ARTICLE: Cutting Out The Happiness Middleman

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“Happiness is a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which, if you sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1804-1864

happyA concept I often hear from people who are struggling to connect to a greater sense of happiness in their lives, is that they believe they would be much happier if it weren’t for the actions and attitudes of other people.

This covers a multitude of sins. For some it is the frustration of other people acting in unjust, uncaring, self-centred ways. For others, it is that their nearest and dearest are not understanding enough, or are thoughtless, or are disrespectful of options other than their own.

I hear comments like, “How am I supposed to be happy when they are being like that?” or “I try my best to be happy but they make me so mad.”

It is very intriguing; the amount of people who come to me asking for guidance on how they can get other people to change, so that they can be happy. That is not something I have ever been able to help with, nor will it ever be.

As a coach, I can only help the person I’m with. All I can do (and all that is ever required) is to reconnect each individual to their own wellbeing and to help them see that they are the cause of their own happiness, not other people or things.

If there is one principle that underpins just about every aspect of my work, it would be that everybody’s wellbeing is an innate part of their nature. There are no exceptions. Wellbeing is innate and it never leaves us, contrary to the notion that we can often feel like it does.

Whenever we think that our wellbeing has packed its bags and gone for a hike, the truth of the matter is that we are just masking it with our stressful thoughts.

We know that on a cloudy day the sun still exists, even if we can’t see it or feel its warmth. Our wellbeing works in the same way. The moment we drop our stressful thinking, it is like the clouds dissipate so that the warm light can radiate through once more.

We never have to work at re-creating the sun, because it never really goes anywhere.

But we’ve not been taught to think that way. We’ve learned that wellbeing is transactional.

We’ve had a life time of conditioning that has taught us that our emotional experiences are intrinsically linked to what goes on around us. And a big part of that has to do with other people; what they think, what they say and what they do.

If they behave in ways that are in conflict with how we think they should be behaving – or if they seem to be attacking us for not seeing things the same way they do – we suffer. We suffer because we’ve learned to believe that our happiness is dependent on agreement.

This has been going on for years. As children we quickly recognised that there were rules to follow, if we wanted to hold on to a sense of safety and belonging. When we did what we were told, all was well. And when we were naughty, or pushed the boundaries, we were punished and brought back into line.

The moment an infant start to become aware that he or she is sharing this world with other beings, they cannot help but assume their feelings are the result of what those other beings do. They are so dependent.

But prior to that awareness they are simply little bundles of pure wellbeing. As long as they are not hungry or uncomfortable they are at peace; completely in touch with their innate wellness.

Have you ever noticed how babies don’t need therapy?

This powerful, infantile idea that other people are the cause for our wellbeing is why so many of us spend our lives looking outside of ourselves in order to get it back.

This manifests itself in one of two ways. Either, we focus our efforts on trying to control and manipulate others into being the way we want them to be, or we are constantly trying to please them; going along with their desires at the expense of own. Whichever strategy we adopt, our intention is the same; to be reunited with our own wellbeing.

If wellbeing actually did work that way then this would all seem perfectly logical. I please you; you reward me with a good feeling. You please me; I return the favour.

But it doesn’t work like that.

The moment we get that our wellbeing is not, and never has been, anything other than an absence of our own stressful thinking, we are finally free to see our true nature. We are the cause of our own emotional experiences.

When we feel insecure, that is our insecure thinking at work. When we feel love, it is because of our loving thoughts. When you feel happy, sad, angry or joyful… that is an inside job.

When the mind is clear of all thought, the only thing you are left with is the peaceful innate wellbeing you were born with. It is like a quiet flute faintly playing against the din of a big brass band. To hear the flute, we don’t need it to play louder; we need the rest of the band to pipe down for a bit.

There is such a beautiful simplicity to it. It is so kind. You can be connected to your wellbeing and happiness whenever you want, and you don’t even have to do anything to get it; just be still and see that it is your thoughts that have been distracting you from the truth.

In fact, living with your stressful thoughts is like walking around with a close up magician all day long. Even though you know it is just a trick, you still keep getting caught out. You might think:

“Oh no, my partner’s not happy, I have to feel bad too!” and then it can dawn you, “Doh! Fell for it again. It is just my thoughts tricking me.”

And with the openness that follows, realise that you can be of greater service to them, and yourself, when you come from a space of peace, love and compassion, rather than stress and confusion.
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HOMEWORK
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Spend some quality time with yourself, reflecting on the important relationships in your life. Notice where and when you have been making other people the custodian of your happiness.

Asking yourself these questions may help you get clear:

• Who have I needed to be happy in order for me to be happy?
• What have I been wanting other people to do in order for me to be happy?
• How have I wanted them to change?
• Who have I blamed for making me feel bad?
• Who have I been trying to please?

As you identify areas of your life where you have been making your happiness dependent on the actions and attitudes of others, notice how much effort that has required from you. What has that cost you in terms of energy and peace of mind?

Now, I’d like to invite you to relax to look inside.

Begin by acknowledging yourself for the positive intention you’ve had for attempting to connect to your wellbeing this way. Then, with a sense of peace and inner knowing, recognise that there is a part of you that has always been well, regardless of whatever has been going on in the outside.

Pay attention to where that wellness resides, and let it begin to spread throughout your whole body, as if you are smiling from the inside out. Stick with that authentic experience and really feel it.

Then, from this space, think about how you will reclaim responsibility for your own happiness in each of those areas you thought about. Imagine how wonderful your life could be when you cut out ‘the happiness middleman’ and decide to feel good on your own terms.
Take great care. Namaste.

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