A Unified Theory of Happiness: Interview with Andrea Polard Psy.D.
Over the past decade there has been a convergence of theory and research around mindfulness and happiness. Andrea Polard is the author of A Unified Theory of Happiness who brings it all together. Andrea is a psychologist with a background in psychodynamic therapies, meditation, and Ericksonian mind-body work. She has studied at the Freie University Berlin, researching facial expressions and working with the Facial Action Coding System, developed by Paul Ekman, et al. Dr. Polard lives in Los Angeles, CA.
Today, Andrea talks to us about what a Unified Theory of Happines is and some practical ways we can get started on a road to happiness.
Elisha: Whether people like to admit it or not, happiness is something we all would like more of in our lives. What is a Unified Theory of Happiness?
Andrea: A Unified Theory of Happiness derives from hundreds of opinions on happiness the common thread and ultimately a definition, namely that happiness is a good relationship with the whole of life, a total engagement with and participation in life. As we grow older, our consciousness becomes accustomed to focus only on bits and pieces, splitting off so much. As we learn to relate to life without Ego in our active pursuits (reflected in the new Western science) as well as to life itself in non-active Being (reflected in various Eastern philosophies), our consciousness returns to its holistic relationship with life and thus to happiness. Unifying Western with Eastern thought greatly facilitates this learning process.
Elisha: In your book you quote Albert Einstein saying, “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Say more about that.
Andrea: Out of sheer economy, we tend to want easy answers. It takes more effort to maneuver through the gray areas of life which is why we find black-and-white explanations so appealing. But when it comes to happiness, simplicity does not apply. Only by walking mindfully along the road of happiness, with every skill we learn and every breath we take, does the path become easier.
Elisha: What are some practical ways we can begin on the road to happiness today?
Andrea: It is not always easy to choose love over power, a fulfilling goal over a hollow, materialistic goal, serenity over chasing a perfect state. So I think it is most helpful to begin our path with a pledge to stay the course and make happiness a real priority. Beyond this important step, the happiness questionnaire on my website is designed to help identify the areas in which we need most growth in consciousness (http://www.aunifiedtheoryofhappiness.com/quiz.html). When we commit to change in just two or three pertinent areas (i.e. eating more mindfully; going for a daily walk; sitting down in quiet appreciation regularly for ten minutes), we begin to crack open and let the light in.
Elisha: If you were sitting across the table from someone who was struggling in life right now, what pearls of wisdom might you offer?
Andrea: My first pearl would have to be the pearl of empathic understanding. Anybody who suffers greatly needs lovingkindness, either from a friend or a therapist. However, once we have taken care of our unhappiness, we ought not to expect automatic happiness. Instead of waiting for a miracle, I’d advise this someone to take responsibility for the experiences he or she generates, to become inspired by the combined wisdom of Western and Eastern thought, to define some baby steps, and to begin to move in the right direction.
Every journey starts with a first step, today.
Thank you Andrea.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.