A brief guide to unhappiness

New client this week. 

As always, I ask what she wants out of therapy.

“I just want to be happy” she says.

I smile encouragingly. 

Inside I groan.

Good luck with that, I think.

Most people aren’t happy, and they don’t even know why. 

So here’s a brief guide.

If you’re unhappy, it’s probably because:

1. You misdefine happiness.

You think it comes from getting what you want.  Actually, happiness is about getting what you need.

2. You don’t know what you need. 

You’ve been trained to chase the wrong stuff — like success or money or possessions or status or the approval of others — and that’s where you spend all your time and energy.

3. In chasing the wrong stuff, you hide who you are. 

For example, you bury your feelings, instead of listening to them for information about your real needs. 

4. You think instead of feel. 

That leaves you unconsciously dominated by monkeymind, which swings ceaselessly from thought to thought to thought, and dwells in the past and future instead of here and now.  Happiness can be found only in the here and now.

5. You try to control reality. 

And whenever we fight reality, guess what wins?

6. You never see how controlling you are. 

Look at it this way:

From moment to moment, each of us carries in our heads a picture of the reality we want.  And we’re constantly comparing that picture to the reality we have.  Every we do to bring those pictures closer together — whether we do it in public or in the privacy of our most secret thoughts — is what I mean by controlling. 

See it yet? 

Add this, then:

Discomfort of any sort — physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, everything from agony to an itch — amounts to a signal that the two pictures don’t match.

And we respond to that signal automatically. 

So wherever there’s discomfort there’s controlling. 

And we all know how uncomfortable life can be. 

Controlling, in short, is as reflexive and inevitable a response as slapping a mosquito that’s biting you. 

See it now?*

______________________

*From Monkeytraps: Why everybody tries to control everything and how we can stop (Lioncrest, 2015).  Available at Amazon.com. 

 

 


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