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The Map of the Soul

articles on the nature of the human mind

By S.M. Zakir Hussain (Bangladesh)

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The Psychology of Happiness


The Psychology of Happiness


In this article I will endeavor to define and explore into the meaning and real significance of the word happiness as I understand it. By way of analyzing it, I will try to show how we can penetrate it and make it an essential part of our being. In doing so, I will show, according to my own understanding, the dividing lines between the concepts of pleasure, happiness, joy, peace, and bliss.

Unquestionably, all these kinds of experiences originate from the same source but they have different time references. I would like to show that these experiences are nothing but the body's reactions to the mind's object of concentration and so anybody can manage or choose between them by managing the focus of the mind.

Happiness is the generic term referring to the set of all the concepts that connote the state of the mind that the individual is satisfied with temporarily or permanently. The most specific forms that it takes are pleasure, joy, peace, and bliss. Because all these experiences are forms of satisfaction, we cannot move on without defining satisfaction in psychological terms.

What is Satisfaction?

What is satisfaction? Whatever it is, it is a state of mind, no doubt. And because it is a state of mind, it may not be safe to define it abruptly without throwing light upon the factors that put the mind in a specific state. Our ability to define something (related to experience) is directly influenced by the state of mind we are in.

Any state of the mind involves these things: a cause (stimulus), a feeling (response/reaction), a choice (use of freewill as a preparation to action), an intention to act (mental focus desiring the result of the investment of energy), an attitude (a way of valuing something by relating it to the utility it is expected to provide or by relating it to the change it is expected to create), learning (the pattern of thought and behavior established in the mind through experience as a way of responding to internal or external stimuli ), and thus a certain pattern of relationships with phenomena. The cause refers to the past, which becomes an environmental factor rather than psychological, which is why it may not be changed or altered at a certain point in time or in the short term.

The Concept of Cause

Anything that can produce a reaction in the mind is to be called a cause. It is an environmental element. If something makes me angry but gives you peace of mind, then it is a cause of anger as far as I am concerned, not you. We are going to establish that as long as one can trace causes of one’s sufferings outside in the environment, one’s ability to be satisfied becomes limited and conditional. In other words, a happy mind is expected to discover the external reality as the result of its own activity rather than the cause. Understandably, when this happens the mind can feel for sure that it is the creator of the environment and not the creation. Then it can be happy in any way, even by creating the object of desire and then having a desire for it and then enjoying it. That is real freedom.

The concept of cause implies precedence and hence independence. If, for example, a disease is the cause of my dissatisfaction, then it means that it existed before the concept of satisfaction was created in me and it is because of that disease that the concept or power of concept-formation has appeared in me. In that sense it should always have the upper hand on me because my concept of satisfaction and dissatisfaction is a creation of the influence that diseases have had on me. However, if I am able to learn that my diseases may give me pain and not necessarily dissatisfaction, then I can also learn to relate diseases (and other impediments, mental or physical or financial) to feeling and not to ATTITUDE. This way I can liberate my judgment from my feeling and thus be able to judge the feeling itself and find the truth. The notion that something is a cause of my dissatisfaction implies that I have learnt to conclude about my feelings according to my feelings. If that is the case, then I will have to wait until, if ever, something else teaches me how to be happy, just as my diseases have taught me how to be sad and sorry.

So I must revise my notion of cause and causation. My feeling can be the result of a stimulus, but does that mean that my judgment should be caused by my feelings? If so, then what was the need for the power of judgment at all? In that case, only the faculty of feeling would exist there in the mind. Again, if my judgment must be influenced by my feelings then that would mean that I am merely a product of environmental factors, only requiring a bundle of feelings and no thought. Thought is the psychological attempt to liberate action from instinct. So if my judgment is blurred by my feeling or even experience, then I do not have the right to think at all, not even about my dissatisfaction. When thought only justifies the feeling, it ceases to be thought and gets to be ‘dependently free’ like the boat floating on the sea without any rudder or sail. Rabindranath Tagor used this metaphor very successfully to refer to the fake feeling of freedom. Observers may feel that it is free, moving freely as it wishes, but the boat itself knows that it is completely dependent on the whims of the waves and has no choice at all in its own movement. So my concept of freedom may well be a shackle for me rather than freedom if I have not been able to be free from the urge to form concepts in the direction of my feelings. But how do I actually achieve the liberation? Well, we will move slowly.


Feeling refers to the manifestation of the mind on the level of the body. We often talk of feelings such as anger, fear, temptation, enery, confusion, etc. Actually, these are the different patterns in the awareness vis-à-vis the goal of the mind active at the moment. As I have already pointed out, feeling is the name that we give to our mechanical or conditioned reaction to stimuli. But for it, any human being would become an inanimate object, which would not have to look for the meaning of satisfaction or dissatisfaction. All sentient beings must have feelings. But it is only in humans that feeling creates a wide range of judgment or thought. And because we cannot but happen to think whenever we feel, we need to think  about our feeling if we want to keep the difference between ourselves and other animals meaningful.

Feeling is the matter of the mind, so to say. It may be referred to as the condition that would be created if light could be passed through a lump of substance neither too soft nor too hard. It is the movement of life tending to initiate living. All feelings are the manifestation of the totality of life forces that can ever exist there in reality. So they must be known, not pressed or controlled; studied, not obeyed blindly; observed, not acted through. Little by little, we will penetrate the topic even more deeply.


