Four Levels of Happiness – Is That All?

Comment: 

In a conversation recently with friends and relatives about the way some people prefer to wallow in bad feeling, nurture or harbour a grudge, rather than make some effort to get to the root of a problem(s) and reconcile with perceived enemies, one of our number suggested that such people are invariably unhappy in their lives;  he went on to ask for my opinion on the above video, where the speaker describes four levels of happiness. I have to confess that I’ve not had time to view the video but it looks interesting, so share your thoughts.  Are you, like me, surprised that there are only four levels of happiness?  

30 responses

  1. I’m not quite finishing viewing but almost there and what keeps coming into my head is Maslows’s hierarchy of needs. You can’t move up to the next level if you don’t have the basics, food, drink etc and then you move up to the top level of self-actualisation. This is the same sort of theory only in the spiritual realm. It’s quite interesting to think of happiness that way, connected to the supernatural.

    • Nicky,

      That’s interesting – I remember studying Maslow’s hierarchy of needs at teacher training college and it struck me then as pretty obvious. If a child is hungry, he/she won’t learn… Not exactly genius level stuff 😀

  2. Maybe not the best choice of subject, or introductory comment, on the back of the previous unhappy thread. The best way to be happy is to stay off social media with all its vying opinions and concentrate instead on prayer and spiritual reading. There’s too much unhappiness to be had online.

    • Athanasius,

      I think you might change your mind about that when you watch the video – from what you’ve said I’m guessing you’ve not heard Father’s talk yet.

    • Athanasius,

      Yes, I too prefer traditional spiritual reading. There are some videos I think are worth investing the time in, but I’m not sure this is one of them.

    • Athanasius,

      Just realised the import of your comment here – I CAN be very slow!

      Be assured, I was not remotely thinking of the “unhappy thread” when I wrote my introductory comment. I was thinking of two (in fact three) situations where I have personally witnessed the harbouring of a grudge first hand. I was, in any case, keeping the video for when there was a gap in the news – i.e. when Papa Francis wasn’t pictured wearing a ridiculous hat or we’d run out of synods to discuss. Honestly, there was no ulterior motive whatsoever in my choice of thread topic here. I just thought it was a good topic, a bit different for us, and might, who knows, raise a smile! Which brings me to my final point…

      How can you say there’s too much unhappiness online when I frequently post jokes – like this one

      • Editor

        I fully accept that you had no ulterior motive when posting this thread, but I’m sure you’ll understand my misunderstanding given the closing comments on the previous thread.

        Now having responded to your honest and courteous reply I will disappear into permanent obscurity, not because of any bad feeling or grudge towards you or anyone else on this blog but because it’s the right thing to do in charity given that my observations and opinions recently appear to have angered rather than informed other contributors. Besides that, I feel a little responsible that a member of my family had a forgotten incident from his past brought into a conversation that he was not party to. Petrus now accepts that my brother has no vendetta against Fr. Wall and we’ve made our peace, but I think it best that I just keep my mouth shut in future and deal with my concerns privately.

        That’s what wisdom suggests to me, though I admit that it also frequently suggests that I should pull doors that say “push”. I’m left handed so maybe it’s left handed wisdom. Let’s not get into that one!

        • Athanasius,

          Yes, I do appreciate the misunderstanding – sorry for my carelessness. I should have found the words to make clear that there is no connection with the new Happiness thread and the “unhappy” previous thread (that has scope for a joke – can’t believe I missed it 😀 )

          About your permanent withdrawal. Well, there’s no obligation to blog, as you know (blogging should be a dogma of the Faith but nobody listens to me!) and I understand your thoughts about charity on the previous thread. I do, therefore, of course, accept your decision to avoid blogging with thanks for all the very positive contributions you’ve made over the years.

          I must say – and I say this for the benefit of us all – that there would be NO danger of any of us falling into lack of charity if we all just observed the very simple House Rules which are only a click away at the top of this page. I came up with those particular “rules” having witnessed the name-calling and abusive behaviour on other blogs and was determined that this one would be as Catholic as possible in that respect. So, let this be a reminder to us all that if we observe those very simple rules, we will not fall into uncharitable personal remarks etc.

          On a personal note about your “concerns”. If I may put on my “big sister”/ “auntie” hat, I believe that once you (or any of us) has made representations about any concerns to those with authority to rectify them, then, after perhaps a couple of efforts, we have no more responsibility.

