one simple problem with that idea that will prevent you from ever discovering true happiness. Are you ready for it?

Happiness is not a place or a thing, and therefore can not be found.

Most speak of “finding” happiness as if it is a destination that they may someday reach. Either that or it is some sort of tangible item that they will be able to hold in their hands at some point in time. This is a representation of desire that will yield little in terms of guiding you towards whatever data would be necessarily present for you to feel as though you “found” happiness.

“Happiness” is an example of what we call a nominalization; it is (in this case) an adjective that has been converted into a noun. I’m sure you remember from grade school that a noun is a “person, place, or thing”. Since happiness is not a person, or a place, it must be a “thing” right?


Consider the test that we apply when identifying a nominalization:

“Can you put X in a wheelbarrow?”

If the answer is no, then you have a nominalization on your hands. Obviously you cannot put happiness in a wheelbarrow, so it is not a “thing”.

Some of the more sarcastic types might add that you couldn’t put something like the Golden Gate Bridge, or a Hippopotamus in a wheelbarrow either, to which I answer,

“Well you could if you had a large enough wheelbarrow”.

Really think about this for a moment.

How do you reach a destination, or procure some object that does not exist?

Sounds like a game that you can’t win right?

So what does this all mean? Am I here today to harp on grammar and the way that we, in the english language, create simple words to “sum up” a complex series of processes?

Not in the sense of complicating communication, but I am here to shed light on the idea that, while nominalizations make communicating with others simpler, they often make things much more difficult when they are designated an objective, or used to describe a hardship.

Let’s look at both examples.

When someone says that they want to “find happiness”, or that their goal is to one day have “true happiness”, what are they really saying?

Well, in order to understand this, we have to “unpack” the nominalization and break it down into the processes or collection of states that it describes.

“Happy” is an adjective used to describe a complex series of emotions in a specific moment. You can accurately use the word “happy” to describe a state that you are in during a given experience.

“Happiness” is defined as the “quality or state of being happy”. So, in order to experience happiness, you must be happy.

Duh JP, I get it.

But what does being happy mean? How is that accomplished?

In order to be happy, you must be “happily” (the adverb form) experiencing a moment.

Once this is understood, you can see the importance of creating for yourself an ongoing collection of “happy” nows that you can “happily” experience.

As we’ve discussed before, the past is gone, and the future never comes. The only time you ever have that is real is this moment that you are in right now.

Want to find happiness? Create for yourself a string of “nows”, stretching from here until you leave the earth, where you are “happily” experiencing the process of whatever it is that you are doing.

Treat happiness as a destination, or a thing that you’ll one day find and hold, and your unconscious will only recognize it as an item that you do not possess, or a place that you have not arrived at. Since you haven’t “found” happiness, you are not a “happy” person.

Sucks how that works, doesn’t it?

Nominalizations can be derived from both verbs and adjectives. Remember that, even though they look convincing, they are only masquerading as “things”.

Put the following through the “wheelbarrow test”, tell me which is the only “real” noun.

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Hula Hoop
  • Love
  • Passion
  • Anger
  • Frustration

See how this works?

Now, imagine a person who believes that he or she “has” anxiety. How might they be “treated” by a “PSYCHO-therapist?”

If you guessed “here are some addictive and harmful pills that won’t actually cure you”, give yourself a pat on the back.

If you guessed “let’s dig into your childhood and try to figure out why you have anxiety, because if we do that then you will understand where it comes from and be able to heal from it”, give yourself a pat on the back.

If you guessed a long, expensive, drawn out process of both, the time wasted on which could be much more valuably spent masturbating alone or with a friend, then give yourself two pats on the back.

Does this person have anxiety?


Do they become “anxious” in certain contexts, in certain situations?

Most definitely.

Is that a thing? Does it have a color? Does it smell more like bacon or jasmine flowers?

Anxiety is not a “thing” any more than love or happiness are. All are convenient ways of summing up a process, or collection of states that one has or has not experienced.

Allow this person to adopt the belief that he or she “has anxiety”, like it is a rash that is all over their mouth and anus, and they will perpetually operate in accordance with that identity (whether or not they sell their prescription to their friend).

Teach this person that anxiety describes the process of feeling anxious in certain situations, identify the situations, and teach them the proper representational, physiological, and language changes that need to be made to change their state in that moment, and you have done what disciples of Freud have been unable to do for over 100 years,

Cure a single patient.

Consider what nominalizations you use in your own language, particularly with regards to expressing your desires or limitations. If you are unsure, use the wheelbarrow test. If you discover that you are chasing or bound by a thing that really isn’t a thing, “unpack” the nominalization to examine the pattern or process that makes it up.

Therein you will find what you can fix, or what pattern you can create to experience life in a manner that is more in line with what you desire.




2 Responses

  1. Chad

    I’ve been using the techniques you’ve been discussing for the last few weeks, “I’m choosing to be pissed” instead of “I am pissed”, “oh wait, why do I want to be pissed?” Changing up bad memories and representing them differently, as well as making the things I don’t like to do but need to something I want and like to do. This is so simple, but it is life changing! There’s been a bunch of things I’ve been putting off because I don’t want to do them and I’ve been smashing through them with a grin on my face the whole time waiting to attack the next challenge. There’s a lot of things I need to work on but I feel like I’m getting the tools I need to get them fixed an get done what I want to get done.

    If this is just a taste of what BTB is all about, I can’t wait to see what’s next.

    Good stuff JP

    May 19, 2014 at 1:03 pm

  2. Chad

    Oh I forgot to mention, the way I speak to my kids is different now too. It’s no longer “daddy I feel sad, or mad”, it’s “I’m choosing to feel sad”. Powerful stuff to start a kid’s perspective early on.

    May 19, 2014 at 1:04 pm

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