• Annette Nilsson

Happiness or Contentment

Last week, I attended an online discussion with Psychiatrist Dirk de Wachter, hosted by the School of Life. It was in Dutch respective Flemish and the analogy was about surviving compared to living which works better in those languages. Overleven versus Leven.


Dirk de Wachter explained that in the past, our lives were determined by the need to survive (overleven). But today, in the West, we have everything we need to survive, food, clean water, housing and we just need to live (leven). As we are freed from the burden of securing survival one could think that with that burden gone, we are all happy and enjoying our lives.

The opposite seems to be true, according to de Wachter whose practice is full of patients with depression, anxiety and relationships issues. One key factor seems to be that we are all supposed to be so happy and to admit to unhappiness openly is not done, we go to our therapists. Dirk de Wachter thinks that if we would just share the fact that we are not happy, that we feel alone and empty with our families and friends, the burden would already be less to bear, as we would find out that others feel the same, and shared feelings of compassion and understanding would be created which in effect would soothe the feelings of loneliness, anxiety and depression.

In addition, social media enhance the idea that all others, expect ourselves live a splendid life, and that this has a negative effect on our own wellbeing. Despite that usually those instagram pictures do not present a life but only a moment, we have sort of forgotten on how to be content. The chase for happiness leaves not space to just be content with what is, how we are, what we have.


The human connection which we ultimately all crave and need gets much deeper by sharing unhappiness and by sharing our sorrows, especially in these challenging times. Insecurity about the future has a huge impact on our ability to experience happiness or contentment. As humans, we need to reconnect on a deeper level and this is the opportunity this current crisis offers.


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