This is a reality for a growing number of people: I "should" be happy, but I'm not.
I have a client who came to me for this reason, and last week another person in my circle emailed me saying,
"It feels like even though I have everything I want (happy marriage, great kids, good job, fairly healthy, great family) , things just feel too 'hard'. Having a positive attitude requires work instead of coming more naturally..."
I hear you. You're not alone, and we could hypothesize on the reasons why so many people are feeling this way.
Perhaps it's the speed of modern life that makes it hard to slow down and appreciate what we do have. Or maybe we got caught up in the "rat race" and realized well into it, we didn't want to run the race at all.
Perhaps, as some theorize, it's the weakening of the earth's magnetic field affecting us biologically and emotionally. They say a lower magnetic field might make us all a little crazy.
Perhaps as Eckhart Tolle would say, it's because we are too identified with time. We're either living in the past or living in the future, and happiness cannot be experienced in either.
Whatever the reason may be, many people are simply not happy.
And in this 'new age' world we live in, we're then told we just have to "be positive", say affirmations, do your "vision board", practice gratitude, and what not...
It seems like being happy requires more work.
Does being positive feel like hard work to you too?
I too went a very long time working VERY HARD at being positive, working on my vision board, saying affirmations, doing my meditations, and so forth.
But at least in my experience, it didn't quite work that way. To be frank, it was (as a former coach of mine says) like I was putting glitter on poop. Deep down I was feeling quite unhappy about life, so 90% of that "positive" busy-ness was simply sprinkling glitter on it.
If being happy feels like work, then it's not going to work...
What I am increasingly finding -for my clients and for myself- is that in order to return to the spontaneous joy of life that is meant to be our natural state (where we feel effortlessly joyful and peaceful) we need to take care of the core issue that is present. In other words, we need to remove the poop! ;-)
To get there, I find we have to:
1. Observe what is in the present moment.
That means, as I mentioned last week, observing the emotions you feel at any point in time and accepting them as valid.
Don't try to override them or talk yourself out of feeling the way you feel. Acknowledge the feelings first and be curious about what they may be trying to reveal to you.
However, wallowing in them, and believing the stories you tell when you're in the thick of the emotion is also not helpful.
Notice. Be curious. Observe. That's all you need to do.
2. Be curious as to what possible ancestral patterns might have set these feelings in motion...
We do in fact inherit emotional patterns. It's a scientific fact now proven by Molecular Biology and Epigenetics.
Sometimes we carry patterns of depression, hopelessness, anxiety or even rage that we inherited. We feel as though these emotions are ours, and in many cases we've had life experiences that fit with these emotions, but in fact the emotional blueprint precedes those experiences.
The good news is we can easily dissolve these ancestral patterns of emotion.
3. Practice Presence as taught by Eckhart Tolle and other teachers.
I find that practicing Presence is a lot more effective and more powerful than trying to force positivity via affirmations and the like. When we're in the thick of it, saying an affirmation can be an emotional leap you can't always take.
For example, if you're feeling intense hopelessness, trying to say an affirmation such as, "life is a miracle!" or "everything is OK," can feel so enormously removed from where you are, that you simply cannot make that leap. And if someone were to say it to you, you might feel like slapping them for their lack of empathy.
Instead of doing that, practicing presence simply acknowledges what is. We're essentially taking Step 1 (observing what is) and going a step further towards expanding our awareness without necessarily falling into the story.
So let me explain.
Let's take a couple of the steps from the exercise I shared last week and use that as a vehicle for practicing Presence in the face of something painful.
These two steps are: (1) acknowledging the feeling, and (2) identifying the need or value that is not being met, which is giving rise to the feeling:
"I am feeling ________" and "I'm feeling this way because I have a need for __________ that is not being met."
We can then borrow a page from Bene Brown.
I love the wording she uses to work out her feelings in circumstance like these. She says,
"I'm feeling _______ , and the story I am making up about this is _________ ..."
When we use words such as "the story I am making up about this...," we immediately place ourselves in the position of the observer. We witness the emotion, the need and the story we are telling ourselves. And by using this wording we are allowing for the possibility that this may just be a story, and that perhaps there's more to this than what we're seeing.
Eckhart Tolle calls this dis-identifying with the Pain Body, and his teachings on this are so profound that I cannot do them justice in just a sentence or two. It merits reading his whole book, The Power of Now.
But when we can say, "the story I'm making up about this is...", we are being the observer, not the one wallowing in the story. In this way, we've taken the first step towards being able to find peace independent of ALL life circumstances and events.
Being the observer of life is the purpose of meditation. Is what Buddhists teach; becoming the observer with equanimity. We don't fall into the story. We observe it. We keep our cool. In other words, we remain at peace no matter what.
It is absolutely possible to achieve, and it doesn't necessarily involve sitting on a meditation cushion for years on end.
And yet I do find that dissolving the ancestral stuff really makes it easier going.
At least for my part, I have found it easier to effortlessly remain in the place of peaceful (even joyful) equanimity after resolving some big ancestral patterns I carried. Before then, it took a bit more effort to pull myself out of my stories of pain, grief, and hopelessness.
So to recap, for all who feel they have every reason to be happy but are simply not feeling as happy as they "should" be, this is what I have found to be helpful:
- Observe what is in the present moment and acknowledge your true feelings
- Be curious about ancestral patterns that might have set those feelings in motion
- Practice presence by witnessing the story you're telling
As always, I'm more than happy to help if you need a guiding hand through this.