Unhappiness is the result of the human being seeking to grasp something that they do not yet fully understand. But it must not be denied that external circumstances play a large role in people's happiness. Too many people see "happiness" as the goal of life, when it really is not.
Happiness is not a goal; rather, it is a by-product. It is a secondary emotion just as anger is a secondary emotion. Because it is a secondary emotion that is conditioned by external circumstances, and therein lays the answer to unhappiness. Because it is a secondary emotion, it can be controlled, and indeed, should be. As an emotion, it runs rampant among Americans whose desire is to "be happy," failing to realize that by striving to be happy most often they will miss out on happiness.
Any observer will see stark unhappiness around them every day, and in every place. People become unhappy because someone did not follow through on a promise or pledge; people are unhappy because they did not get that longed for promotion, or some deal they planned failed. The unhappiness that abounds in the US stems primarily from individuals not getting some long-held desire fulfilled, and thus they pout and are unhappy.
Deeper unhappiness runs in the lives of those who are not able to satisfy the basic desires of their families, as in the task of providing for their base needs. In this instance there is a deeper need, and the focus of the need is not the self, but another, and one's inability to satisfy the need of that other.
Because of the two worlds of American society, one view of happiness is shallow and self centered, while the other is deep and focused on others outside of the self. But in both instances of unhappiness there is the same basic lack of control in which one is responding to something out of one's ability to manipulate and master. And this reality allows a person to make their own choice for happiness.
The shallow form of happiness, or lack thereof, centers on the self not getting, achieving or maintaining some external factor for the sake of the self. In this instance happiness or its absence is a choice (to make good Minirith and Meier's Happiness is a Choice). The absence of those externals should not be the source of unhappiness and dissatisfaction, but rather is the opportunity to rise above a self centered world view and broaden one's perspective, thus increasing one's capacity to love and appreciate the twists of life. This unhappiness can easily be converted into something meaningful when one realizes the vapidity of such ego-centric pursuits.
The unhappiness that stems from one's inability to provide for another, or to give those basic goods for life, is the deeper dissatisfaction and needs more than words for assuagement. This is an unhappiness that does not reside in the self, but is brought to the fore because of the need of someone else that cannot be filled at the moment. The parents who cannot feed their children, the father who is not able to give shelter to his daughter, the teacher who is frustrated at her inability to convey the knowledge adequately to her students. This is the real unhappiness. This unhappiness requires heavy-duty help to be relieved. And it is based on the external circumstances. But it is not impossible to heal.
Human beings form a web of existence which shows both our equality and our dependence on each other. It was best put by John Donne in his poem "For Whom the Bell Tolls." He wrote, "No man is an island, entire of itself." We need each other. Whether we are humanists or spiritualists; we need each other, and the hard edge of selfishness shows that need again and again. It is in our concern for others that our unhappiness can go away and be assuaged. Indeed, in the task of doing for others, unhappiness will cease to exist; for then we will be participating in one of the great enterprises of God: that of loving others.
Unlike happiness and anger, love is a primary emotion. It is not a reaction to external conditions, but is the basis of all other emotions, and is learned from interaction with others. We learn to love from our parents, and we learn how to express that love as we interact with others. Various literatures teach us how to develop and display this love, but it is born in us from our interaction with the first lovers of our soul, our parents.
When we love, then we lay the foundation for being happy or unhappy. In love happiness is the result of making others happy, and unhappiness is the result of our inability to make others happy, or better stated, our inability to contribute positively at that time to their happiness. Once we learn that the happiness is other centered, and is based on how deeply we love, then unhappiness will not be such a controlling factor for us.
We will learn that in spite of our lacks, we are able to give the greater gifts of love and the self, and thus everything we truly need is ours. Others, who have been blessed with the goods of this life will see their greater responsibility and will share of their store, to provide for the wants of others, thereby increasing their capacity for love, and consequently their happiness. When we are able to heed these words "Love they neighbor (who is) as thyself" then will we have heaved unhappiness out of our lives, and will not be the victims of our external circumstances. Then happiness will be a choice.