Literary Analysis Essay on The Art of Happiness

Published: 2021-08-11
1887 words
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University of Richmond
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Term paper
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This is a book written as a collaboration between psychiatrist Howard Cutler and Dalai Lama. Dalai Lama expresses his thoughts on various issues such as happiness, calmness and inner peace while Cutler gives personal and scientific reflections on the issues. The book has conversations and stories that help us deal with anger, low self-esteem, anger and sufferings in our lives. The book is divided into five sections. The first is The Purpose of Life. This first part has four chapters that include The Right to Happiness, The Source of Happiness. Training the Mind for Happiness and Reclaiming Our Innate State of Happiness. The second section is entitled Human Warmth and Compassion. This section discusses A New Model for Intimacy, Deepening Our Connections to Others and The Value and Benefits of Compassion. The third part is Transforming Suffering. It discusses all human sufferings such as physical pain and sickness. It also explains how to deal with human suffering. It has five chapters including Facing Suffering, Shifting Perspective, Self-Created Suffering and Finding Meaning in Pain and Suffering. The fourth section is entitled Overcoming Obstacles. In this section, Dalai expresses his ideas and thought on Bringing About Change, dealing with Anger and Hatred, and Dealing with Anxiety and Building Self-Esteem. The last part of the book comprises of a closing reflections on living a spiritual life and discusses basic spiritual values.

Question 1. What is the purpose or theme of the book?

The purpose of the book is to help the readers learn and understand how to approach problems in life and deal with them effectively so that we they can achieve a sense of happiness. The book teaches people to identify beliefs, strategies, and ideas that one can use to become happier in life. The writers try to communicate that happiness does not necessarily depend on events but also through mental practice. The writers aim to show that inner resources can be a source of happiness to an individual human being. Art of Happiness answers questions on how best to apply principles and practices to achieve happiness in the troubled society. The themes present in the books include the relative unimportance of belief, human nature, inner development, and suffering. Dalai Lama expresses that beliefs are important because they give an arrangement to valuable behaviors and thought patterns. He provides an example of people believing in Buddhist doctrine or Christian faith. He explains that believing in either the Buddhist doctrine of Karma or Christian faith makes it easier for people to accept suffering. Individuality theme is portrayed in the book when Cutler points out the conflicts between the Dalai Lama views and the Western notions of individuality. He explains that for the Western culture, one benefit of being in a relationship is the support of the positive aspects of our self-image. This belief makes people stay in bad relationships that support negative traits of their self-image because they believe that moving away from the relationship will make them no one. The theme of inner development is portrayed in the book, Art of Happiness. It is seen as the level of the individual. Dalai explains that the human brain is capable of high creativity and can adapt to any situation. It is therefore essential to train the mind to pay attention to thoughts and ideas that bring happiness. Thinking positively enhances inner development. It is important to act and think positively and avoid negative thoughts and actions. The theme of suffering is seen in the book when the author discusses the deterrents of happiness. It points that human beings at times create their suffering. They make decisions and choose things they do not need only to benefit them in the short term. The book emphasizes the importance of focusing on happiness rather than pleasure. Dalai Lama gives an example of buying a costly car to please others. In the long run, the car will bring financial debt and stress since it was only pleasure. He urges that the key to living a happy life is to make decisions that will bring long-term happiness rather than physical comfort. Human nature is a theme that is seen in Arts of Happiness. Dalai Lama considers humans to be gentle, peaceful creatures (Lama 175). He believes humans are disappointed when basic needs such as water, shelter, and happiness are not met. They, therefore, get the selfish and aggressive behavior. He believes that human being not only cares about their own needs but care about other too. He gives an example of a breastfeeding baby. Some might think that the act of breastfeeding is selfish, but it has benefits to the mother too because it relieves pressure to from the breast and hence promotes health.

Question 2. Who is the intended audience?

The intended audience is anyone who is willing to dedicate themselves to achieve happiness. It is a good book for all who seek for happiness no matter what they go through. It is a book that helps readers focus on conditioning their mind towards happiness and avoiding suffering. The intended audience is for anyone who is in pain and suffering but wants to make a change and overcome the obstacles. It is for people who are dealing with issues such as anger, hatred, anxiety, and self-esteem.

Question 3. What is psychological issue(s) /are addressed?

