AHP readers may be interested in a recent piece in the New York Times about psychologist Philip Brickman, “Happiness Won’t Save You: Philip Brickman was an expert in the psychology of happiness, but he couldn’t make his own pain go away.” As Jennifer Senior writes in the piece,
Whatever he did achieve, he never considered it good enough. He wore his perfectionism like a hair shirt, and he expected it of others. He’d give people grief if they stapled a paper in the wrong place.
The irony is that, better than almost anyone, Brickman understood that the pursuit of stature, material bounty — and ultimately happiness itself — was a fool’s errand. Early in his career, he grasped that the more we achieve, the more we require to sustain our new levels of satisfaction. Our gratification from the new is fleeting; we adapt in spite of ourselves. “Fulfillment’s desolate attic,” as the poet Philip Larkin once put it. You may as well chase your afternoon shadow. Happiness always looms ahead.
Content warning: the article discusses suicide.