Carl Jung's Five Key Elements to Happiness


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I love reading Carl Jung, especially his book Memories, Dreams, Reflections. His work is very challenging, however, so to get a Jung fix, I read a bunch of interviews that he gave, which were printed in the collection, C.G. Jung Speaking.

In 1960, journalist Gordon Young asked Jung, "What do you consider to be more or less basic factors making for happiness in the human mind?" Jung answered with five elements:

1. Good physical and mental health.
2. Good personal and intimate relationships, such as those of marriage, the family, and friendships.
3. The faculty for perceiving beauty in art and nature.
4. Reasonable standards of living and satisfactory work.
5. A philosophic or religious point of view capable of coping successfully with the vicissitudes of life.

Jung, always mindful of paradox, added, "All factors which are generally assumed to make for happiness can, under certain circumstances, produce the contrary. No matter how ideal your situation may be, it does not necessarily guarantee happiness."

I did disagree strongly with Jung on one point. He said, "The more you deliberately seek happiness the more sure you are not to find it." I know, Carl Jung vs. Gretchen Rubin, who is the authority? But though many great minds, such as John Stuart Mill, make the same point as Jung, I don't agree.

For me, at least, the more mindful I am about happiness, the happier I become. Take Jung's five factors. By deliberately seeking to strengthen those elements of my life, I make myself happier.

What do you think of Jung's list? Would you add anything else, or characterize any element differently? And do you think it's helpful to think about happiness directly, or not?

* Several months ago, I posted an interview with the writer and humorist Andy Borowitz, and I also linked the podcast of a story he told, The time I almost died (a true story). Because people responded so warmly to the story, I suggested to Andy that he might consider publishing it in written form-and he has! An Unexpected Twist is the #1 Kindle Single. It's hilarious and also deeply moving. I love any gold star, so I have to admit I got a huge kick when, in an interview on the New Yorker site, Andy mentioned that I'd given him a nudge to write it.

* Count down to March 1! If The Happiness Project can hang onto the New York Times list for eight more days, it will have been there for a solid year. Yes! One year. Amazing. So, if you're thinking about buying the book, go right ahead.
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