Happiness (part 2)
What Blocks Happiness?
Our authentic happiness is blocked by our (false) belief that life is not how it should be; i.e. how we want it to be. This unfulfilled false belief gives rise to negative emotions – the negative emotions make us feel uncomfortable – the ego equates the discomfort with unhappiness – so the ego tries to alleviate the discomfort by seeking happiness elsewhere.
But the discomfort is only a symptom; it is not the root cause – the root cause is the false belief that life must be how we want it to be. The expectation that accompanies this false belief sets us up for failure, disappointment, frustration, anger and unhappiness.
Our expectations of other people also affect our happiness. Let me give you an example to clarify the point. If we had a partner who took us for granted, we would probably feel a bit sad. But if our partner was very loving and attentive, we would probably feel very happy. It is not our partner’s actions that make us feel happy or sad – it is our beliefs and judgements about their actions that determine how we feel:
- We believe that our partner should demonstrate their love. When we see evidence of their love, we feel loved. When we feel loved, we feel happy.
- We believe that our partner should demonstrate their love. When we don’t see evidence of their love, we feel unloved. When we feel unloved, we feel sad.
It is all too easy to blame our partner for our sadness but the common denominator in both of the above examples is “we believe that our partner should demonstrate their love”. If we dropped that false belief we could be happy whether our partner demonstrated their love or not.
When we create expectations of other people and they fail to live up to them, we feel disappointed, sad or angry. People rarely live up to our expectations because they are our expectations, not theirs. They are our standards, not theirs. We are expecting them to live their lives according to our standards – standards that we may not have even communicated to them. If we really loved them, we wouldn’t impose our standards on them; we would give them the freedom to be themselves. That is true love; that is unconditional love.
Some other common false beliefs that block happiness include:
- Believing we have to control everything in order to be happy.
- Believing we have to change in order to be happy.
- Believing other people have to change in order for us to be happy.
- Believing other people are responsible for our happiness.
- Believing external circumstances are responsible for our happiness.
Initial Jugdements and Secondary Attacks
We often compound our suffering by judging unpleasant emotions as bad. By equating an uncomfortable feeling with suffering we become a victim, and victims suffer. For example, if we are feeling anxious we will judge it as unpleasant (the initial judgement), then we will identify with the unpleasantness (the secondary attack), which adds to our suffering. So we double our suffering by negatively judging our feelings.
With conscious awareness we can catch the judgemental thought and prevent the secondary attack. If we don’t buy into the thought that anxiety is bad, the secondary suffering cannot manifest.
What is blocking my happiness right now?
Happiness is an inherent quality of our true nature. Happiness is always present within us, but our perception of it is blocked by psychological material, in much the same way that clouds block our perception of the sun. The sun is always there but we can’t always see it, and happiness is always there but we can’t always feel it.
We can ask ourselves “What is blocking my happiness right now?” Don’t put too much emphasis on the mind’s answer; instead focus on how your body is responding. Scan your body for anything that feels unsettled, unnatural or uncomfortable (e.g. pressure, pain, blockages or emotions) and allow yourself to feel it fully, without trying to change it or make it go away. Surrender to it and relax into it, without any resistance. If there is physical discomfort, breathing into that area may help (i.e. imagining your in-breath flowing into the area). Doing this simple practice for a few minutes a few times a day can have a profound effect on our lives.
The secret to being happy is to be happy; to actually embody happiness. Just smile and notice what happens – you are instantly happier. Being happy requires us to be happy with everything just as it is; right here and now. If we can’t be happy now we can never be happy, because now is the only time there is. Our physical body might live for 100 years, but the only time we actually live is in the present moment. Life is a seamless series of present moment experiences, and it is up to us to live them. To be happy in the present moment we must stop resisting life and stop trying to make everything the way we think it should be. When we embody happiness, express happiness and keep choosing happiness, it becomes our natural way of being and connects us with our true nature.