Happiness Is.: Unexpected Answers to Practical Questions in Curious Times by Shawn SheaHappiness Is.: Unexpected Answers to Practical Questions in Curious Times by Shawn Shea

Happiness Is.: Unexpected Answers to Practical Questions in Curious Times

byShawn Shea

Hardcover | October 1, 2004

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In this highly entertaining and literate book, Shawn Christopher Shea takes us on a provocative journey into the world of practical philosophy, applied spirituality and everyday psychology. Calling upon more than twenty years of clinical experience, fifty years of navigating life's ups and downs, and an array of thinkers and pop icons - from Alan Watts to Albert Einstein, Billy Graham to Bob Dylan, the Dalai Lama to the English mystic Julian of Norwich - he weaves a gentle compassion and a tart wit into this compelling look at human nature and our never-ending quest for happiness.

Not content with traditional stereotypes of happiness, Shea is on a search for a tougher happiness that is present and revitalizing even during times of stress, loss, and pain. He begins with the intriguing twist that happiness is not so much a feeling as it is both an attitude and a feeling. He shows how to distinguish between success and happiness, emphasizing the importance of embracing life as a series of moments to savor as opposed to a series of goals to achieve.

For Shea happiness is determined within each moment by five interacting processes - our biologies, our perspectives, our relationships, our environments, and our spiritual quests. These five interacting, constantly shifting processes, give happiness its fluid nature; change one factor, and you change them all. This "matrix effect" explains why happiness is often elusive and fleeting. It need not be so.

Using the human matrix, Shea shows what it is that limits our ability to find happiness and what it is that allows us to transcend those very same limits. Shea demonstrates how an understanding of this human matrix can be used to forge a resilient and enduring attitude of trust and a resulting feeling of confidence and compassion - a combination we call happiness.

Written with elegance, wit, and a disarming playfulness, Shea's surprising answers to difficult questions are not so much things to do as they are creative ways of thinking, fresh manners of conceptualizing and innovative approaches to understanding human nature - all of which are invaluable tools for finding our own unique answers to the puzzle of happiness.

"A bold, dazzling, and wonderfully fresh antidote to the simplistic platitudes so common in the self-help books of today! Shawn Christopher Shea pulls on everything from his clinical practice to arcane philosophy to pop culture as he poignantly answers a most modern question: If we're so successful, why aren't we happier?

The end result is deeply affecting, often funny, and always instructive. Destined to inspire an entire generation with the excitement and happiness to be found in the nurturance of compassion and the quest for meaning. "
-Paul Farmer, M.D., Ph.D.
Harvard Medical School

"Following in the groundbreaking footsteps of M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled, Shawn Shea guides us down the road to happiness in his insightful and engaging book. I found it very compelling. "
-Jack Canfield
Co-creator of Chicken Soup for the Soul®

"This book is in a very special group of works that, springing from clinical experience and wisdom, moves to expand with wondrous insights the life of all those it touches."
-Juan E. Mezzich, M.D., Ph.D.
President-Elect, World Psychiatric Association

"A remarkable achievement that is a wonderful blend of science, philosophy, clinical wisdom and personal anecdote. Using a writing style that is enjoyable, engaging and incredibly effective, Shea has crafted a book that will have an impact and make a difference in many, many lives. It will stay with you, challenge you and change the way you look at the world. "
-M. David Rudd, Ph.D.
ABPP Baylor University
President, American Association of Suicidology

"A moving book, filled with touching and insightful stories, containing much wisdom and the practical methods of applying them to our lives to help us find happiness, meaning and a successful life. "
-Bernie Siegel, M.D.
Author of Prescriptions For Living and 365 Prescriptions For the Soul

Shawn Christopher Shea, M.D. is an internationally acclaimed speaker and innovator in the field of suicide prevention and mental health. His two previous books, The Practical Art of Suicide Assessment: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals and Substance Abuse Counselors and Psychiatric Interviewing: the Art of Understanding, 2nd Edit...
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Title:Happiness Is.: Unexpected Answers to Practical Questions in Curious TimesFormat:HardcoverDimensions:272 pages, 9 × 6 × 1 inPublished:October 1, 2004Publisher:Health Communications, Inc.Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0757300669

