Happiness, is it real or is it Memorex?

Posted by Rex Alexander on Fri 31 May 24 in Books & Media, Happiness |


We have been talking about ‘happiness.’  Is it real
 or a cruel, false hope propagated by self-help authors trying to peddle their books and seminars? Possibly a bit of both, me thinks. A reader quotes Will Ross’s website to help make his case for happiness


  It occurs to me that some of you reading this are too young to relate to my  headline here “Is it real or is it Memorex?” a famous tag line from popular TV commercials for Memorex recording tape during the 1970s. The phrase insinuated itself into the culture and everyday conversation when people raised questions about the authenticity of something.

Here is an example of one of those commercials featuring the “Queen of Soul,” the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald.





From Will Ross’s website  
Life is full of difficult and unpleasant circumstances. But you don’t have to be miserable whenever life gets tough. By using this guide to happiness, you can face life’s challenges with equanimity, and remain happy most of the time. Epictetus, the great stoic philosopher, who was born a slave, had this to say about happiness:”



61luSYZ-KYL._UX250_.jpg (250×173)

Author Will Ross with Dr. Albert Ellis


Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: Some things are within our control, and some things are not. It is only after you have faced up to this fundamental rule and learned to distinguish between what you can and can’t control that inner tranquility and outer effectiveness become possible.


              ~Epictetus, Stoic Philosopher (55-135 AD) The Art of Living


Broadly speaking, and as Epictetus taught, there are only two types of problems: those you can do something about, and those you can’t (See Table 1). An example of a changeable situation is having an unpleasant job or career. An example of an unchangeable situation is having been jilted by a lover.



Not one of Dr. Ellis’s best known, but certainly one of his very best self-help books.  But not on Kindle ye, unfortunately.


Will Ross (Shameless Happiness) was one of the smartest and best in the business, and I don’t think he would steer anyone wrong. However, I think the term “happiness” is so fraught with semantic messiness that I prefer to use other language, and use that language more precisely to describe what we are talking about. I feel more aligned with Russ Harris and others in regarding (the quest for) happiness as a kind of trap or dead-end or wild goose chase, sort of like fighting for peace, or fucking for chastity! “Happiness Trap” Russ Harris, available on Kindle for 12 bucks or so 

Image result for meher baba be happy
Meher Baba was an Indian spiritual master who came on the public stage in the 1960s. He claimed to be the Avatar, God in human form, and popularized the phrase Don’t Worry. Be Happy! 

“Nice work if you can get it!” sez Rex sardonically.



I hope this isn’t misleading, but I see happiness is primarily a “semantics” problem. But I don’t use “semantics” here in the usual sense of something that is merely intellectual, merely playing games with words.  Quite the contrary, “semantics” in the way that we think of it in REBT, has huge intellectual, emotional and behavioral consequences. In the context of how we are discussing it here, I think of happiness as a kind of wild goose chase, not unlike sitting up all night arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.  Not to say that it isn’t important, but I  see happiness as a byproduct of living a full, rich life (whatever that means to any individual), but if we get too “hung up” on it, it can be like  a mirage in the desert, something that keeps moving further away the more you chase directly after it.


Khon Kaen, Thailand


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Originally posted 2012-11-14 22:17:42.

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