This post may disturb those inclined towards compulsive positive thinking. But it is likely to provide much needed relief to those who feel stretched and pressured by this kind of an expectation. For myself, I have found that calling a spade a spade (and a rose a rose!) brings immense ease. So much of our energy is spent in denial and suppression of our thoughts and feelings. This very avoidance keeps alive and persistent that which we wish to run from. As also the consequent self- judgment and perpetual exhaustion. For when we cannot control what we experience, we end up feeling inadequate and helpless.
Long ago, I read a definition of suffering that made complete sense to me:
“Suffering = Pain * Resistance”
It was credited to Shinzen Young and I am most grateful for this useful gem of a reminder.
It is true that despite releasing our resistance, there may be plenty of pain. However, my experience has shown that the suffering does indeed reduce in direct proportion to our acceptance. As Byron Katie says, “When I argue with reality, I lose—but only 100% of the time.”
Life is full of ups and downs. The good thing about impermanence and transience is that everything changes. Some things bring us pleasure and others pain. The more we are obsessed with avoiding pain and seeking pleasure, the greater our fears and need for control. And frankly, I have yet to meet anyone who has had complete control over what comes into their life. However, what we can modify is our response. A combination of best possible efforts and a genuine acceptance of whatever emerges puts us in a place of more mature and consistent joy and peace. This kind of joy stems from a full acknowledgement and engagement of the full spectrum of life, without any blinkers or filters distorting whatever is.
This insistence and addiction for a superficial happiness seems to take root as we grow up. A child can do nothing, daydream by himself, have a fall (cry and get on), play gleefully with friends – and be equally content at the end of each fundamentally unique, dissimilar day. The source of happiness is within, born from the uncomplicated, authentic, light hearted and unhesitant expression of being. There is contentment because comparison and competition have not yet seeded the constant, irrational and unfounded inner voice of ‘not being good enough’.
But then we start parking our happiness in specifics such as a particular income, car, home, appearance, partner, child, etc…. These may have little to do with our intrinsic values or tastes, but are more often the consequence of our deep needs for belonging, validation and approval.
Hence, it is not uncommon to be trapped in the seeking of outer objects of affection that can only be temporary, or relationships that can only be changeable.
What can be an even more disheartening consequence is the predicament of attaining such ‘goals’ and finding it has brought no genuine or lasting happiness.
When your heart and soul is not in sync with what you have been chasing, when you have sacrificed not only precious life years and energy, but also much of what you actually consider sacred and valuable in the name of so-called practicality or peer pressure, the disappointment and lostness can feel crippling. Because now there is the additional need to meet the expectation, “I should be happy. I got all the trappings of what is considered ‘a success’ by common norms; if I am still not happy, there has to be something wrong with me.”
Should you have experienced a phase of contentment and happiness, you may find that you also have to let go of it at some point. The partner may die, the stock market may crash, the fame may fade… Now you also have to deal with the fear of losing happiness once you find it. And once again you ask yourself why this is happening, despite all your strategizing and manifestation attempts.
Which brings one back full circle to that which set one off on this unrealistic quest in the first place:
(1) The need for external validation, approval and
(2) a desire for an assured, constant state of happiness
If you would like to experiment with an approach that differs from this one, try tapping the questions below with EFT or ruminating on them for a couple of weeks. Note any changes in your mood and energies. Should any specific insights arise, then note them down and take concrete steps to implement what you feel necessary – to find more joy and ease in the playful expression of your being and the full engagement with this miracle of life:
- How much more would I enjoy my life if I welcomed all of it with ease and grace?
- What would it be like to sing my own song rather than dance to anyone else’s tune?
- How much more expansion and ease would I experience if I allowed myself to acknowledge things as they truly are? People just the way they are? Myself, just the way I am? Without judgement, distortion, filters, blinkers or resistance?
- What would it take to release the need to control and micromanage every aspect of my experience, myself, others and my life?
- Would acknowledging that there is yet more for me to learn and know increase my willingness to love, forgive and accept myself, others and my life?
- What would it be like to experience flow and surrender? Would it make me happier and lighter? What would that take?
- What would it take for me to allow all my emotions, to embrace my human experience with kindness and gentleness?
- Would I be willing to give myself permission to be more joyful and centered than I have ever been before? What would that take?
I would welcome hearing how this experiment works out for you. Please follow the links in the article and browse many of the other relevant posts on tools and discussions to assist with deepening this process.
If you find any of it useful, please do share it with others!