The CORE of Happiness
I have come to the conclusion that all we really want is a sense of happiness that permeates our lives in a way that is lasting and capable of helping us through the hard times. But what is The CORE of Happiness? For many, they feel that happiness will only come through their bank account. For others, they strongly believe it will only arrive through a deep relationship with God. And for a few, they believe that happiness comes in a relationship with another person.
In any case, we are telling ourselves we will only be happy when the “IF” happens. The obvious problem is that “If” often does not happen. The even deeper issue is that it is an equation that has another fatal flaw in it. Lasting happiness, powerful enough to positively impact our lives, is not something that can be contingent on an external happening.
It is something that is internal, something we bring with us to face the hardships in life. It is a perspective, a way of viewing this world. And that is something that must be fostered, nurtured and developed within. Some people look at happiness like a winter jacket; something only worn when the world gets cold.
There are those however, that seem to have obtained a permanent “winter coat”, a way of dealing positively with the everything this world can bring. They have attained this “coating” through as many different outward methods as there are people. What they all have in common though is that core process that fostered the warm coating. Knowing this can help us to NOT get lost in trying use another’s outward process, but still understand what is at the core of it all. This understanding will allow us to apply the outward method that best fits our personality and life.
Many of us buy the tapes, read the books, mimic the celebrites, etc. only to find ourselves unhappy, unable to copy their way of living. So let’s take away all of the outward trappings and trendy jargon and find the real process that is occurring within them that has allowed them to approach this world in a more centered, peaceful way.
Through years of being a therapist, studying psychology, and reading everything I could on self-improvement, I know that there really is only one core way and it is the same for everyone regardless of the method. It is often disguised in many words, fads, programs, religions, life styles, etc. but it all comes down to perspective.
I don’t really care how one gets to a center of peace and happiness in their lives. Far be it for me to judge or say which path is the best. But I can unequivocally state that no matter which path you choose, you come to this center of serenity through the exact same process as everyone else did who is truly happy.
That process simply is by making the conscious choice to be happy, planting that belief deep within your subconscious, and living accordingly. I know that’s easier said than done, but let me give you some real world examples that will help you to understand how this could apply in your life.
I had a close friend just tell me that she felt she was under attack by the devil and needed to stay strong. What she was saying was that she was in the process of creating that happy, centered life thus she is experiencing “attacks” from the “real world.” The devil or the evil in this world does not want that so it is attacking her happiness through others and negative situations beyond her control. They were creating a disturbance in her harmony to try to cause her to lose faith in God and His plan for her happiness. She framed this experience as an attack.
As an attack her response is to defend. She reconfirmed her belief that she was entitled to happiness, and that this happiness was internal and no external events would breech her state of mind. She personally uses, like so many, the image of good vs.evil. Her desire to be happy was the good (God) and these attacks were the bad (Devil). Through her faith in God and her subsequent religious beliefs, she is able to visualize this experience in her mind as a battle between God and the devil. And as such she is able to pray and focus on God to overcome the negatives in her life.
That is not much different in theory than a person that goes to a secular therapist and learns about positive thinking and gains the tools to do self visualization to confront and overcome the negatives. I would argue even though it may be the same process at its core, just couched in different words; it is just as effective and maybe even more effective since her method includes God and an understanding of an eternal life. An understanding and perspective of an eternal life carries with it numerous other benefits she can employ here and now. I won’t go into that in this post but they can be very powerful.
Another friend just told me that they are having trouble with their marriage. She said she felt like she was constantly being attacked by her husband for her “naïve” thinking and that according to him she is living in a fantasy land. He is basically saying she is not realistic, this world is a cruel place and she is simply in denial. She believes he would not be happy until she becomes as miserable as him. She even used the same “attacked” word to describe this. I thought; here are two people undergoing the same basic challenge of feeling as if others are stopping them from being content and happy but both are taking a different approach. She told me she was seeing a therapist who is using Gestalt as the approach.
