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Eidelberg, L. (1951). In Pursuit of Happiness. Psychoanal. Rev., 38(3):222-244.

(1951). Psychoanalytic Review, 38(3):222-244

In Pursuit of Happiness

Ludwig Eidelberg, M.D.

Although the psychoanalyst is unable to state precisely what he considers to be the purpose of our life, he is usually aware that his patients regard Happiness as their ultimate goal, and that they come to him because they believe that he will help them to reach it. Most of them, to be sure, have different ideas about what Happiness is and would not waste time in attempting to define its meaning because they consider it self-evident. Terminology is not a popular science and many of our patients assume that because they know what they mean (Do they?) if they use a certain word others will know it too.

For the purpose of an analytical investigation, however, some kind of verbalization of this difficult problem appears to be necessary. For the sake of starting a discussion we propose to assume with Freud that Happiness consists of accumulation of Pleasure and the avoidance of Unpleasure. The observation of our patients and the so-called normal people (as far as the analyst succeeds in finding them) seems to indicate that Pleasure is what they are looking for and Unpleasure what they prefer to avoid. But what is Pleasure ? In spite of the fact that different people regard different phenomena as “their Pleasure” we must try to formulate some kind of definition of this term. Obviously we cannot simply name Pleasure as the goal each of us is continuously trying to achieve, but must instead describe some “objective” characteristics constantly present in different forms of “Pleasure” of different individuals.

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