Happiness will always bring out the best in you. You were born to be happy. Happiness is natural. It suits you completely. You look good and you feel good when you let happiness ooze from within you. Your step is light, your mind is free, and your spirit soars when you let happiness happen. The whole world responds well to you.
When you’re truly happy, you’re radiant and you function fully. Above all, you are loving, for the essence of happiness is love. You’re also naturally kind, generous, open, warm, and friendly. This is because where there’s true happiness, there is no fear, no doubt, and no anxiety. You’re unrestrained and uninhibited. You are fully present, here and now, and not lost in some past or future.
When you’re truly happy, you’re on point and on purpose. You’re also very real. It is, after all, impossible to be happy and play small, to be happy and hide, to be happy and inauthentic, to be happy and defensive. Indeed, the real reason why happiness feels so good is that when you’re truly happy, you are being your Self-your unconditioned, original Self.
Like a fragrance to a flower, true happiness is an expression of your unconditioned Self-the real You.
True happiness is also very attractive in that it literally attracts great things. Happiness, by its very nature, encourages trust, spontaneity, optimism, and enthusiasm-all of which bring great gifts. In particular, when you dare to be happy, you find that people instinctively gravitate to you and like you, although they may not know why. Maybe it’s something to do with your smile. Whatever it is, your happiness is an inspiration and a gift to everyone. Everyone benefits from true happiness . . . everyone benefits from your happiness.
Not surprisingly, then, happiness is very important to us. It is, along with love, the goal of life. Everybody wants to be happy. Can you think of anyone in your life who would genuinely refuse an offer of true happiness? No! The question is, then, if happiness is the common goal, why is happiness so uncommon in our world? Hands raised-who knows more than three genuinely happy people?
When I ask this question in a room full of a thousand people, I see only about five or six hands go up. No one talks about happiness; the topic is edited out of most conversations. In my workshops, I often ask participants to recall specific conversations on happiness that they’ve had with their parents. What follows is usually a profound silence. All parents want their children to be happy, but so few parents talk about it.
Also, judging from our day-to-day conversations with friends, family members, and colleagues, no one is happy. Either that, or if they are, they’re certainly not letting on.
“How are you?” we ask, when we greet one another. The replies arrive thick and fast-”Not bad,” “Not so bad,” and “Not too bad.” Some slightly more creative people say:
“Could be better.”
“Could be worse.”
“Fair to middlin’.”
“Hangin’ in there.”
“I’m still here.”
“Keeping my head above water.”
“Hanging by a thread.”
“No news is good news.”
“Not dead yet.”
How about that! I call this type of inane conversation “not – so – badder – itis.” It’s like a “near-life experience,” as opposed to a “near-death experience,” in that there’s no happiness, no sadness, no commitment, no nothing. In our fast and furious world, where no one appears to have the time to engage in mindful conversations, “Not so bad” has become a learned response, a type of social shorthand. It’s quick, it’s easy, and we have no idea what we’re talking about.
The point is, though, even when we do have the time, and even when there has been some good news or we feel genuinely happy, we still respond with “Not so bad.” We’ve given up talking about happiness. Furthermore, we’ve grown accustomed to hiding our happiness as if in fear. But what on earth are we so afraid of? What is there to fear about happiness?
I first became aware of the fear of happiness in my one-to-one psychotherapy private practice, where I experienced three repeating patterns with clients-patterns that my training had in no way prepared me for.
In the first pattern, I would help clients address a particular fear or problem to the point of letting it go. Then, when I was convinced they were now ready to let go of their pain and be happy, they would suddenly stop coming. Without notice, they’d disappear. All my telephone calls would go unreturned. Where I was able to follow up, my clients would most often say, “I’m just too busy to come” or “I don’t have any money.” The offer of payment later was always declined. Sometimes my clients would simply say, “I’m just not ready.”
The second pattern I called “the familiar devil,” derived from the common saying “Better the devil you know.” In this pattern, a client would get to the point where he or she was ready to let go and move on past something painful and destructive, only to decide at the very last minute to stay put. One client, Jonathan, came to see me after having a heart attack while working in a highly demanding and very unrewarding job. He often spoke of looking for a more fulfilling career, something that suited him better, once he was healthy enough to work again. When he was well again, he went straight back to his old job. “It’s all I know,” he told me.
My client Susan’s case perfectly illustrated the third repeating pattern. She was single, in her late 20s, living with a boyfriend who was consistently abusing her both emotionally and physically. “I’ve come to see you to get the strength to leave my boyfriend,” she told me during our first meeting. Susan did eventually leave her boyfriend, despite great hurt and fear to herself. Happiness now beckoned. Her friends had hardly gotten the celebrations under way, however, before Susan moved in with a new boyfriend who also started to abuse her.
By witnessing these three patterns, I began to see that helping people resolve a problem isn’t the same thing as helping them experience personal happiness. One obvious reason for this is that happiness is quite clearly much more than just the absence of pain or problems. More than that, though, I began to realize that until you develop a healthy, conscious, creative, and unconditional relationship to happiness, you’ll always experience unhappiness and illness.
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