All Articles

#234: The Feeling Of Contribution

4 min read

While reading The Courage To Be Disliked: How to free yourself, change your life and achieve real happiness I came across the chapter which is called “YOU CAN BE HAPPY NOW”. I published already some posts about happiness here and here, because it’s a topic which is often in my head and everytime I talk with people about it everyone has a different opinion about it. Totally fine. It’s like everyone has a different opinion on what is beautiful. Some think that when you reach some specific goal in life you will be happy e.g. becoming rich, finding that one person you want to spend the rest of your life with, getting the job title you always wanted to have, etc… I always have to remind myself that these things are not important to be happy. You can just feel happy at any moment even if someone with a bad mood comes along the way and try to give some bad mood away to you. Also when I talk to people who don’t have to work anymore or who are “rich” or who are in a “happy” relationship I mostly realize after some time that these people are not happy at all. There is always something which is not good enough, there is always something which could be better. Then I think, even to myself:

why not just accept the current state of life which you are in? Do you really need more money, more friends, the one person you want to share your life with to be happy?

In the end I would say

No, you don’t need more and also you don’t have to accept the current state if you are not happy. But you should accept that only if you reach some goals in your life that they will make you happy only for a specific time and that’s ok.

So in the chapter “YOU CAN BE HAPPY NOW” there is this conversation between the philosopher and the youth. Also in the book you get an introduction about Adlerian Psychology, named by Alfred Adler. The conversation is as follows:

Philosopher: For a human being, the greatest unhappiness is not being able to like oneself. Adler came up with an extremely simple answer to address this reality. Namely, that the feeling of ‘I am beneficial to the community’ or ‘I am of use to someone’ is the only thing that can give one a true awareness that one has worth.

Youth: Do you mean the ‘contribution to others’ you mentioned earlier?

Philosopher: Yes. And this is an important point: when we speak of contribution to others, it doesn’t matter if the contribution is not a visible one.

Youth: It doesn’t matter if the contribution is not a visible one?

Philosopher: You are not the one who decides if your contributions are of use. That is the task of other people, and is not an issue in which you can intervene. In principle, there is not even any way you can know whether you have really made a contribution. That is to say, when we are engaging in this contribution to others, the contribution, does not have to be a visible one - all we need is the subjective sense that ‘I am of use to someone’, or in other words, a feeling of contribution.

Youth: Wait a minute! If that’s the case, then what you are calling happiness is…

Philosopher: Do you see it now? In a word, happiness is the feeling of contribution. That is the definition of happiness.

Youth: But, but that’s…

Philosopher: Is something wrong?

Youth: There’s no way I can accept such a simplistic definition. Look, I’m not forgetting what you told me before. You said, ‘Though on the level of acts, one might not be of use to anyone, on the level of being, every person is of use.’ But if that’s the case, according to your logic, all human beings would be happy!

Philosopher: All human beings can be happy. But it must be understood - this does not mean all human beings are happy. Whether it is on the level of acts or on the level of being, one needs to feel that one is of use to someone. That is to say, one needs a feeling of contribution.

The feeling of contribution. I haven’t thought about that at all when I thought about happiness in the past.