ISBN - 13:9780757300660

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Read from the Book

Part I Defining the Goal of the Quest: The Meaning of Happiness "The purpose of our lives is to be happy."-The 14th Dalai Lama"Happiness is like a sunbeam, which the least shadow intercepts." -Chinese Proverb “Will Mulder find happiness? No. That’s not for him. He’s a questing hero.” -A fan’s comment from a Web site on The X-Files The Nature of the Beast We are questing beasts. Our lives are frequently a delightful, and sometimes not so delightful, series of quests. Indeed, our lives are not so much a neat series of well delineated quests as they are, more often, a tangled mass of conflicting quests that simultaneously demand our attentions.Our quests are sometimes ordinary and downright primitive in nature. We search for food, shelter, safety, and sex. Our quests are sometimes elevated and important in nature. We tirelessly work to become school teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs, and homemakers. Our quests are sometimes viewed as trivial in nature—but this does not change how hard we pursue them. We relentlessly search for the golf swing of Tiger Woods, a set of abs like the ones on those annoyingly handsome men smiling astride their Bowflexes, or a wrinkle-free forehead thanks to the wonders of Botox. Our quests are sometimes interpersonal. We look for a good set of friends, colleagues we like and partners to cherish. Finally, our quests are sometimes grand and spiritual in nature. We pray to be compassionate, find the right religion or touch the face of god.Put all these pressing pursuits together, and it is no wonder that we are frequently tired and just a bit out of sorts. We’re pooped. Moreover, by simultaneously pursuing too many of these goals it is easy for any given human being to sabotage his or her ability to successfully pursue one of the most basic yet critical of all the quests—the quest for happiness.Whether we are working eighty hours a week to get the money to secure our child the best college education that money can buy or relentlessly hunting down a Beanie Baby whose soaring value will undoubtedly secure that very same education, we are preoccupied with a massive set of quests. Not all of these pursuits support each other nor are they necessarily good for ourselves or other creatures on this planet. And, compared to the other creatures on the planet, we seem to spend an inordinate amount of time discussing, prioritizing and, ultimately, picking our quests.Having practiced clinical psychiatry for over twenty years, I have come to believe that this “questing business” has a good deal to do with our eventual happiness or unhappiness. Indeed, when people enter my office, although they seldom use the word quest, their pains are almost always rooted in this “questing business.” They are unhappy about what quests they are on, what quests others have foisted upon them, the fact that they are failing with their quests, the fact that others feel they are failing with their quests, the fact that they are afraid that others will feel they are failing with their quests, the fact that they can’t pick the right quests, the fact that they have become boxed into pursuing the wrong quests, or the fact that they have picked too many quests. And the most common bottom line is often a simple one: The quest for happiness has eluded them.Mulder’s Dilemma, Spirit’s Secret and Happiness Machines In the historical sense, it is our questing nature that has driven us to achieve some of the most marvelous feats of civilization such as building the Cathedral of Notre Dame, discovering the atom, landing on the Moon, preventing polio, elucidating the concept of democracy, and, of course, creating The Simpsons. But, as we have already hinted, there is a dark side to all this questing business. It is this dark side that brings people into my office. If we want to understand the nature of finding happiness, it is worth our while to explore this dark side in a little more detail.The dark side of our quests emerges when they become our fixations or our obsessions, when we spend so much time in pursuit of one of them (or several of them) that the most important ones are left starving for our attention. Even noble quests—religion, gold medals, careers, love—can become dangerous if they become a fanatic focus that leads us away from what really matters—God, self-respect, productive work, family, friends and compassion.It is at such times that we risk becoming like Mulder of The X-Files, who as our perceptive fan cogently stated in the opening epigraph of our chapter, will never be happy, because he is just too ferociously preoccupied with this alien thing. In some respects we are all Mulders. Our culture floods us not with aliens but with pressures to tackle an enormous number of quests, some of which may be alien to our own natures and skills. We frantically—one might say fanatically—try to cram them all into one lifetime. The advertising industry aids this nasty process by transforming simple desires into pressing needs. Before one knows it, life is no longer a quest for happiness; it is a mass of unhappy quests.So where does all this leave us? It leaves us with the knowledge that questing is pivotal to human nature, which can be both good and bad. Good—if our quests are wisely chosen, manageable and obtainable. Bad if our quests are poorly chosen, unmanageable, and unobtainable. It also leaves us with the reassuring knowledge that, if falling prey to our own quests leads to unhappiness, it also follows that the ability to more wisely choose our quests may lead to happiness. Truth be told, because we have the ability to choose our personal quests and how much time we allot to each of them, we have the ability to determine - to a surprisingly large degree - the extent of our own happiness.

Table of Contents

Part I - Defining the Goal of the Quest: the Meaning of Happiness

Chapter 1 - Prelude: The World at Our Fingertips
Chapter 2 - The Tense Young Man Who Didn't Know that He Already Knew
Chapter 3 - Heaven Inside Hell
Chapter 4 - Married to the Surprise
Chapter 5 - Not Necessarily A Magician
Chapter 6 - The Thief in the Mirror
Chapter 7 - The Heron on the Ski Slope

Part II - The Essence of the Questing Beast: the Human Matrix

Chapter 8 - All Ends in Mystery
Chapter 9 - Far More Beautiful
Chapter 10 - Wondrous and Worthy of the Utmost Attention

Part III - The Rules of the Quest: Inside the Human Matrix

Chapter 11 - Blue Lakes, Unknown Hands, and Dark Winters
Chapter 12 - Slumber Parties and Red Herrings
Chapter 13 - The Woman Who Wanted God's Telephone Number
Chapter 14 - The Three Paradoxes of the Magic Theater

Part IV - The Quest Achieved: Using the Human Matrix to Uncover Happiness

Chapter 15 - Meet You at the North Fork Dam
Chapter 16 - The Trouble With Cats and Dogs
Chapter 17 - Looking for Tom
Chapter 18 - The Journey Outwards

Editorial Reviews

"A moving book, filled with touching and insightful stories, containing much wisdom and the practical methods of applying them to our lives to help us find happiness, meaning and a successful life."

Bernie Siegel, M.D.
Author of Prescriptions for Living
and 365 Prescriptions For the Soul