My quest for self-understanding and happiness continues and it takes me again to Bali. Laurent Gounelle’s The Man Who Wanted to be Happy is the first book I bought from the Sofia Book Market. It is only 130 pages, which I read for exactly 4 hours. I couldn’t let go of the book, I was a human possessed. Gounelle’s style is simple and easy to follow. The book is a light reading on a very difficult issue – the issue of individual happiness.
Laurent Gounelle is a famous French writer and psychiatrist. He has travelled the world, meeting with different people to discuss the problem of human behavior and balance. It is safe to say that his novel is as close to an autobiography as it can possibly be. L’Homme Qui Voulait Etre Heureux (I just love the French title) combines a novelist story with popular psychology to arrive at a story that is familiar to each and every one of us. After all, the quest for happiness is why we live on Earth. Many people though mistakenly believe they are happy because they possess material goods that society claims to be vital. Gounelle shows us that true happiness can be achieved only when an individual acts according to his or her moral principles. In that way and in that way only happiness and balance will become an integral part of our life.
The protagonist is spending a few weeks in Bali, when he decides to meet with a popular local healer. Even though his health is in good shape, Julian is not happy. He has been trapped in the reality of his perceptions and beliefs, which interrupts his ability to be content. The healer invites him on journey of self understanding, which shows to the American tourist that the world he has come to percept is not real. What’s more, the way he percepts himself affects his relationships and his successes.
Gounelle uses simple examples to illustrate the main flaws of contemporary society. People tend to believe something about themselves, which is often destructive and unreal. Whether they believe they are beautiful or ugly, boring or interesting, thin or fat, these beliefs tend to shape their reality. People start perceiving the world according to this modified reality of theirs. This tendency to believe fallacies about ourselves may be caused by a troubled childhood, by problems with friends and relatives, or by several failures.Through several straightforward examples and stories the healer changes Julian’s view of the world. He shows him that reality depends on your attitude towards it. If people are positive and happy, they tend to see the beauty of the world around them. If they are scared and suspicious, this will affect negatively their relationship with others and with the world.
I really loved Gounelle’s novel because of the simple way the author describes all these ideas. I came to the understanding that I know all of these staff but in reality I fail to apply them. I lack to a large extent confidence in myself, which badly affects the way I behave towards other people. I am mostly negative and thus I tend to notice only the problems in my life. That is why I fail to see how many things I need to be grateful for and I mistakenly claim life to be terrible and unfair. This simply theory of how to be happy is not so simple to apply. What I (and people in general) need to do is change my attitude. I remember last summer, when I was positive and inspired. I liked communicating with people and I wanted improve my skills and to meet new people when I was an intern. Thus, my whole summer was a paradise, where I achieved what I wanted and I liked my life. Similarly, the following year I had some issues and I started perceiving everything in gray colors. I was disappointed by my failures and I believed I will always fail. Thus, I saw only my issues and I hated my life.
Simple, isn’t it? In The Man Who Wanted to be Happy Gounelle shares this amazing story to show the individual that he/she is the only barrier to his/her own happiness. Gounelle claims that the only way to find balance with yourself is to follow your dreams and to act according to your morals. Whenever you feel down, remember, that your thoughts and your beliefs shape your life and not the other way around.
In The Man Who Wanted to be Happy the setting of this quest for self understanding is again Bali. Just like in Eat Pray Love. I am seriously thinking that the first place I will visit when I have the resources will be indeed Bali. I just long to touch this spirituality myself and to feel what many writers have felt themselves. Maybe even I can then write a novel about my journey. Hopefully towards understanding who I am and what I want so that I can finally be happy.