Therefore, it was something of a surprise to find Mann a few weeks ago, offering her views on how to be happy, in a conversation with the playwright Neil LaBute, whose own work isn't noted for its high spirits, either.
Consider what the founders meant by "pursuit of happiness:" Was it conditional happiness, predicted on good fortune, or was it an unconditional, Buddhist sort of state?
Mann thought that happiness was only possible if you didn't pursue it. "You have to be in acceptance," she said. "Events of life are mostly not personal, and you can't take it personally." She added there was no point in asking why certain things happen. "We don't get to know why."
Is there a place where you find yourself happier?
Mann said that happiness had to be internal. "Looking to outside sources to make you happy is just a disaster," she said. For instance, "It's perfectly possible to play a show and have it go well and be miserable." She mentioned something she had heard at a twelve-step meeting: "I'm not going to make being cool my higher power anymore."
She also said, "If I have an impulse to help someone, it's usually in some kind of obsessive way that is rescue-y and is probably not very helpful and probably has more to do with me wanting to feel a certain way about myself."
Mann's last word on the subject came in response to a question from the audience: What is the biggest barrier to happiness?
"Lack of self-awareness," Mann replied. Even if you're aware that you're depressed? "It's a start."
Source: John Seabrook, The New Yorker, December 3, 2012
Barbara McEwen: Women, Know Thyself: The most important knowledge is self-knowledge (ebook formats $2.99)
John Agno: Ask the Coach (ebook $2.99, Paperback $9.99)