          I remember a priest once saying that the best piece of spiritual advice anyone can take and make their own is to be found in the road signs, especially the GIVE WAY sign! Therein lies peace of soul. Keeping ourselves in an angry state about something we have no power to change is pointless. That is surely real wisdom. I should perhaps mention that the [elderly] Benedictine priest who said that to me, went out for [his routine] walk one day and hasn’t been seen since. Pray for him – Fr Maurus Deegan, Pluscarden Abbey, Elgin.
          https://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/news/322222/case-of-vanishing-monk-still-remains-unsolved

          I have no doubt that you mean well in your efforts to make everything right at church but it’s not your responsibility – you will not be held accountable for whatever you perceive to be wrong any more than I will be held responsible for the things which drive ME nuts! And if I were asked to list them, believe me, I’d need more than two tablets of stone 😀

          Finally, if this all sounds “preachy”, well, just stand now and sing three verses of Faith of our Fathers…Works every time in the “lift your spirits” department 😀 And, finally (before the hymn)…

          • Editor

            Popped back in from obscurity for just a second to thank you for your kind words and advice and to say that I often wondered what happened to Fr. Deegan, the strangest case I ever heard of. If memory serves he was around 90 years old when he went missing, God love him. I will certainly pray for him.

            As regards my “concerns”, worry not for I am driven solely by what is best for my own soul and the souls of others. In fact when I first got involved in trying to sort a particular situation some souls were literally on the line. That problem is now resolved thanks to my determination over a lengthy period not to let the matter drop, but there are other issues that need resolving and I will see my duty through to the end regardless of the time and effort it costs me.

            You know the old adage “evil abounds because good men do nothing”, so while I agree entirely that there are times when it’s best to give way, in trivial matters, it’s different when the supernatural life of souls is at stake, which is why you run this blog despite the clericalism and indifference of the bishops. My crusade, so to speak, is not against lost faith but against holy zeal going cold. I can’t keep silent in the face of that, even if my motives are often misunderstood.

            Anyway, enough of that morbidity. I’m off now to self-indulge in chocolate, the essence, some say, of sweetness. I eat a lot of it!!

            • Athanasius,

              I don’t mean to pry but what do you mean by “souls being at stake”? Surely, the priests are responsible for souls not any individual congregant?

            • Athanasius,

              Please don’t disappear into obscurity.

              If you stop blogging, my plate of food for thought from CT will be missing my favorite side dish of your posts (the entree being the excellent posts/comments by Madame Editor 😉)

              In Christ,

              Margaret

              P.S. You have 2.5 feasts for your nom de plume – 18 January (half – the other is St. Cyril of Alexandria; 2 May – Feast of St. Athanasius, and 5 July – Feast of St. Athanasius of Mt. Athos). So Happy Feast Day!

              • Margaret USA,

                You are much too kind – if you only knew how bad is my cooking, you’d revise your ideas about my comments, big time… Put it this way – in my home…

  3. I found that very interesting indeed – the description of Level 2 as the dominant level in our society really does make me think. The more the video progressed, the more enlightening it was – I didn’t really think I would like it, but I have learned loads from it.

    I was especially struck by Father saying that Level 2 people cannot actually see the “good news” in others, they focus on the bad and since he’d already shown how the majority of society are living at the Level 2 happiness, that was worrying.

    Father’s talk made me much more self-aware than I think I have been. He’s also quite entertaining at times. Pity it’s quite so long but I’d say worth persevering to watch it through.

    • Well, Josephine,

      While I see what you mean – the stuff about Level 2 was interesting enough – I’m afraid I wasn’t too impressed with Fr Robert Spitzer when he began to speak about the nature of God and fell into the usual errors.

      The idea that Jesus came to put right the wrong-headed idea of “an angry” etc God, and that He wanted to show us that God loves us “unconditionally” – using the Parable of the Prodigal Son as evidence – is misleading, to say the least. I groan when I hear that interpretation of Sacred Scripture. Because…

      God cannot change. If He revealed Himself as angry, jealous, etc (list of negatives) in the Old Testament, then He is still angry, jealous etc. now. It’s crucial to learn to make the link between the “angry” and “merciful” God – they are not unconnected. If YOU were a loving God who had made your mercy available so easily through the Sacraments and found the “intellectuals” and downright lazy among us ignoring (or even blaspheming) them, would YOU not be angry? If YOU saw your people, whom you had saved with your life’s blood, turning to false gods of all sorts, would YOU not be jealous? The fact that your mercy is always available to those who seek it, is not in any way contradictory to the image – the reality – of a God who is also angry and jealous… He is angry and jealous precisely because He loves us and desires our sanctification and salvation.

