“You know,” she told me, “I really should feel happy.  I’ve got everything I could wish for:  a good job, a loving family, a great house, we go on holiday whenever we want to, we can afford whatever we crave for.  And yet,” she hesitated, “and yet, I feel like crap.”  She fell silent.  “What’s wrong with me?”

We’ve all been there.  Brooding about what’s wrong with us, about why on earth we are so ungrateful to be unhappy when we’ve got every reason to be happy.  Pushing away that nagging feeling of anxiety and unease.  Pretending it’s not there.  Pretending to be happy.

Whatever the reasons may be, we have come to believe that we should be happy all the time. 

Just sit with it for a moment.  Why on earth should we be happy all the time?  Aren’t all emotions  just part of life?  You know, feelings like happiness, joy, excitement, peace, overwhelm, calm, hope, anger, pain, sadness, shame, confidence, power, lightheartedness, fear, stress, desperation, and so many more?  Why should we force ourselves to feel happy all the time?  And condemn and judge ourselves when we don’t?

Sure, I hear you say, I get that.  But, isn’t it more fun to feel happy all the time?

I don’t know.  I’ve never experienced a constant 24-7 happy state myself. 

What I do know, is that genuine moments of happiness are energizing, powerful and peaceful.  What I also know, is that I can not force myself to feel happy.  What I know, is that thinking that I should feel happy, when I don’t, adds spectacularly to my misery.

Sure, I hear you say, I recognise that.  But, being stressed out and unhappy is just such a miserable, painful state to be in. 

You know what?  I can relate to that too. 

But what I learned is, that I can not control the way I feel. 

What I learned, is that feelings come and go.  What I learned, is to just notice the feelings as they come and go.  What I learned, is to recognise joy as it arises through soaring energy levels, unstoppable smiling and straight posture.  What I learned, is to recognise anxiety and fear as it manifests itself through sweaty hands, squeezed stomach and dropping shoulders.

And what I learned is, that I can control the way I respond to the feelings I notice.  I can choose to keep on thinking that I really, really should be happy now, and start feeling more miserable.  Or I can choose to thank my mind for coming up with that thought, connect with my discomfort and start exploring what is causing that nagging uncomfortable feeling.   

And what I experienced is, that by noticing instead of pushing away, that by observing instead of pretending, my anxiety, stress and pain point me towards what I really want, towards where I really want to go, towards my genuine needs and desires. 

And what I experienced is, that pushing away and pretending keep me stuck in my anxiety, stress and pain, no matter how persistent I am repeating the mantra “I should be happy now.” in my mind.

What are you believing you should be feeling?  And what impact do these beliefs have on your life? 

 

Photo from here and here.

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