Richard Hogan: The secret to being happy? Stop thinking about yourself

Richard Hogan: The secret to being happy? Stop thinking about yourself

I have often wondered what it must have felt like to live through a World War. The sense of global uncertainty, watching the destruction of a generation and the potential for imminent obliteration relived only by the end of hostilities. 

Post-war Europe has intrigued me on many levels. Not least of all because of the generation that came out of the war. The babies of the second World War were the young adults of the ’60s. They were remarkably different from the generation of teenagers that went before. The war utterly changed everything. Last week had the feeling of the end of a war. There was a sense that we have come through the worst of this pandemic. 

We wintered two years out and now, as the Taoiseach informed us, “Spring is coming”. If you stand back from our times, and view it coldly we have endured a lot over the last 20 years; 911, the global economic downturn of 2008, terror attacks on civilians, climate change, Trumpism and a global pandemic. It feels like we have witnessed peak democracy and the rapid death of globalisation, as we know it. We have had many signposts on this road. The unprecedented growth of global trade between the 1870s and 1900s came to a dramatic halt as Europe fell into a World War. Trade routes transmuted rapidly into battlelines and the world that seemed so concrete and fixed became, as one writer put it, “the world of yesterday”.

As we come out of this particular period in our history and enter into a new world we have to look back to see what no longer fits as we shape the world of tomorrow. The age of extreme individualism, where we only think about self-interest and acquiring wealth above all else has proven to be an empty pursuit. 

Individualism is the antithesis of community and if these last few years have taught us anything it’s that extreme individualism significantly impacts wellbeing. 

Working clinically allows for great insight into what people are dealing with, day to day. 

In my experience, anxiety and depression increase when we feel disconnected from each other. The research shows during the boom time between 1998-2008 there was a huge surge in people taking heavy psychotropic drugs. The rise in mental health issues corresponded with the rise in wealth. The Celtic Tiger, with its muted roar illuminated just how far we had lost our way as a society. We became consumed with materialism, watching our neighbour, making sure they didn’t have more than us. 

A God-shaped hole metastasised as we worshiped at the altar of materialism. We turned our back on community. Self became everything. But we are not, as John Donne told us, “an island”. We are at our best when we are together. We saw glimpses of this over the last two years. Neighbours standing together at 8pm to celebrate the work of those on the front line. The messages on billboards reminding us that we will survive and pull through this challenge together. There was a sense of solidarity. We must k

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