      And the Parable of the Prodigal Son does NOT reveal a God who loves unconditionally; remember, the Prodigal Son showed repentance before he was received back into the father’s home. Of course, the father (representing God) went out to meet him half-way, and we know that God pursues sinners always, but the son acknowledged that he had “sinned against Heaven and before thee.” adding: “I am not worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants.”

      In short, the Prodigal Son repented. He acknowledged his sin and unworthiness. Had he defended his selfishness and dissolute lifestyle, Our Lord would not have told that Parable in the same way. For He was teaching about two things; that, yes, of course, God loves us and longs to forgive us, that He will pursue us throughout our lives if we fall away, but He was also teaching the need for repentance on the part of the sinner, in order to achieve His plan of salvation for each soul.

      So, I found it disappointing that Fr Spitzer repeated the usual misleading interpretations of both the Old Testament and the Parable of the Prodigal Son that I remember so well from my years listening to novus ordo homilies.

      Personally, I would prefer priests to lay off these philosophical theories and focus, instead, entirely on the lives of the great saints.

      I did promise a young relative that I would watch the video and give him my opinion, but I could see it would take me forever to get round to it so I came up with the brainwave of using it here on the blog – it’s actually been lurking in my drafts folder for weeks, so for the sake of posting something quickly – in the absence of any dynamite news from Rome – and to perhaps learn something about real happiness in the context of his theory about four levels, I thought this was as good as anything.

      In conclusion, anything which he says that is of worth is, in fact, it seems to me, elementary Christianity; so, for example, seeing the “good news” as opposed to the “bad news” in others (we would normally simply say the good or the bad) and that charity – “love” – “occurs then you are trying to make a difference to someone else.”

      As we read in the Old Testament (somewhere!) There is nothing new under the sun…”

      • A clarification.

        Of course God loves us totally and wants to save us. However, in recent years preachers have used the term “unconditionally” to give the impression that it doesn’t matter how we behave or what we do, we are spiritually safe.

        Yet, Our Lord told us that we had to prove our love for God by keeping His Commandments (“If you love Me you will keep My Commandments”) and we know, or should know, that if we fall into mortal sin – i.e. FAIL to keep the Commandments and to repent thereof, then we are far from spiritually safe. We are heading for Hell.

        So, clearly, there is a condition for salvation: summed up in Christ’s exhortation to keep the Commandments. If we reflect on the plight of a parent who desperately loves a wayward child and feels helpless to turn them away from their life of sin, then we will better understand the nature of God’s love for us. He loves us totally, but, will not force us to obey His Commandments. If we choose evil, He will continue to love us but if we reject his “condition” for salvation, then we will not spend eternity with Him – no matter that God loves us so much that He sent His Son to suffer and die for us.

        I hope that clarifies my original comment on the subject of “God’s unconditional love for us.”

        • I found that all very interesting because it’s so true that priests say these things all the time about God’s unconditional love and the God of the New Testament being different from the Old Testament God, in the New Testament he is a God of “mercy”. It doesn’t make sense, so I’m glad to see that explained here.

  4. I did find some of the ideas in the video helpful but nothing that was outstanding or improved on the teaching of the saints.

    I suppose it’s true that there are too many people in society for whom “winning” is the only thing that matters, and that they think will make them happy. How wrong can you be?

    Father was right to include St Augustine’s teaching that our hearts are restless until they rest in God. He could have stopped the video there, in fact. That says it all, really.

  5. Well this video made me very happy – Father Dunn sent it to me earlier this evening – the video of his Silver Jubilee Mass on Friday 28 June. Watching the procession of priests and servers going into and out of the sanctuary in that beautiful church, on the occasion of a Traditional Latin Mass brought home to me just how much we owe to Archbishop Lefebvre, without whom the efforts to keep the TLM alive are likely to have fizzled out. Father also sent photos, but I can’t work out how to post them. Here’s the video…

    And here is a very good example of my own lack of mortification… When Father asked me for my opinion about the Friday event, I expressed my enthusiasm, beautiful Mass, delighted my Great-Nephews got to join the servers, and everything was just wonderful. Except, it’s hard to kneel on marble so maybe next time they’ll organise a stretch of carpet or something…

    Father murmured his sympathy. Then, later, as he was signing off, he mentioned that he was about to go to … Lough Derg! I laughed and said I now feel twice as bad for moaning about kneeling on the marble (and that only for a matter of seconds), when he is off on a penitential retreat. Lough Derg is NOT for the faint-hearted, and certainly not for unmortified souls like my very unworthy self (which is why I’ve never been!)

    Anyway, enjoy the video of the Silver Jubilee Mass. It really was beautiful and, from where I was sitting near the back, looked a lot more packed than it shows on the film.

