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Interview with Peter Stimpson, author of Map to Happiness

About Map to Happiness

What is my purpose? How can I be happy? For thousands of years, people have pondered these big questions, often finding the answers elusive. In Map to Happiness, Peter Stimpson, an Episcopal priest and experienced therapist, doesn’t claim to have all the answers. Still, he generously shares a wealth of wisdom he has learned by counseling and ministering to people for more than thirty-five years.

Stimpson anchors happiness in a pyramid of principles: insecurity, power, and success. He explains that by understanding everyone is insecure, we can take back our power from others to define our worth and reach for success in lasting values, not things. His message is clear: who you become is more important than what you attain.
Stimpson illustrates the power of his trilogy by answering today’s ubiquitous questions related to love of yourself, your spouse, your children, and life’s challenges of stress, work, illness, anger, and death. Using both spiritual and psychological perspectives, Stimpson frankly discusses how we stray off the path to happiness, but more important, how we can get back on track.

If you are confused or lost, open this map and begin your journey. You’ll find help sifting through confusing issues with easy-to-understand explanations and ready-to-use solutions.

How did you come up with the title of your book?

I have been writing an advice column since 1983 in local newspapers, it being in response to questions from the public. One person asked me, “I have been reading your column for a few years, and finally decided to write and ask you a tough question. Are there any secrets about life that you have learned in counseling others that many never seem to learn? If so, what are they?”

The question of this person sparked a great deal of thought. I said to myself, if the purpose of life is to choose who we are by how we relate to others, and if happiness is that lifetime process of becoming more by loving more, then why cannot more people follow those simple ideas to a better life? If life is about making choices, then how can people be guided to make the right choices?

What I have discovered is that there are three principles that are necessary keys to unlock the door to your happiness. Without them, people take the wrong turn on the road. They are simple concepts, but they so elude people that I once called them “secrets”. The more I understood these principles, the more I realized that they served as guideposts, providing a “map to happiness”. I then entitled my book: Map to Happiness: Straightforward Advice on Everyday Issues.

What is your writing environment like?

Generally, I write in my office at home, which looks out at a glen. However, when I wrote my book, my wife and I were in an apartment en route to a new home, and I was writing between two piles of boxes on a small table.

What are some of the best tools available today for writers?

Being 67, I am sure that I am not up on the latest tools. I use my computer, and rely upon iUniverse for the rest of the help that I shall need.

What inspires you to write?

I am inspired by the emotional pain from which people suffer, wanting to know what caused the pain and how it can be cured or ameliorated. For instance, if a person is depressed, did they have a critical, demanding parent? Did they internalize the pressures which they felt when young, so that each class in college or each task at work nervously puts their self-worth in the hands of a professor or supervisor? Then I want to write so as to capture the essence of what depression is, why it developed, and how it can be treated so that the average person can easily understand it and put solutions to use immediately.

Did you learn anything while writing this book?

The original intent was to honor the request of my readers to put my articles into a compendium that was ordered so they could easily find advice on a topic of interest. But, when one reader asked for the most important things which I had learned over my years as a therapist and priest, I began to ponder how the answer to that could serve as a foundation upon which the building of the articles could rest. The end result was that the first chapter asks the more global questions about the meaning of happiness and the process by which to gradually attain it, and the rest of the book applies the principles to everyday issues faced by the average person.

What is your favorite quality about yourself?

I am intuitive. As a therapist and a priest, I have many who come to me seeking help. After a session or two, I am able to discern the underlying cause of a problem, sensing how a person would be thinking and feeling, and thus acting. Getting to the core of a problem rather quickly helps a person gain insight and begin to correct the problem, getting much-needed relief.

About The Reverend Peter K. Stimpson

Peter K. Stimpson is an Episcopal priest and a licensed clinical social worker. He has counseled people from all walks of life since 1972, has written a popular advice column since 1983, and is the director of Trinity Counseling Service in Princeton, New Jersey.

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