This is a variant on old though different themes. Buddhism for example teaches that, through meditation, you can reduce your desires and hence, with enough meditative effort, get closer to what in modern parlance might be called your bliss point.
A couple of times I have tried to modify the standard microeconomic model of consumption to account for this behavior. Thus a consumer allocates his time between work, leisure and meditation to constrain his/her desires for comnsumption goods and other pleasures. The greater the effort ‘invested’ in meditative pursuit the higher the marginal utility gained from any given bundle of goods or from a sensual encounter. The difficulty lies in coming up with sensible interior optima – optima that don’t involve for example investing much of your time in meditation and living on lentils.
These thoughts come to mind this Sunday morning as – for the 1,924th time - I do not go to Sunday Church but instead think about breakfast and my bowels.
I am also searching the papers for something worth reading. Eventually I find this on the miserable secret of marital bliss. It’s the same theme – keep your aspirations low and greater happiness will ensue in the midst of door-slamming teenagers and failed dreams. The writers even suggest that Buddhist meditation can help you cope.
I am interested in whether readers accept this line. That I find it interesting probably indexes to some degree my own disfunctionality.
I quote from the article - it is my bolding:
‘THE key to a happy marriage and family life is accepting that misery and suffering are unavoidable, American researchers say.
Therapists claim that "mindful acceptance" of family rows...and painful relationships is better than believing in perfection.
But they fear that childhood fairytales, love stories and modern counselling techniques are promoting an unhealthy belief that true domestic bliss can be achieved. "Our culture perpetuates the myth that, with enough effort, we can achieve a state without suffering," says a new report in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy.
...."In the US, the value placed on the 'can-do' spirit and triumph over adversity creates an environment where suffering can be viewed as a symptom of personal failure..."
Psychologists have worsened the problem by using the term "mental health" to signify an ideal psychological state where people are free from suffering, according to Dr Diane Gehart and Dr Eric McCollum, family therapy professors.
They believe that a Buddhist meditation technique could provide a new way of coping with family suffering.
"Mindfulness", where a person tries to focus on their thoughts and actions in the present moment, is used by psychiatrists to cope with anxiety.
The American family therapists believe it could play a bigger role in people dealing with abuse, divorce, rejection and loss. "We suggest a different antidote to the struggle: mindful acceptance of our relational pain and of the many aspects of a relationship over which we have no control," they say.
"Mindful acceptance is the realisation that while some pain is inevitable, the suffering of the struggling against things we cannot change is not."