Gestalt is basically a therapeutic modality which looks at the whole then breaks it into its parts. The old saying that “The whole is greater than its parts” is the basic premise. In her case the therapist would have her look at the whole picture first, identifying the interaction between her and her husband and then begin to break it down into parts.
Gestalt therapists consider the conscious experience globally (by taking into account all the physical and mental aspects of the individual simultaneously) because the nature of the mind better understands when each component is considered as part of a system of dynamic relationships.
Next the therapist would delve into the dynamics of the interactions between her and her husband. It would help her to understand the sensory reactions to the negative interaction. It also helps her to gain perspective by seeing it from an “outside”, observer view. It kind of removes her from the situation to better identify “triggers” and negative reactions on her part that negatively feed into the process.
The last stage would be to implement strategies to change or break the negative interaction when actually in the situation. It gives her the tools to better direct and influence the interaction towards a more positive outcome.
All of this would be done under the premise of the “whole.” The whole in her case would be her marriage, her happiness, and perspective of life. The changes would be framed with the WHOLE in mind. It is kind of like placing the goal clearly in your mind and then taking the steps and doing the work necessary to reach that goal. Sounds a lot like what the modern self-help gurus teach. Their philosophy is: “If you can see it and believe it, you can achieve it.”
By taking this Gestalt approach she is basically doing the same thing as the guru is saying and the same thing as my other friend was through religion; however Gestalt and just positive thinking is secular and more cerebral. It does not have a spiritual element but it still is setting a clear goal, identifying the obstacle and steps, using tools to sure-up your desire, facing the whole of the problem by gaining some perspective, and implementing methods to overcome the source of discomfort.
I am telling you all of the ways people try to sell you on how to be truly happy is basically the same at their core. It doesn’t matter if it is Gestalt, Reality Therapy, Religion, NLP, Positive thinking, Guided Visualizations, Meditation, etc. There is only one way to be happy and that is to start being happy.
I have a friend who is very active in the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. I have studied this program and know it too follows the same core process. They just happen to use 12 powerful specific steps to reach serenity and happiness. Now it is spiritual in its nature.
It is not a religious program by any means, even though many members do turn to some kind of religion eventually because of its spirituality. But there are many successful recovering alcoholics and addicts who remain atheist or agnostics.
AA is a good example of a successful process that has its own set of jargon and steps that lead to happiness but at its core is the same essence. That essence is the process of slowly accepting and understanding that happiness is internal and that the individual is the only one ultimately responsible for their happiness. AA causes the member to take an honest inventory of themselves and to remove character defects that interfere with their happiness. But, for alcoholics removing those defects is so critical because those defects are what trigger the disease and cause relapses.
That is the same as the friend who uses God to remove the defects that interfere with her happiness. It is the same as the person who uses a specific therapeutic modality for the same ends. It is not much different than the person who uses positive thinking and personal improvement gurus to reach that goal.
I have a relative that uses a rather unique approach to maintaining his happiness and a sense of serenity in his life. He is very intellectual and must think things through. He is methodical and deliberate in all of his actions but his primary goal is the same as everyone else—happiness. He looks at obstacles to his serenity not so much as attacks but rather as weights. He says that whenever something is upsetting him he views that as a set of weighs that he must lift until he is strong enough that they don’t even bother him anymore. He calls it his emotional workout. He uses the old saying, “No pain, no gain.”
IT IS ALL PERSPECTIVE!
Although his perspective may be unconventional it does work for him. He’s also doing the same process as the other examples but just a different approach. He identifies and names the obstacle, visualizes it as something he can wrap his mind around (a set of weights), sets his global goal (happiness), then endures or works through it until it loses its strength over him. It is a little like a Buddhist approach.
