The School of Life presents: Forget finding happiness, instead find peace with anxiety

The article is by The School of Life, in partnership with CNN, as part of a series on living more philosophically during the coronavirus pandemic.

(CNN)What most of us long for above all else is 'security', the sense that we are -- at last -- safe on the earth. We pin our hopes for security on a shifting array of targets: a happy relationship, a house, children, a good profession, public respect, a certain sum of money... When these are ours, we fervently believe, we will finally be at peace. We may mock the term 'happily ever after,' synonymous as it is with naive children's literature but in practice, we do indeed tend to live as if we could one day, somewhere over the horizon, reach a place of rest, satisfaction and safety.

It's therefore worth trying to understand why happiness 'ever after' should be congenitally so impossible. It isn't that we can't ever have a good relationship, a house or a pension. We may well have all this -- and more. It's simply that these won't be able to deliver what we hope for from them. We will still worry in the arms of a kind and interesting partner, we will still fret in a well-appointed kitchen, our terrors won't cease whatever income we have. It sounds implausible -- especially when these goods are still far out of our grasp -- but we should trust this fundamental truth in order to make an honest peace with the forbidding facts of the human condition.
    We can never properly be secure, because so long as we are alive, we will be alert to danger and in some way at risk. The only people with full security are the dead; the only people who can be truly at peace are under the ground; cemeteries are the only definitively calm places around.
    There is a certain nobility in coming to accept this fact -- and the unending nature of worry in our lives. We should both recognise the intensity of our desire for a happy endpoint and at the same time acknowledge the inbuilt reasons why it cannot be ours.
    We should give up on The Arrival Fallacy, the conviction that there might be such a thing as a destination, in the sense of a stable position beyond which we will no longer suffer, crave and dread.
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