Cover image for Contentment : a way to true happiness
Contentment : a way to true happiness
Johnson, Robert A., 1921-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Francisco : HarperSanFrancisco, [1999]

Physical Description:
xi, 116 pages ; 22 cm
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BJ1533.C7 J64 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Most of us believe that we'll somehow achieve contentment just as soon as we get a better job, find a more satisfying relationship, buy a bigger house, retire, or attain some other goal. Our society conditions us to think this way. But with this approach to life, contentment forever eludes us. We continually banish our contentment to another time, a different place, a better circumstance.

In this powerfully liberating guide, acclaimed Jungian visionary Robert A. Johnson and psychotherapist and author Jerry M. Ruhl present a fresh way to approach contentment, showing us clearly and simply how we can realize true, lasting happiness. Through myths, stories, and practical exercises, they show how to move beyond the inevitable frustrations of the common ego-centered approach to happiness and open our lives to a deeper, richer layer of experience.

Contentment, they say, is a way of being at home with ourselves and a way of affirming the reality of our lives--honoring "what is" both within and without. "It is never the result of what we have or do. Rearranging life on the outside cannot produce contentment--at least not for long. Contentment is an inner experience..."

The authors explore the many gifts of contentment--from energy and spontaneity to dreams and ordinariness--showing how we can integrate them into our daily lives. They envision contentment as "a dance between your wishes and reality, [between] what you want and what you get," and they teach us how to do this dance until you're "in love with the moment, not just dutifully accepting it...but passionately, rapturously embracing the eternal now."

Find Your Way to Joy and Satisfaction

"Contentment grows out of a willingness to surrender preconceived ideas and affirm reality as it is. Honoring "what is" is just the opposite of living out of a "just as soon as" mentality...This book is about the dance between what we want and what reality presents to us."

-- from Contentment

You don't need to be a sage sitting on a mountaintop to be content, but these days it does require some uncommon thinking. While the forces of modern life--rampant advertising, unabashed consumerism, the persistent push to achieve and acquire more--continually pique our desires and push us outward in our quest for contentment, this wise and beautifully written book guides us inward, to a deep understanding of true, lasting happiness.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Prominent Jungian psychotherapist Johnson and fellow therapist Ruhl, Johnson's collaborator on Balancing Heaven and Earth (1998), take on the great question of how to find contentment while remaining alive to life's struggles. In a small set of pithy, wise essays, they argue that contentment means learning to live wholly with what we have rather than ceaselessly straining for more. This is, of course, a common theme in inspirational literature. Johnson and Ruhl add something new, however, in what they say about being content while also growing psychologically. The paradox of simultaneous contentment and growth is basic to the life quest, as exemplified in the great Shakespearean story of King Lear, who goes mad because he cannot be content with Cordelia's truthfulness. Johnson and Ruhl also cite a great Hindu story, the Mahabharata, in which unhappiness follows happiness whenever "the well of suffering runs dry." Happiness must never be mistaken for contentedness, they say, for one can have the latter in the absence of the former. --Patricia Monaghan

Publisher's Weekly Review

This slim volume by noted Jungian analyst Johnson (Lying with the Heavenly Woman) and psychotherapist Ruhl (who also coauthored Balancing Heaven and Earth with Johnson) doesn't purport to have all of the answers to today's psychological ills, and therein lies its strength. While acknowledging the myriad possible reasons for our discontent, the authors present a winning argument for why we should cease to seek a fix or an answer and find deeper satisfaction in things as they are. Society may tell us to keep looking for the next purchase, person, job or feeling to fill the void, but, as the authors point out, "contentment comes from the inside." In addition to the examples Johnson and Ruhl draw from Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Taoist and other traditions, they present an extended discussion of the themes of spiritual blindness and insight in King Lear to illustrate the inward and outward examination necessary for growth. Their contemplative strategies for achieving happiness take into account the pace and complexity of modern life, and are not merely a call to simplify and reduce. Closing with a discussion of "gifts" that can be difficult to recognize (confusion, paradox, ordinariness, detachment), this small book is surprisingly weighty. Author tour. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved