Trying To Be Happy Makes You Sad Part II…Posted by Psychologist on Jan 10, 2013 in Articles by Ken | 5 comments
“True happiness is gratitude for your life as it really is in nature with its duality of:
Support and Challenge
Health and Disease
Ups and Downs
Pleasure and Pain. “
Myth #1 – Happiness is an achievable spiritual state of pure pleasure.
Truth – True happiness is an appreciation for the duality of pleasure and
pain at every second of your life.
Myth # 2 – Happiness is always believing in yourself regardless of the circumstances.
Truth – True happiness is being grateful for believing in yourself half the
time and doubting yourself the other half to optimize your learning
Myth #3 – Happiness comes with fame or success.
Truth – True happiness is learning to appreciate yourself as you are not as
others want you to be and this can only come from inside yourself
not from any external source.
Now, we continue with Myths 4-7:
Myth #4 – Happiness comes with wealth.
Several years ago I read one in every four hundred Americans is a millionaire. I suspect the same is true in most industrialized countries. I suspect today it is even less than four hundred. If this is so, how come you can’t pick these millionaires out of the crowd on the street by the way they dress, what they drive or the smug, self satisfied look on their face.
If I do notice someone, as they say locally, “dressed to the nines” or driving a “Rolls” or smiling from ear to ear, I notice they are much more likely to be in debt up to their ears or intoxicated than wealthy. I know several millionaires, as I am sure you do. Do you notice how they don’t stick out of the crowd, they just live their life like everyone else.
I think one of the primary reasons tabloid newspapers and magazines are so popular is they remind us wealth, fame or success do not make us happy; do not ensure pleasure and do not eliminate pain.
I remember when John first walked into my office. He always arrived with his checkbook under his arm. At our first consultation he sat down and I asked him what had brought him to see me. He proudly told me he was worth over ten million dollars. I asked him again why he had made an appointment. He pointed out he loved his work, owned two very successful businesses and had great people running them. I repeated my question a third time to which he responded he had a devoted partner and three teenage children who loved him.
When I asked him a fourth time what had brought him to my office he said, “I just watched my oldest son graduate from high school and as he picked up his diploma I realized I don’t even know him and he is leaving in the fall. Something is not right in my life!”
Here was a middle aged man who many around him thought he had it all. Yet he felt he had missed it all. In his seven areas of life John had focused too much time in the vocational and financial areas neglecting the familial and social areas. Now events had awakened him to his illusions about success and wealth.
He developed a specific plan to create a balanced focus on all seven areas of his life to ensure a viable future for himself.
Truth – True happiness comes from a balanced attention and appreciation of each of the seven areas of life: spiritual – mental – vocational – financial – social – familial – physical health.
Myth #5 – Happiness comes from friends, colleagues and community.
He sat across from me and said, “I spent 3 months working in Africa, living in primitive conditions, with only basic health care, volunteering my time, energy and skills. My service club members cheered me when I said I was going. I was so excited, so enthusiastic, so pumped!”
I asked,”So, what is going on today that you seem so discouraged?”
He responded, “ I feel forgotten, ignored and broken hearted!”
“In what way?” I said.
“Well, for one thing when I was over there I often got the idea I was in the way; that the people were doing OK without me being there and at other times I felt not really appreciated for my efforts. Then, when I got back, after the initial 15 minutes of hoop la, it was like I disappeared from the radar of my friends and colleagues.” He responded with both anger and sadness.
I offered, “It sounds like you don’t have a broken heart, you have a broken fantasy!”
“What do you mean?” he retorted with an air of indignation.
“With your long history of volunteerism you probably already know you can’t help someone without equally hurting them in some other way; the law of symmetry prevails at all times and in all places.” I said in a gentle manner.
“Yea, we talk a lot about that in our preparation sessions; about how helping people creates dependency which can handicap them.” He responded thoughtfully.
I added, “Well, it is a two way street…isn’t it? Those who volunteer also can become dependent on others for their self worth and happiness. This can be a handicap to the volunteer.”
“Are you suggesting I am dependent on others for my happiness?”
“What do you think?” I asked.
There was a long pregnant pause as he stared off into space and I waited patiently.
Making eye contact he said, “I have never noticed before how I am dependent on my partner, my kids, my grandkids, my friends, even my pet Lab to boost my spirits, make me smile or just appreciate me in some way…and my years of volunteering are part of it too.”
I offered, “I have been married for 40 years and still not happy with my wife, my kids or my grandkids…or anybody else for that matter. I’ve learned it can’t come from outside but from inside myself.”
He asked, “Do you mean we are responsible for it ourselves?”
