Does happiness seem to constantly be slipping through your fingers? Does it seem like the people in your life just won’t cooperate so that you can be happy? Do you have a chronic feeling of unhappiness, like an itch that can never be scratched? Does it sometimes feel like happiness is just an illusion?
For years I have observed clients and couples enter my office unhappy. Many of them are intently focused on what they think is making them so unhappy; their spouse, their job, their weight, their sex life, their living situation, etc. Whatever it is, they focus on the “thing”. They are convinced that their vague notion of the “thing”, if it would only cooperate, would cure all that ails them and they would finally find happiness. Problem is, when the “thing” actually changes for the better, they don’t feel the happiness they expected. They switch their focus to another “thing” and the quest continues. These “things”, they find, bring temporary pleasure, but they do not provide true and long lasting happiness.
Happiness is not something you find outside of yourself, but within. I have witnessed people with everything anyone could ask for – a loving family, a great job, health, wealth, intelligence, good looks – throw it all away in pursuit of the “thing” that would fix the chronic malaise living within them. Until they find happiness inside of themselves, however, contentment will be a mirage, forever disappearing over the horizon.
So, how do you find happiness inside of yourself?
LOSE THE “If Onlys” – You simply MUST quit looking at the things around you as the cause of your unhappiness! “If only I had a better job!” “If only my spouse would (insert whatever)!” “If only I didn’t have to worry about money!” “If only people would leave me alone!” “If only I had a girlfriend/boyfriend!” “If only I could lose weight!” Happiness is not an illusion, but most people waste a lot of time looking for it in all the wrong places! Once you get the ‘if onlys’ out of the way, you can begin to focus on what is really keeping you from happiness.
FIX WHAT IS BROKEN – If happiness keeps eluding you, then look inside of yourself. Is there some grieving that needs to be done? Some unresolved conflict? Chronic feelings that you don’t measure up? Unresolved anger and rage? Deep shame or abandonment issues? Abuse that was never dealt with? Fear of intimacy? When our childhood issues go unresolved, we can never fully be happy. Until we can allow the little boy or little girl inside of us to face the hurt and finally grieve, the wounds will continue to fester. If you are trying to build a happy life without doing this work, it is like building a house on sand; the unstable foundation will forever threaten to destroy the house.
STOP UNHEALTHY COPING MECHANISMS – What methods do you use to deal with your pain? Food? Shopping? Porn? Affairs? TV? Alcohol? Smoking? Drugs? Facebook? Maybe your coping mechanisms are more subtle like criticizing others, needing to be in control, perfection standards, beating yourself up for mistakes, not being able to admit you were wrong, attacking and blaming others when you feel bad about yourself. As long as you are employing these unhealthy coping mechanisms, you cannot fully recognize what you need to work on to fix the problem. What begins as just a coping mechanism often becomes an addiction. Happiness is never found within an addiction, it is found when you face the pain that comes when the addiction stops.
LEARN TO LOVE YOURSELF – Happiness is a gift that you give to yourself. If you can’t make yourself happy, no one else can either. Loving yourself means that you allow yourself to see the good things about you, that you forgive yourself for mistakes, that you learn what your deep needs are and you find how to give them to yourself instead of demanding things from others. Loving yourself also allows you to admit to your ‘areas for improvement’ and work on them. When you learn how to love yourself, any love that someone else gives you is just icing on the cake. Only then will you find a genuine contentment inside of yourself, which is where happiness has been hiding all along!