Freud, that well known Austrian neurologist from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s declared that people are either instinctively seeking pleasure or avoiding pain. This was termed the Pleasure Principle among other things. We do this without even realizing it. This is part of the animal programing all of us have inside.
I always thought that the driving force within us was food, shelter and sex.Basic animal needs. I guess the seeking of pleasure and the avoidance of pain could fit this. The two principles are just different ways of saying the same thing maybe.
Now comes along John Izzo, PhD and popular motivational speaker who says in his book, “The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die” that Freud was totally wrong. He says that humans seek happiness and meaning instead.
This is dangerous. We know what pleasure is. It could be a nice nap in the afternoon, a rowdy game of rugby, or having sex. Of course, I’ve been told the way I have sex is often similar to a rugby game. But the point is that pleasure feels good. Happiness on the other hand, is far more complicated. The difference in asking someone,”Are you having fun?” versus “Are you happy?”
If it is Friday night after a week of work and I am at dinner with friends I could very well be having fun. But am I happy? Happiness has a footprint much larger than one evening out with friends.
So, with happiness a total mystery, let’s move on to “meaning”. What? Yeah. OK. Beats me. I think I like seeking pleasure and avoiding pain better.
I’m not sure if I should reveal one of the five secrets in his book or not, but I am going to do that.
“Be true to yourself.”
This is one of those common sayings that immediately after hearing it we all think we know what it means. But thinking about it later we are not so sure. On a primitive level, if someone just loves science and can’t get enough of it, being an accountant could mean they are not true to themselves. Or not. Is who we are really just the job we have? Or does the job we have allow us to be ourselves?
Surprisingly Dr. Izzo started out life as a minister in the Presbyterian church so I was hoping for a concept with a bit more spiritual meaning. Is all of life just about being happy and finding meaning? What if our meaning is incorrect? What if the Universe planed for us to live a rough life so that we could learn and grow spiritually? How does this book apply to the millions of people who live in primitive jungles, in poverty and misery far beyond what we can realize? I wonder if the local bookshop in these third world countries have a self help section? “!0 ways to catch more worms for dinner than your neighbor”. “12 step to clean drinking water”.
Dr. Izzo is very good at making money through giving motivational speeches to corporate executives, and writing books with first grade theology to encourage us all to feel better. He makes sure he is politically correct and takes “secrets” from several primitive tribes of Africa and Canada. That is such a feel good kumbaya thing. However, I am not prone to taking life guidance from people who crap in the woods and have not invented toilet paper yet.
I’m just being true to myself.
Your mileage may and probably should vary.