“That’s what I’ve noticed.” was my response.
Truth – True happiness comes from appreciating ourselves for just being ourselves not for what we do for others.
Myth #6 – Happiness comes from close family connections.
Have you noticed most people seem to get married to be happy. But do you know anyone who claims they are happily married…they have no pain in their relationship? I bet you don’t! I have been asking this question for over forty years and to date have found no one who claims their relationship with their significant other is only pleasure. And many people hope divorce will make them happy. I haven’t found any of those either. Have you?
And some people think having children will make them happy. But do you know of any parent who claims their children are sources of pleasure only? I haven’t met any and I have eight siblings, eighteen nieces and nephews and almost twenty years working on the field of early childhood education.
And I remember just returning from watching the Annual Christmas Parade with my wife, my two youngest daughters, my son in law and my three grandkids. It was a cool, clear night and everyone seemed to enjoy the parade of color, lights and cheer. Seemed like a happy time but yet there was a simmering tension in some of the group which finally surfaced at Chinese restaurant when my son in law “tuned out” of our cheery gathering and then got up and left just after we had ordered. What eventually came out was he and my daughter were having a disagreement.
My family is like every family…perfectly dysfunctional. Every family’s job is to assist each member to grow in self worth. In this journey there will be equal amount of pleasure and pain to optimize this learning process. Expect it, depend on it and appreciate it.
Truth – True happiness comes from appreciating how your family challenged and supported you perfectly to become you.
Myth #7 Happiness comes from being physically healthy.
I said to the cardiologist,” I am a five foot eight, 135 pound, vegetarian, jogger…what am I doing with heart disease?”
Dr. Baxter responded, “Oh, you think we know how the human body works! We are still only guessing most of the time. And we see more people that look like you every day here.”
Then he added the kicker, the question no self respecting psychologist would want to be asked or to have to answer “How’s your stress life?” Such was my awakening to the truth of health and happiness.
I thought I had figured out how to get healthy and stay happy. I had worked at it over sixty years and assumed I had the answers. I had “conquered” cox pox, asthma, execma, dandruff, dry skin, tooth decay and just being weak. I was on top of my game and designing my destiny. I even had my family doctor convinced. When I reported pains in my left arm and shoulder, I remember him saying, “Must be a muscle spasm…look at you…keep running!”
Three months later, when the pains occurred again, a “walk-in clinic” physician introduced me to nitro-glycerin suggesting I might have heart disease. She said, “You don’t fit the stereotype. Have it checked right away…even thought you don’t fit the stereotype!”.
Two weeks later I watched on a TV monitor while they inserted a stent into a blocked vessel in my heart. I ended up black and blue from my nipples to my knees and every muscle in my body ached for a long time. Six weeks later I was still recovering and slowly restarting my exercise regime.
But those pains saved my life; those pain saved more than my life, those pains saved me from some of the deepest illusions of life. Growing up poor I thought money was security so I was waiting for the “golden handshake” of a pension plan not realizing there is no security in nature. It is an illusion! Life is a daring adventure or nothing. Life is a combination of support and challenge. To expect only one or the other is to be naive. To expect both in equal proportion is wisdom.
From the day I was born I started the process of dying. So I will always be in ill health, be challenged, be in pain at all times in some form both emotionally and physically. These health challenges are opportunities to learn and are essential to our evolution. They are impossible to avoid. It takes drugs or denial to have a painless life, a life without “dis-ease.”
Truth – True happiness comes from appreciating how every health challenge is a disguised blessing.
True happiness is gratitude for your life as it really is in nature with its duality of:
support and challenge
health and disease
ups and downs
pleasure and pain.
Graham from “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” captured the whole thing perfectly with his comment “…the way people see life is a privilege, not a right…it teaches me something!” I think it taught me every day above ground is a good day because we have the privilege of living it.
POINTS TO PONDER AND REMEMBER are:
- True happiness is an appreciation for the duality of pleasure and pain at every second of your life.
- True happiness is being grateful for believing in yourself half the time and doubting yourself the other half to optimize your learning and evolution.
- True happiness is learning to appreciate yourself as you are not as others want you to be and this can only come from inside yourself not from any external source.
- True happiness comes from a balanced attention and appreciation for each of the seven areas of life: spiritual – mental – vocational – financial – social – familial – physical health.
- True happiness comes from appreciating ourselves for just being ourselves not for what we do for others.
- True happiness comes from appreciating how your family challenged and supported you perfectly to become you.
- True happiness comes from appreciating how every health challenge is a disguised blessing.
Ken can help you recognize your happiness.
Contact Ken Pierce for guaranteed results.