Ah…happiness. The ever-elusive quest we are all on from birth… it is the one thing that drives us to be in a constant search for that “right” person, the “right” job or house or to reach our ideal number on the scale; a static goal line that once we get there, will secure this state of wellness for eternity.
It is the number one goal most everyone has for their life- even if their more immediate goal is materialistic, it is always driven by some esoteric belief that if they just acquire “enough” of this material item, then they will feel satisfaction or happiness FOREVER. As if somewhere in our minds, we believe that we can just unlock the secret to happiness, we won’t ever have to feel unhappy again.
Ah…what an idea. How wonderful would that be to never wake up again in a bad mood or feel disappointed by a friend or partner, or get rattled and begin to go down the rabbit hole of emotions after a difficult interaction with your child or boss. If we just…have…do…more, then maybe we’ll get there.
Trying to be “happy” and stay there is like trying to catch smoke. Impossible. Just about the time that you think you have a jar full of smoke, and open it up to see how much is in there, it all drifts out and you’re back where you started.
What an impossible idea really: to hinge our enduring well-being on a dynamic state of being that is designed to ebb and flow in its most natural form. Trying to be happy forever would require us to become robots, capable of feeling only what is programmed into you upon design.
As humans, we are wired to feel an enormous range of feelings, which creates the beauty, drama and mystery of life. Feelings, are spontaneous emotional reactions to something happening around us in our outside world. As such, when we have a particular feeling, we are responding in a particular way to a stimulus outside of us.
And in this manner, our feelings can tell us much about how we regard and consider this particular experience, person, thing, but ultimately what we need about the situation. To have our settings get stuck on “happy” all the time, would actually be a disservice to us in that we would never have the benefit of our other filters to tell us about our preferences, needs and desires, and to create the nuances that makes each of us unique, and ultimately “us”.
So, I’m going to share with you a little secret to how you can both be more satisfied, i.e., happy, in your life AND maintain your uniqueness as a human being. Are you ready? Here I go… happiness isn’t determined by how you’re feeling, it is determined by how you FEEL ABOUT how you’re feeling…
There it is folks. The simple truth about how happiness and satisfaction evolve. Or not. Now, the concept is a shockingly simple one, as you can see, but absolutely not easy to achieve. And here’s why.
At some point in your development as a small child, likely in many cases even before you began to have conscious memory, you began to be shaped by others’ judgements and reactions to your feelings. Intentional or not, how others responded to your feelings and needs, began to encourage or discourage repeating those feelings or not.
For example, if when you cried, you were responded to, enough of the time, with gentleness and patience, compassion and understanding, then it is likely that you grew up to become an adult who can easily be vulnerable and open with your sadness. If, however, you notice a hitch at all in your ability to easily be sad and openly stay with your sadness as an adult, then it is likely that you have some internal and unconscious judgment and resistance towards the feeling of sadness.
So, that’s why when you feel sad now, it feels like some kind of predicament or problem when it happens or like something that has to be hidden or stopped. And for those who have a fair amount of body awareness, you might even notice a body response when you start to feel sad: you might notice that you tense up, collapse energetically, get a headache, or even have to leave the room.
Not your fault. You were programmed long before you had the ability to have choice or boundaries against this kind of assault on your feelings and aliveness, when you were met with less than satisfying responses to your sadness. Problem is, it is still an unconscious reaction that happens inside whenever sadness begins to come up, because the earlier experiences around how your sadness were consistently met, were so unpleasant.
It’s called conditioning, and is much like when we come across a food that once made us physically ill, we have an involuntary body response towards moving away from this food because the experience of getting sick was so unpleasant. It’s involuntary and cannot be overridden by thought alone.
Anger is another perfect example. How many of you were encouraged to be angry as a child, to have a “no” or a protest towards what was happening to you or around you? If you’re anything like most of the rest of us, anger was an experience that was quickly punished or stopped. And so now, there is an unconscious association inside, whenever we begin to feel anger, that it is “bad” or “wrong” or something to be avoided or stopped, and so we often do, along with a physical body response to shut this energy down.
The dilemma around all this is two-fold: even though this shaping and judgement around your feelings when you were a child, was not your choice originally, it is now interfering with your ability to feel your aliveness and satisfaction (happiness) in your adult world. And here’s the kicker: it is also your responsibility, now, as an adult to clean this mess up, if you so choose to have more satisfaction and happiness in your life.
Really. You might have some feelings about this. It would sure make sense if you do. And the tricky part of this all is that most of how we feel about how we are feeling is unconscious. We were not born to judge feelings as good or bad, we were blank slates on which feelings just were experiences, not good or bad.
So, when you find yourself having a feeling that feels “bad” or like something you want to stop, that is a sure sign that you have some healing to do in this area. And this healing is not just a cognitive healing- that only works with your thoughts. The healing also has to encompass the body and spirit too in order to fundamentally change your unconscious response to your feelings. It is time to get out of the box with your healing.
So, happiness isn’t about how we are feeling. It’s about how we feel about how we are feeling. When we can reach a place of unconditional support for ourselves, no matter what it is that we feel, think, choose, want or do, then we begin to have more of an experience of peace and satisfaction no matter what is happening inside or outside of us.
And I cannot think of a better definition for happiness than that. Can you?
Kate Schroeder is a therapist and online life coach who utilizes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ® and the Enneagram, as well as body-mind-spirit healing practices to access one’s inner wisdom in order to create a life filled with satisfaction. Start changing your life today by downloading her guided imagery program, Soul Meditations: Building A Relationship That Lasts, or visit Kate at Transformation Counseling, LLC for more information on how to connect with your best self.