Why We All Misunderstand What It Takes To Be HAPPY (& It's Making Us Miserable!)

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trying to be happy

From the day you were born, someone has been telling you what to do to be happy and successful.  

You listened to some and ignored others' suggestions and even directions. The pursuit of happiness became the path and even the entitled right. Therefore, when some event happened that you felt upset, angry, sad, or scared about, it appeared as not right.

Well, you are right, if the whole world is pursuing happiness and success, then it must be the right goal and path to move toward. Yet the definition and the path toward what any individual might call "happiness" is extremely varied.

When I was 16, I promised myself that I would be married, own a home, and have a business by age 30. I achieved all three criteria by age 28, and was not happy. What happened?

Janet, who I was coaching with the Awareness Integration model, thought happiness was getting married and having children by the age of 32. She pursued marriage with a list of conditions that her mate should have. She interviewed and chose a husband who fit the profile and would marry her in her timeline. She made sure that she had her first child by age 32.  

She fell into a depression after 6 months of having her child. She got exactly what she said she wanted and was not happy!

David knew that making a business that earned him 10 million dollars net would make him the happiest man on earth. It didn’t. Then he thought, "I will buy my Ferrari, then I will be happy." But he still wasn’t feeling it.

The definition of happiness for each of us comes from what we learn from others, plus what we have experienced in moving toward pleasure or moving away from pain.  

Normal, non-intense emotional pleasantry does not register as memorable experience. However, an intense emotionally painful experience gets registered in our thoughts, emotions, and in our bodies. In order to protect ourselves, we make generalized decisions about who we are, how the world is, and how we should be in the future in order to guarantee that we would never face painful experience again.

As a result, we decide that happiness means the opposite experience of the pain that we had.  

For example, if I felt shame and pain for being poor, then happiness means I need to be rich.  

If I was shamed and felt sad due to others saying that I was fat and ugly, then happiness meant being thin and beautiful, so that others would admire me.  

If I was abused, then happiness meant to be so successful or powerful in my work and financial position, so as to never to allow people to make me feel powerless.

Each and every one of us has created a narrative, a grand story about who we are. Therefore, on a daily basis, we attempt to survive this personal invented life.

As long as we are surviving something, or compensating for the past, we will not be happy.

Awareness of the distinction between the way that you think, feel, act (behave) and being responsible and accountable for the impact of the way we operate upon the people around us, opens the door to connecting how the subconscious affects our conscious understanding of the world and our behaviors. 

When we become aware of what belief systems and formulas are operating underneath our day to day decision-making, then we can set realistic goals, steer toward actualizing them, and feel happy and fulfilled daily.

In order to fully understand why you are unhappy, or not as happy as you believe you could be, ask yourself these questions, and answer honestly with all the positive and negative points:

  • What do you think about happiness?  
  • What do you think about people who are happy?
  • How do you feel about people who are happy?
  • How do you act when you are with people who are happy?
  • How does your thinking, feeling, and actions affect your and other’s life?
  • How do you assume others think and feel about your level of happiness?
  • How do others behave toward you regarding happiness?  
  • What do you think and feel about your own happiness?
  • What do you do to make yourself happy?
  • How does the way you think, feel and act affect your happiness in life?

Explore the positive, negative, beliefs, formulas, traumas and dualities that you come across with your answers.

Living life aware of who you are, enjoying your strength, accepting your vulnerabilities, dealing and learning from all that gives you pleasure or pain and most of all holding gratitude about who you are and all that life offers  is the ultimate state of happiness you can experience as you pursue to achieve your set and desired goals.

Dr. Foojan Zeine is a psychotherapist, Life & Executive Coach, and the author of “Life Reset – The Awareness Integration Path to Create the Life You Want”.