Don’t Wait to be Happy

“Happiness is an expression of the soul…” Aristotle

While I usually write about life obstacles and struggles and offer ways to resolve them, this month I will intersperse my article with frequently asked questions and or musings about the elusive quality of happiness...

Often I hear: Why can’t I be happy?

Sarah, a client said, “I should be happy but I’m not, and I feel ungrateful. Many people would give anything to have what I have, a good marriage, two healthy children and an interesting career. There is always a heaviness that follows me around, just over my shoulder, about to catch up with me. I fear it will take over if I don’t keep my guard up.”

Sarah was embarrassed to be seeking help and skeptical that I could help anybody who had so much and ‘should’ be happy.

During Sarah’s first visit it became clear that she had some obstacles in the way of her happiness,  as faulty beliefs and a certain loyalty to family of origin that kept her unhappy in the present (More about Sarah later).

What about You?

How happy are you most of the time?

What exactly is your story, or belief about happiness? Yes! We all have a story.

Do you think happiness is for everyone or just the chosen few?

Look around, how much happiness and laughter do you see?

If happiness is not for everyone, is it their choice, destiny, fate?

What then is the truth?

If anyone can be happy, why would you not choose happiness?

Why aren’t more of us happy?

Although there are many reasons for our unhappiness, there are also many common causes.

How can I be happy when I am surrounded by a pessimistic world view, and so many bad things happening to so many people?

When the slings and arrows of life come our way, and one thing is certain, they will come, why do some of us come out of the other side of suffering, free and happy and not others?  Some people’s spirits are smothered by minor upheavals, while others come out of the rubble more resilient and with a continued optimism.

If you look around you, you will observe that many people seem to be saturated with seriousness, and pessimism; however there are those who can separate from the negative and find peace and happiness.

You say choose happiness: Are you happy and when did you choose it?

In my life as it is with most people, there have been times of happiness and unhappiness. I was happy until the age of eight when my father died, leaving my mother in inconsolable grief and with six small children. It was not until many years later in psychotherapy after my grief was resolved, that I realized that I could choose to be happy and decided to change my way of being in the world.  It was a struggle I came up against again and again, as the old pattern of unhappiness was deeply entrenched...

After my father died, there was no permission for me to be happy and I felt guilty for moments of happiness, when my poor long-suffering mother was ensconced in grief and illness.  Missing my father terribly, all the good memories with him were magnified.   After he died, nobody said be a child, be happy.

My mother became seriously ill and took us to the mainland to live with hopes of providing us with more opportunities, especially an education. She became too ill to care for us and we wound up in an orphanage for many years with the Sisters of Mercy, who certainly did not encourage happiness.  They were not, shall we say Leonard Cohen’s ‘Sisters of Mercy.’  Nobody indicated that it was ok to be happy.

For years I was a sad and unhappy...  Of course some of my unhappiness was due to faulty thinking inherent in this story, reinforced by those who had influence in my life.  Much of it was due to my eight year old perceptions and the unintentional consequences of my mother’s grief.

As children we absorb the moods of those around us, and if people around us are unhappy, so are we. No one said to be sad, but the grief was absorbed, and no one knew to say it was okay to be happy.

Through the years many clients have presented with similar life stories. Over the years I have seen many clients depressed and anxious who had, for one reason or another lost their happiness, often in childhood.

Everybody’s signature way of tackling things is different; therefore, it is important to be patient and kind with yourself as you move out of your patterns.

I speak of my personal journey to say to you I know about unhappy, and I have encountered many, many people over the years, yearning for happiness.  I see clients who have a belief that they cannot be happy until everybody around them is happy. So they wait Until! Until... 

I am afraid if I talk about my dreams, loves and successes it may create problems with the rest of my family who are struggling. Should I keep my happiness to myself?

Overall it is best that we keep some of our dreams to ourselves until we have really fleshed out the core of what is important to us. Also do not expect support from our loved ones. It would be nice if they did; however, sometimes they cannot, due to their own insecurities.

I am not saying ignore everybody else in your wake.  If people are unhappy around you, do the best you can for them, as well as examine your behavior around them.

Do you drop into another octave, suppressing your natural exuberance or gift of laughter?  Try not to deny your happiness to appear more in tune with others if their energy is heavier.  Take care of yourself, by feeling and expressing your happiness.  You will feel more whole as you stay centered in your integrity, and who knows, you may by your example teach somebody else how to let go and become happy in life.

In what ways does Sarah’s problem reflect my experience of unhappiness?

There is a little or a lot of Sarah in all of us. Stop a minute and reflect the patterns of you family that you are toting around as if it were the truth for you.

In regards to Sarah, mentioned above, her past was a major influence on her present situation. Sarah was born into an affluent family. At the age of ten her father lost most of his worldly possessions due to a stock market turn and the wrong investments. He became seriously depressed and was not able to recover financially or emotionally. The family was forced to live just above the poverty line always needing more. Sarah moved away from the gated luxury of private schools and country clubs.

Within Sarah was the fear of loss. She feared that if things are good, they will not stay that way. Over her shoulder, it was a shadow of possible loss that followed her around, as unresolved fears and grief kept her from happiness.

The family loyalty showed up in a helpless feeling and a fear that if she became happy something awful would follow... As we worked together and uncovered what she believed it went like this: ‘if it can happen to my father, it can happen to me.’

In her unconscious was a childhood belief: that if she did not allow herself to be happy she might prevent bad things from happening to her family. This was magical thinking of childhood; we all carry magical thinking in childhood that we have to power to cause good and the bad things to happen.

Sarah devoted herself to psychotherapy and uncovering, healing and becoming happy. She then freed up from the obstacles that kept her in an unhappy state. You can too!

Psychotherapy is not necessary in order to use my uncovering strategies to heal the past and become happy. Many people have no interest in psychotherapy and have no need to participate. I take exception however if you have had early trauma that has not being healed If this is the case, it best to start with a professional.

Meanwhile, people chase that vague, elusive thing called happiness.  Every person has her own idea of what it is, where it will be found, and what it will mean to them when they find it.  I know people who push themselves working under stressful conditions all year, impatiently waiting until their vacation, hoping to find happiness.  Some look for it in work, buying things, eating, selling or giving.  Such a setup is bound to disappoint because it is external and it does not warm our hearts.

What I know for sure is that we will not find happiness in what we have, receive or do.  Happiness occurs as a result of our thinking and feelings...  Universally, similar things make people happy or unhappy according to the manner in which they think about them.

Happiness is an inside job; it is within that you will find its realization.

As you can see, I’ve looked at happiness from both sides now.  I know, without a doubt, that if you are determined to be happy, in spite of the difficulties, happiness can be yours.  Happiness is intrinsic to your having a full and passionate life.Discover Why You're Really Unhappy, And How To Have True Happiness Forever

P.S. This article focuses on your Happiness, or lack thereof, which is just 1 of 10 Life Issues that I cover in-depth in my recent work: Overcome Obstacles and Have an Incredible Life. more info

Click here to find out more about the e-Book/workbook and Audio: Discover Why You’re Really Unhappy And How to Have True Happiness Forever.