Patrick C. Keaveny

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Why is Everyone So Unhappy?

Life | Musings

Over the past few years, I’ve tried to be more honest with myself and others.

In particular, I try as hard as I can not to sugarcoat anything with people. I never tell them what I think they want to hear, I always try to be honest with them, and I don’t hide the fact that I am a confused, frustrated, struggling and often depressed human being.

But one thing I’ve found in the past few years that I didn’t expect was the amount of people that shared the same fears I had. I can’t count how many people I’ve met who, after a couple minutes of honest conversation, tell me they are themselves struggling. I’ve met people who tell me they struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, borderline schizophrenia, and a whole host of other mental ailments ranging from low self-esteem to the crippling fear that they will always be unhappy.

At first I thought, “wow, this person is really opening up to me and there wasn’t even liquor involved.”

Then I started thinking, “wow, why is everyone so unhappy?”

In this day and age, it’s easy to see why everyone lives in a state of fear. The future is as volatile and unknown as it’s ever been, and everyday you can read something in the news that makes it seem like the world is ending. But even that I find strangely normal.

What bothers me is the fact that, according to all studies, this is the best possible time to be alive.

Hunger, poverty, inequality, and crime are all down. Well-being, resources, economy, and any other measure of a eudaimonic and flourishing life are all up. Human beings have the ability to be happier now than they have ever been at any point in history.

And yet, everyone seems so unhappy.

Most of the people I meet say they are on some medication or another. Those that aren’t self-medicate with recreational drugs, alcohol, or even orthorexia and exercise. Everyone seems to be looking for an escape to the hostility of everyday life, except for the fortunate few. It really makes me wonder, if life is supposed to be so good in this day and age, why is everyone so desperate for an escape, even for just a few hours?

Maybe it’s a sign that the universe isn’t ready for a happy species. Maybe it’s a sign that the happiest of species have come and gone, and all that is left in the cosmos is uncertainty and death. Maybe human beings are the first species to achieve sentience, and we’re currently living in an indefinite adjustment period to the idea of happiness for the sake of itself, rather than for a biological imperative such as survival and reproduction.

Or maybe there’s something massively wrong with the way the world is, and we’ve yet to figure it out.

But at the very least, even though everyone seems to be struggling with one demon or another, it’s uplifting to know that we all share some of the same demons, and that maybe we can fight them together.