Everyone wants to be happy. Sort of. It’s complicated, right? I mean, we all think we want to be happy ... until we sabotage the happiness, that is. Probably because we’re either A. shortsighted or B. undecided about how to define happiness for ourselves.
Taking a cue from a Harvard Grant study, which followed 268 male undergraduates for 75 years, collecting data along the away. The study found that the two pillars of happiness are love and “finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away,” according to director George Vaillant.
Vaillant is an interesting study himself as well. Ambitious. Married 4 times at last count. Complicated. Thinker. Respectful. Disrespectful. A contradiction. A manipulator. A hurt boy. A student and expert in psychiatry and psychology.
I could go on. For a while there I felt like I may have been describing myself. Isn’t that what happens to us when we get older and live through more experiences though? I mean... if we’re lucky. I’m not manipulative, however. Not smart enough. And I’m obviously not a hurt boy. But we all do have that kid inside us - some of those kids more traumatized than others. His was pretty traumatized. And I would never want to trivialize the subject.
The interesting thing about the study result is that second part: “finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.” A friend of mine said “coping” made it sound like work, like it wasn’t really a very happy thing.
Granted the economy of words is typical of the field of research reporting. Taking that with a grain of salt and expanding on it by unpacking what that really means is where the heart of it is, however.
If we were to take a barebones definition of the word ‘cope’, we would sense the emotionless word to convey to us that it is to manage, to survive. Add that to a sentence regarding the concept of ‘love’ and it seems, well, lacking. Reposition the definition slightly to have it mean, ‘to have the capacity to deal successfully with’, and the whole feeling of the word to ‘cope’ changes. Words become ideas: to have the capacity; successfully. These are concepts we can get closer to emotionally. They create desire. Sounds way better than mere survival and management. Who wants to merely manage love?
If I were to unpack the idea of coping a tad further, making it really a personal interpretation, I would say it is exactly the right word to use in the report. After all, this is indeed what we do. Every day. We find ways to cope. Imagine a sliding dynamic multidimensional scale. On some ends, life is easy. On some ends life is difficult. The difficult end is going to be the more interesting end. An array of challenges get thrown at us - even if we were to gear this diagram only to focus on the subject of love. For some, challenge number one could just accepting that they are lovable. For others, it could be balancing personal ambitions with holding onto and protecting the love they found. For others, it could be that they haven’t really even unpacked the word love for themselves yet in the first place. And yet for most, maybe, it is how to get over power struggles in an interpersonal relationship.