Photography: Teodor Ionita-Radu
Editing & Concept & Writing: Alexandra Roman
Location: Amsterdam, Pulitzer Hotel
“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence”
disagree. Or at least disagree with the common interpretation of Aristotle’s view. The purpose of life is not unadorned happiness, although I recognize the intuitive appeal of his claim. The purpose is self-awareness. Only by understanding yourself can you begin to understand how to be happy.
Yet we’re subconsciously programmed to believe that happiness is something to be chased. One of the current movements that society is promoting is “the hunt”: the hunt for the perfect job; the perfect salary, masters, partner, grades, entourage… A vicious cycle rooted in obsessive behavior is perpetuated, which in turn denies one’s self-awareness and authenticity, and consequently, ability to be properly happy.
But why? Why do we let ourselves be sucked into an endless chase? Because we don’t actually know ourselves. So we’re constantly looking. Perhaps we have a tendency to get furious when someone disagrees with us or we feel the need of validation from those around us or perhaps we have an issue with loneliness. Many of us simply accept these as part of who we are or blame our environments: “I’m lonely because I don’t like the people here”;”I’m angry because X is messy”, etc…All of these are not who we are — they are simply “our ugly sides”; our unexplored childhood traumas, manifesting themselves. And we all have childhood traumas that have yet to be explored. For example, perhaps when I was small, my parents got divorced, prompting me to live with only my mother and rarely seeing my father. As a child, such an event might have been traumatic — I may have associated the divorce as a form of abandonment. Because it might have been so painful though, my mind may have buried this emotional information into my subconscious. As I grow up, this subconscious emotional baggage might have prompted me to look for significant others or friends whom resembled my father figure. To be more specific, individuals that for my subconscious, might have been perceived as emotionally unavailable or unable to commit for example, because in my mind, such would be associated with abandonment. Although such a scenario seems counterintuitive, the purpose of it would be to re-create my childhood trauma of abandonment, “we are looking to recreate, within our adult relationships, the feelings we knew so well in childhood” (The New York Times, de Botton). Hence, without realizing, I would subject myself to seemingly constant failed connections.
The one consequence of ignoring our psychological complexities is rejecting the “too right” candidate since we are stuck in a loop of repeating the past. We end up rejecting people not because they are not suited for us, but because they are not suited in recreating our childhoods. Maybe they are too balanced or too reliable, but “in our hearts, such rightness feels foreign”. We end up marrying the wrong people or being stuck in toxic friendships or situations because actually, we “don’t associate being loved with feeling happy”. And some have the tendency to blame this on age or lack of experience or on other external factors but the truth is, traumas are inherently related to our behavioral complexities.
Some might even be prompted to believe that it’s simply a matter of compatibility. You don’t get along with someone because you’re too different. And we have different societal movements actually legitimizing and glamorizing this. Tinder off the top of my head perpetuates this exact phenomena as a precondition with the subtext of “keep swiping ‘till you match”; “match” being the key word here. And there are several other platforms and movements that promote the same. People don’t just “match”; people grow together by firstly being honest with themselves, and then with those in question.
Not engaging, dealing or exploring our emotional baggages, leaves us susceptible to a lack of self awareness and consequently, a constant repeat of the past. Only by engaging with our psychological complexities; only by asking “why is my ego responding in this way?”; “why am I triggered right now?” can we break our loops, better understand ourselves and our reactions and begin to have authentic, healthy connections and relationships.
I argue that our personalities are not constant and that people have the predisposition to constantly change if they choose too.