Buddhism teaches us that when we are faced with a tough obstacle it is better to own it, label it, and be very clear on what it is. They teach us to accept it as a reality in our lives, see the Gestalt nature of it. We are not to deny it but rather acknowledge it. Through this acknowledgement it loses some of its strength. They use the old saying, “To get out of a mouse trap it is better to study the trap completely and learn how to dismantle it than simply fight against it.”
Hopefully you are seeing that there are countless psychology modalities, secular methods, gurus, religions, programs, etc. that teach their best way to happiness but at the core of them all is the same process. I suggest you not knock any of them or prejudge them, rather pick the one you can relate to best and the one that seems most effective for you. I personally feel one that contains a spiritual component adds something to the process others cannot and as such it enlarges and enhances our happiness.
In any case, if you’re really interested in finding peace and happiness in your life, you will have to first make it a priority, and then find a program or method that will give you the strategies and tools to effectively blow through the inevitable resistance that will arise. Then find supports ( like-minded people) to help you through the process.
This post wouldn’t be effective if I didn’t give specific strategies for you to do. Here is my list for true inner happiness and contentment despite any problems this world may deal to us.
C- Conscious choice to be happy
O- Open to our role in our happiness
R- Responsibility for the action necessary to be happy
E- Embrace the power of perspective
Here is a little more indepth look at the process:
- First, through consistent, conscious thought set your goal
- Secondly, align your thoughts with that goal. Remember that our thoughts decide our emotions which in turn determine our actions and experiences. Our emotions are nothing more than our thoughts in motion in our bodies. So control your thoughts. Limit the negative ones that run counter to your goal, increase the positive ones that support your goal.
- If you have trouble with this or if it is such a habit for you that it seems too hard to break, ask yourself what you are getting from this pattern. We do not do anything repeatedly unless there is a reward. Now that reward may be negative but familiar and comfortable. The reward may just be that we are familiar with this dysfunction and know the dance all too well. Asking empowering questions is a great way to break dysfunctional patterns.
- With your goal as the overriding daily thought, interrupt your old sabotaging behaviors and replace them with new empowering ones, using your desire to reach the goal as the fuel.
- Find a “master mind” group. This is a group of positive, like-minded individuals who share the same goal. Use them as support, feedback, and even critics to help you honestly face your behaviors and progress.
- When not with the master mind group, use visualization and guided imagery to keep your goal alive and vibrant. If you are religious, that means prayer and meditation. Be honest with yourself but not hard on yourself.
- Develop your relationship with a Higher Power. It is critical we understand there is something greater than ourselves.
- When faced with defeat remember the saying: “IT IS ALL PERSPECTIVE.” How you internalize others’ behaviors and your own daily experiences is a matter of perspective. Read my post on ATTITUDE AND PERSPECTIVE. This is critical to the whole process.
- Do Not over complicate this. Keep It Simple. We tend to sabotage our successes by thinking too much and doing too little. It is simply impossible to be happy if we are always criticizing our progress. As AA says: Progress not perfection.
- Own your role in this process. No one else can give you true happiness. No one else can make you content. It is internal and it is only YOUR responsibility to either work on it or suffer from it. Don’t be a victim.
- Treat yourself better! Give yourself credit for victories, and limit critisizing yourself for setbacks. You will never reach your goal if you are treating yourself as someone who is a failure. Pamper yourself, affirm yourself, love yourself.
- Lastly, remember this process to success begins the very second you say it begins. You control your happiness, your perspective, and your worth. Own it, acknowledge it, and embrace it. If in doubt, start again, it is your perrogative. You deserve it!
Those are brief, broad statements but I believe it captures the essence. Remember, the method you choose is not as important as the process you implement. Change comes when we first acknowledge the need. It moves a little further when we own our role in the discomfort, and it completes when we take the action to change it. The following are some previous articles I wrote that explains these principles further. They will help convince you of the basic core process others have taken to a more enjoyable life. Click on the links and spend a day reading them. Most importantly, stop pretending a more peaceful life is out of your reach.
Author: Stephen budd
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