A choice is the process and result of limiting the number of alternatives open to the mind at the moment. We may call the alternative chosen the active alternative and the one(s) unattended the passive alternative(s).

Why does the mind choose a specific course of action? It does so because it seeks to be satisfied. And for no other reason. What this means is that one's choice varies according to one’s concept of satisfaction at the moment. But because it is this term we are trying to perceive the meaning of, we may not move any further until we have discussed the other related points.

What Is Choosing?

Now, what is choosing? What does the mind do when it chooses a course of action? In this regard we must understand the fact that the definition of the term 'choice' stands on the very basis of the definition of the term 'choosing'. So let us see what happens in the mind when the mind does an act of choosing.
When I choose a course of action I have the belief that it will help me get the desired satisfaction. The presence of this belief means the absence of any doubt or question as to the ability of the action to satisfy the desired need.

Now, what does doubt mean? It means the presence of thought that seeks the middle point of two points. In other words, doubt signifies that there is no unique decision reached as to a proposition. Because a decision is obviously the fixed reference of the mind for which there is no opportunity of any further thought, doubt means the psychological attempt to look for that fixed pint.

Belief, being the direct opposite of doubt, means the absence of the thought that seeks the middle point of two points. Thus we see that belief is a thoughtless state of the mind. There is no general belief; rather, there is the “belief of” something. Therefore, belief of something signifies the presence of the picture or concept of that thing in the mind, so that the mind does not need to think or start a thought to be aware of the fact that it is there. Thinking can be defined as communicating with the mind on the part of the intellect.

Now we can go one step back and say that choosing means completing an action in the mind. This psychological action changes the psychological environment. That is why when I have chosen a course of action, my body becomes ready to act and my mind remains prepared to enjoy or bear the expected consequences of that action.

So we can say that at the psychological level, satisfaction refers to the state of mind when it gets the thing that it believes it needs. Conversely, satisfaction also means the state of mind that results when the mind has the ability to do what it chooses to do. Otherwise, the mind feels the absence of what it believes it needs and the presence of what it tries to escape or believes it should not accept at present.

So the central point in all these cases is the belief or notion. Why does the mind believe that it needs something, anyway? Although we are not going to scrutinize into this issue right now, we have kept it in awareness so that we do not happen to be too quickly satisfied with any premature outcome of our analytical discussion.

Belief and Time, and Satisfaction

A belief always concerns the future.

But what does the term “future” mean? Psychologically, future means the continuity of expectation vis-à-vis the discontinuity of perception.

For example, I believe that I will be rich soon. This belief implies that at present I feel that I am not rich enough; and so there is an absence of feeling of riches at this moment; that I have a feeling that I need to be rich(er); and that I do not need to think whether my expectation is going to be transformed into perception, meaning that I have a feeling not in my senses but in my imagination. In other words, I imagine a feeling. This point is very critical, so you must move slowly.

What does it mean that I imagine a feeling? The psychological act that we refer to by the phrase "imagining a feeling" is very simple because everybody of us can simulate feelings in imagination, but we hardly ever, if at all, think about how we can process the information intellectually and thus make it a matter of knowledge and thought. So what is meant by the phrase?

In fact, feeling is the body's response to internal or external stimuli. Therefore it is very limited. It is also dependent on the stimulus. Imagination is not feeling; rather, it creates feeling. It is wider than feeling. It can simulate the experience of any feeling by linking experience (or memory) with expectation. In the absence of physical feeling, the imagination can create a psychological feeling. When the mind imagines the feeling, the body feels the imagination. Then it wants to discharge the feeling, that is, nullify it by being in touch with what it feels. If the contact takes place, the mind feels the presence and hence no time. On the other hand, if the contact does not take place, it imagines the presence and feels the absence, the result is a flow of desire forward, otherwise called time.

Satisfaction refers to the state of the mind that represents the collapse of time. Then there is no imagination because there is direct feeling. Feeling happens at the present moment, and so there is no futuristic movement of the mind, meaning that it no longer wants, nor does it need to want, that which it thought it needed. In other words, satisfaction means the opportunity to feel that I do not need to imagine the feeling.

Or more directly, satisfaction means the energy to feel that I do not need to imagine any more satisfaction. This means freedom from any more belief, freedom from imagination, thought, or expectation, freedom from the feeling that there is emptiness in the feeling, because now there is no feeling of imagination.

Now we can modify our concept of time once again. Time means the difference felt between feeling and the imagination of feeling. If they both merge, there is only feeling and that feeling encompasses both the body and the mind.


Now we can attempt to define pleasure. On the basis of the discovery of our analysis, pleasure is the satisfaction of the body. Joy is the satisfaction of the intellect. Happiness is the satisfaction of the body and imagination. Peace is the satisfaction of the Intellect and experience. Bliss is the satisfaction of the body, imagination, and intellect.

All these types of satisfaction have different aspects.

The Origin of Pain

The search for pleasure gives the feeling of pain. That is because the idea of the search presupposes that there is absence of pleasure. The search, however, is not very healthful, since such feeling of absence blurs thoughts and destroys patience. The search for joy starts with intelligence, because it ignores the search for pleasure to some extent.


Continued ...


Author of:

Secret Knowledge of the Qur'an