The book addresses some psychological issues such as perception, anger and hatred, anxiety, self-esteem, compassion, happiness, and suffering. In chapter ten, the book states that changing perspective is a powerful tool that can be used to cope with the daily problems in life. Looking things from a different angle brings calmness to mind and cultivates patience. Anger and hatred are issues that are discussed in chapter 13. Anger is described as most hideous and frenzied of all the emotions.' (Lama 577). Dalia Lama points out that anger and hatred cloud our judgment and cause discomfort and unhappiness. In chapter 14, he discusses the dangers of excessive anxiety to the mind and the body. He suggests that nurturing compassion and deepening connection with people can encourage good mental hygiene and reduce anxiety. Self-Confidence boosts self-esteem. Self-confidence is a needed factor in achieving our goals (Lama 638). Dalia Lama emphasizes that to achieve our goals we should have a strong sense of self and self-confidence. According to Dalia, compassion is one of the essentials of spiritual development. It is the state of mind that is nonviolent, based on wishing others to be free of their suffering. Compassion is a psychological issue that has undeniable benefits for both the physical and emotional health (Lama 327). Happiness is an issue that is discussed throughout the book. Art of Happiness discusses the sources of happiness and ways to help achieve it. Suffering is another psychological issue that Dalia Lama explains and suggests ways to face the pain and suffering to achieve happiness.

Question 4. What theory or theories of psychology support(s) the author's point of view?

Several theories of psychology support the author's point of view. One of the theory is positive psychology theory or PERMA model. It was developed by Martin Seligman who was an American psychologist. Positive psychology aimed at researching things that make life worth living. Its role was to have a deeper understanding of positive emotions, traits, and institutions (Seligman 60). PERMA theory comprises of five foundations of psychological welfare and happiness. Seligman believed that these foundations could aid people reach their happiness goals and fulfillment. The elements come from the work PERMA. They include positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishments (Seligman 61). Positive emotions such as being optimistic in life can help in areas such as work and relationships. Seligman believed that focusing on the highs of life can have positive aspects of life. Engagement includes taking part in activities that we enjoy doing since they expand our intelligence, skills and emotional capabilities. Relationships that thrive on strong emotional such as love are meaningful because they provide support in difficult times. Fulfillment involves understanding why we are living. This is important because it helps people to live a life of fulfillment. Accomplishment element points to having a sense of satisfaction hence happiness.

The other theory that supports the writer's point of view is Hedonism theory. This theory identifies the pleasure and pain as the critical elements. Philosophical hedonists focus on the theories of value such as well-being. This theory states that only pleasure is fundamentally valuable and only pain is intrinsically not valuable. Pain and pleasure are defined by both physical and mental phenomena. One of the important types of hedonism theory is hedonic well-being. It is established on that idea that improved pleasure and reduced pain results to happiness. The notions are centered on subjective well-being. It comprises an effective component and cognitive comment. Subjective well-being includes the presence of positive mood, the absence of negative moods, global life satisfaction and satisfaction with various aspects of life such as work.

Question 5. What are the implications for personality development and personality theory?

The personality development and personality theory state that an adult personality is as a result of early childhood experiences. The human personality depends on how the experiences affected a person consciously or unconsciously during the human developmental stages. The stages of development include oral, anal, phallic, latency and genital (Freud 846). The personal development and personality theory imply that personality is shaped during the stages of development The human mind filters the experiences through the three interdependent stages and give rise to structure and inherent conflicts that create the personality. The three structures of personality are super ego, ego, and id (Freud 846). The function of the super ego stage includes screening for whats going on. The id is unconscious, egocentric and has instincts. When children experience the demands and constraints of reality, the id tries to have our way depending on the society and parental guidance. As soon as the superego and id process the experiences, the ego makes decisions based on reasoning. A new structure of personality then appears. The implication is that we should allow every child to complete the tasks of every developable stage to avoid developing a mental condition. The ability to solve conflicts in every developmental stage determines the ability of an adult to cope with challenges in life.

Question 6. How theoretically sound is the author's point?

The author point of view in the book is theoretically sound. The author states that every human deserves happiness. Human beings always want the best outcome. He states that human beings must desire long-term happiness to have a fulfilling life. Dalia Lama argues that human nature is gentle and gives several case studies. He goes ahead to encourage people to show compassion to others by bearing in mind their ultimate motivations. He emphasizes that we should form connections with those people who we have less contact with to create beneficial relationships. when humans are connected to each other, people can help each other as they are not strangers. The book promotes learning to empathize by putting oneself in other peoples positions to understand their reactions. Dalia Mala emphasizes and suggests that relationships with either a husband or a wife should be based on broader values and not money or power. He points out that suffering is experienced in every life and one should face it with a calm mind. He also explains that nothing i...

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