Money Can’t Buy Happiness . . . Only Pleasure


Money can buy happiness if one needs funding to provide our basic genetic need for survival.  Survival needs are:  Food, shelter, clothing, transportation, health, and adequate finances to sustain these needs.  But Survival is not the only basic and genetic requirement to attain happiness.  There are also the needs for Love and Belonging, Power, Freedom, and Fun.  Those who live in poverty, war-torn areas, and have lost all their survival needs due to natural disasters such as tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis will require money to provide the happiness derived from having their survival needs replaced. 


Many a homeless person may prefer the lifestyle they have without many needs of survival on a reliable basis.  This is not to say that all homeless people choose to be homeless . . .only that some have become accustomed to that way of life and make the best of it to suit their needs and prefer it.  Generally speaking, people do what works for them or they wouldn’t’t do it.  To most people’s  point of view, that sort of lifestyle does not provide happiness.  But to the homeless person, it may.  They find ways to get their surival needs met adequately enough to satisfy them.  Even so, they will still require the other four basic needs to have happiness.


After Survival, I contend that the need for Love and Belonging is perhaps the strongest need of all.  Once this basic need is acquired, all the other needs seem to be much easier to attain.  Meaningful relationships with the important people in our lives are the key to happiness.  Everyone needs to have at least one meaningful relationship to experience happiness.  And the more one has, the more one feels happy.  Imagine hitting a hole-in-one on the golf course and you were the only one who saw it.  Your happiness would be short lived and reduced to one of fading pleasure, which could only be revived by telling others that it happened . . . if they believe you.


Basic needs that are being met are often sufficient for those who do not aspire for more than what they have.  We often see happy people with low incomes.  And if we are truly honest with ourselves, everyone could be satisfied with just our basic needs.  But the human animal tends to want more . . .some more than others.  Greed does hot result in happiness.  But it can result in pleasure.  Pleasure seekers tend to be obsessive and addictive.  These are not behaviors of happiness.  Alcoholics and addicts are not happy people.  If they were, they wouldn’t’t need to put something in their body to feel good.  Any exhibitions of apparent happiness from an alcoholic is a drug induced behavior, not an emotion of genuine happiness.  They are feeling pleasure which overcomes their feeling illness due to deprivation, once addicted.


 Money can not buy any more of our basic needs than basic Survival Needs.  However, money can provide more experiences resulting in pleasure.  And it is pleasure that is being confused as being happiness.  Can people with money be happy?  Absolutely.  But they, most likely, possessed and/or knew how to find happiness before they came into their money.  Conversely, how many times have we seen those in the entertainment industry or other successful careers who make hundreds of thousands of dollars but end up in one failed marriage or relationship after another?  And how many do we see who become involved with the law after indulging in pleasure seeking behaviors?  It is not uncommon that we hear of wealthy people who have murdered their spouse or partner, or committ suicide.  These are not happy people.


Those who have little respect for money, or who spend foolishly and recklessly when not wealthy, will do the same if they ever come into a financial windfall.  Money not earned tends to quickly disappear as easily as it appeared.  Many a person who comes into money as a result of winning the lottery, a law suit, or inheritance quickly find themselves more financially strapped than they were before they received their winnings.


I used to have to travel the United States for a living.  I traveled alone for the most part. There were times when I would have to pull over to the side of the road to take in some of the most beautiful sights I never knew existed in our own country.  Just as I began to feel the appreciation of the beauty I was seeing, the happy thoughts soon dwindled into a mild form of sadness.  Why?  Because I had no one with me to share the experience.  The experience became one of pleasure but not happiness.


Regardless of what you may purchase, it can not provide happiness unless shared with someone who is important to you.  Regardless of what you may achieve, it will not provide happiness unless someone else in your life respects, admires, acknowledges, and enjoys your success with you.  Regardless of how much fun a particular activity may be, it is rarely as much fun if only done alone and not with someone else. It may be pleasurable but not happy.


The Declaration of Independence insures that we have inalienable rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.  It does not say, “The Pursuit of Pleasure.”  While happiness requires connections with others, pleasure is something that we can experience and acquire without the involvement of another person.  If we have the right to pleasure, then there would be total chaos and anarchy in the world.  Those who get pleasure from taking advantage of others, harming others, stealing money, or any other crimes would be found innocent because they were only pursuing their Constitutional Rights.  The founding fathers were specific with they used the word “Happiness.” And not “Pleasure.”  Pleasure you can buy.  Happiness you pursue.


Pleasure is much more intense than happiness but it doesn’t last long.  The sensation of pleasure will quickly dissipate and the behavior that created it will have to be repeated in order to continue to feel the pleasure.  Happiness lasts as long as one possesses meaningful relationships. 


Substance abusers are known for their ability to confuse pleasure for happiness.  They purchase their drugs or alcohol and once introduced into their body, they get the sensation of pleasure and regard it as happiness as opposed to feeling  the unhappy feelings they had before they drank or used.  To seek pleasure for displeasure is the most natural thing on earth.  If it’s cold, we put on a sweater or coat.  If it rains, we seek cover.  If hungry or thirsty, we eat and drink.  If we have a headache, we take an aspirin.  If feeling unhappy, drugs and alcohol produce pleasurable feelings to override the unhappiness and the pleasurable feeling is erroneously considered happiness.  Just look at all of the wealthy entertainers who have died from their pleasure seeking drugs.  The highest paid television actor, Charlie Sheen, lost it all due to seeking short-lived pleasures rather than long term happiness.


The rule of thumb is:  You can’t buy happiness but you can buy pleasure.    You can only maintain happiness through meaningful relationships with the important people in your life.  And they can not be bought.

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