I know we want to be happy but must we have so many conditions to make it happen? Seems to me that the fewer rules we play to, the more abundant our happiness can be.
“I must be admired and respected by everyone who knows me”
“My children must reflect well on me”
“I cannot be happy unless my son-in-law stops drinking”
“People have to be nice to me, otherwise life can’t be right”.
Our insistence on clauses and conditions like that guarantee misery. At best, we can only know fleeting happiness on the third blue moon when it is aligned with Jupiter, while Mars reaches its nearest orbiting point in relation to Earth.
Ridiculous? Of course! But you’d be surprised how many people put up difficult or near impossible conditions to stymie their happiness.
“If I was less fat, then I’d be happy. But I can’t seem to lose enough weight so I can’t”
“One day, when the mortgage is paid and we get on top of our finances, then I’ll be happy”
“If I meet that certain someone, my life will finally turn out right”.
“If my beloved pet dies I’ll never be happy again”.
Albert Ellis, the inventor of a counseling technique called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, referred to these conditions as “musturbation” (he obviously believed in getting attention). In his view, people got into all sorts of knots as a consequence of their conditional thinking.
So the guy who insists that they need more luck to be pleased is perpetually disappointed and cynical because he never wins the lottery or the girl of his dreams. So life is wrong, bad, and cursed, as a result of his thinking.
It follows that questioning our musts starts breaking down the barriers to our happiness and gives us greater freedom (e.g. “Do I have to be revered by everyone? (Where in the Universe does it say that?”).
Likewise, life isn’t good or bad but it is what it is. So the way we respond to our situation is a far more crucial factor. No doubt, teenager Ann Frank’s diary account of hiding from the Nazis in WW2 could have been a tale of woe and misery. Yet, she spoke of love, hope, and a freedom of mind that defies the terrifying facts of her brief life.
Hope, and appreciation of goodness are not based on circumstances. Happiness at a core level has a thinking element to it, so that Paul in the Bible decided he was glad about being jailed as a result of his faith.
Mind you, most of us are predictably more basic than that. Something good happens and we are happy. Something bad and we plunge into distress (and blame). But between these primal experiences there’s a lever – where we can choose to react how we will. At least, we can with practice.
So, if you are like me, you will know the pain of failure, the harshness of setbacks, and the frustration of complications. But how we find out who we are amidst these experiences is where our power lies. Not in some phony delight in the face of disaster. But in a more balanced view that accepts troubles as a normal part of life.
And, while I delight in being happy, I refuse to insist that I must be happy. For doing so would not only frustrate me, it would also push happiness further away.
Comments are closed.