I was fascinated by this old article in the papers: http://blogs.theage.com.au/lifestyle/allmenareliars/archives/2007/09/too_many_option.html
And my favourite bit of the article, which suggests folk with no choice were happier than folk with lots of choices - "This is the difference between dating and marriage," says Gilbert, "You go out on a date with a guy who picks his nose, you don't go out on a date with him again. You're married to the guy and he picks his nose, you say 'Yeah, he's got a heart of gold. Don't touch the fruitcake.' Right? You find a way to be happy with what's happened." He's kidding right?
A girlfriend responded to my question by saying - whether happiness is a pursuit, a choice or something that just happens, the analysis in the article ignores the value of work and effort and a sense of achievement which (for some) may contribute to happiness.
And it seemed to me that the basic premise of the article implied self-delusion = happiness.
[Aside: Drug induced happiness (a more obvious response to the phrase synthetic) may be another form of self-delusion but can be irresistible for some and, quite frankly, whether it's real or not - elation felt in the moment can be described as happiness.]
Some questions: why is it that you seem happier when someone else is doing the driving? Isn't being on auto-pilot a form of self-delusion too?
I don't agree that being in control will necessarily allow us to experience a higher level of happiness. Although I accept that being out of control can make us feel unhappy. (As my girlfriend said in response to the article - people are more prone to melancholy and depression when they lack control, and face stressful events).
I personally feel more content nowadays when I am surprised and when those surprises are things totally outside my control - when I do not have to make any decisions at all or someone else makes the decisions for me. Maybe some measure of going with the flow - irrespective of the degree of control / choice - makes me feel content because it is easy?