    • Editor,

      That’s a beautiful church and what about that organ? The entire Mass was heavenly!

      You need to point out which of the servers are your Great-Nephews. They all did extremely well, anyway, but curious to identify your nephews.

      • Michaela,

        If you scroll along to 17.02, you will see my two Great-Nephews standing in the far right corner. There’s an older server standing just in front of them.

        Scrolling further, to 1.04.18, you can see them in the procession coming out of the sanctuary; they are right behind the server with the crucifix.

  6. This sort of thing, like the Enneagram and other similar “personality test” exercises, really don’t appeal to me.

    I’m glad to read the two posts about God’s “unconditional love” and the interpretation of the Parable of the Prodigal Son because those two erroneous interpretations are commonplace these days and most of us take them at face value because they’re coming from priests.

    I was also slightly wary because Fr Spitzer is a Jesuit – St Aloysius, Garnethill has a lot to answer for!

  7. Nicky’s comment about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs set me to thinking about how his hierarchy is actually the spitting reverse image of Christian spirituality and sanctification. For example:

    Level 1: physiological needs. Maslow claims these must be satisfied before moving to the next level (a claim repeated for each subsequent level). But the saints mortified themselves of physiological needs in order to subdue their passions. They denied themselves food, bed, sleep and even shelter (St. Simon Stylites).

    Level 2: safety. Did the martyrs seek safety when they were hunted down, arrested, tortured and killed for the Faith? Did they deny Christ and cast incense to the gods? Well, if they did, they quickly repented. And if they didn’t repent, you won’t find them listed in the Martyrology.

    Level 3: love/belonging. Did the saints seek friendships and romantic attachments? Did they think they could get to Heaven by socializing?

    Level 4: esteem. Did the saints seek appreciation, human respect and self-esteem? No, they shrank in horror from those things.

    Level 5: self-actualization. Were the saints seeking to achieve their “fullest human potential”? No, they sought to achieve their fullest spiritual potential.

    In short, It seems to me that Maslow’s so-called hierarchy is actually a path and pyramid to hell, since it lays out precisely the opposite of Christian self-denial.

    And then, of course, there is always Our Lady’s advice to St. Bernadette: “I cannot promise you happiness in this life, only in the next.”

    • RCA Victor,

      That’s a fabulous post from you! You’ve just nailed every one of these personality and life coach theories in one concise comment!

      You are totally correct. Everything is upside down in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs when it comes to sanctification.

      But, what about in general terms, before even we get to the stage of thinking about our spiritual lives – surely for students to learn they need to be comfortably fed and so on?

      However, I do completely see that you are right about “the reverse image of Christian spirituality and sanctification.”

      The same goes, then, for Fr Spitzer’s four levels of happiness. If we begin by loving God and wanting to please him, everything else falls into place.

      I hope I’m reading you right but that definitely makes sense to me.

      • Michaela,

        I’m not sure how to answer that regarding young people (students). Clearly, in order to reach adulthood, they need to be cared for physically and emotionally, speaking strictly in terms of the natural life.

        But if the supernatural life is implanted within them right off, starting with the seal of Baptism, magnified with Confirmation, and steadily built up with orthodox catechesis and the example of their parents and priests, then hopefully they will realize early on that this world has no real attraction for Christians, and will start taking the necessary steps to become permanent inhabitants of the next world.

        That said, though, there were numerous very young martyrs during the 10 Roman persecutions, even some martyred before they reached the age of reason. So it seems that the zeal of Faith can overtake us at any stage of our pilgrimage.

        • RCA Victor,

          Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a favourite (or was in my student days) in the teacher training colleges, where – as ever – common sense was made to look like some kind of genius thinking. Obviously, if pupils are to work hard in lessons, it definitely helps if they’ve had breakfast!

          Beyond that, I totally agree with you that, as in everything else these days, the “diabolical disorientation” foretold at Fatima, is evident even in these sorts of personality studies.

          Of course, I’m quite sure that Father Spitzer knows this perfectly well and isn’t meaning to imply that there is always a gradual climb towards the transcendent/supernatural or that one necessarily always depends or builds on the other – I think his talk is simply intending to highlight the different behaviours which can help us to recognise where we are, so to speak, in our spiritual growth or lack of it ! I’ve forgotten the description of Level 1 but I suspect I’m still there or thereabouts!

  8. I remember when the Enneagram was all the rage and I thought that it was useful in the sense that you could identify yourself as one or other or a mixture of the personality types. I think it’s the same with these four levels of happiness. Nobody will be on just one, but probably a mixture.

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