What is happiness?

Happiness_Sign_001

Happiness is not a destination …. it’s a way of life.

Most people would say all they want is to be happy, this suggests right now they are not. That is an awful lot of unhappy people!

What is it all of these people are looking for, what is happiness?

In my experience it is not a bigger better anything, car, house, relationship, money. People turn up at my door, looking mainly to change something about themselves or their circumstances so that they can be happy. All of these things are on the outside, happiness is on the inside. Happiness is simply being comfortable in your own skin, being loving and accepting of yourself …. unconditionally. Sounds simple doesn’t it?

Why do we stop accepting ourselves?

We are born accepting ourselves. Have you ever seen a newborn baby worrying about how his or her birth weight compared to someone else’s? Whether their nose too big or the wrong shape and what people will think? Whether Mum and Dad will love them? Is their cot the latest one with bells and whistles on? No, we start out expecting the best because we deserve it. If we are hungry we shout loudly until we are fed, if we are tired we cry until someone lays us down to sleep. We expect our needs for survival to be met and this is our only concern.

The Chinese have a saying, ‘we are born knowing everything and life is an unlearning experience‘.  We are born knowing what we need to survive. These are love, food, shelter and protection. We are wiling to shout loudly to get our needs met. As time goes on we realise that if we shout too much or too loudly our parents (love, food, shelter and protection) start to get stressed and tell us to stop. We are already learning that our needs have to be put second to our parents’ need for peace and quiet because we need them to love us so that they stay with us.

We smile, this seems to make them happy. We have our first disorder of emotions but we have also noticed when we cry for no reason we get loads of attention until we stop at which point they put us down and leave us alone. All children want the undivided attention of their parents and no parent can give it, however perfect they are. By the time we are two, we begin to get more of a sense of self and our power over these adults, who have long since lost their own sense of self. We call it the terrible two’s but it is also the beginning of the end of loving ourselves unconditionally. Manipulating to get attention by being ‘naughty’ gets negative attention but at least it is attention. Most books and TV shows on child rearing teach parents to only reward positive behaviour and most parents think they do that, however then shout or react negatively when the child does something they don’t like and put them on the naughty step. To the child this is also a ‘reward’.

Then there are the things parents say to children without thinking about how the child will take it on. I overheard this in a supermarket, a mother trying to cope with her three year old child’s behaviour said, ‘grow up, behave or you will be the death of me‘. Another said, ‘you are driving me mad‘. These examples are not uncommon, children are like sponges, they take everything on adults throw at them and take responsibility for things they cannot control. A child being told off by her mother with the words, ‘how can you do that when my world is crashing down around me‘, did not know what was going wrong in her mother’s life, only she was responsible for the world crashing down around mother and she grew up with a fear this could happen anywhere she lived.  One of the more unusual phobias I have come across.

It is no wonder even in the most loving families, children grow up into adults who feel less than. Less than what or whom? We then start to look around us to see what it is that others have that seem to make them happy because they are happy, aren’t they? We focus on what we can see they have that we do not, the big house, the car, the relationship, the……. the……. the……. It is endless because as soon as we have any one of those things we realise, ‘it didn’t do it for me after all.

If you are reading this maybe you have come to the point in your life when you know that you will not find ‘it’ on the outside or find it some time in the future when things get better. Happiness is inside you and now, not tomorrow. Stop the endless chatter in your mind that says you are not good enough and look inside to find the real you. You are good enough and you are worth it.

Read about Rosie’s pot of gold on my Mindfulness page. She gets it, you can too.

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My name is Gill Matthews and I am a qualified and experienced professional therapist, having been in full-time practice for 29 years. I belong to recognised professional organisations and can offer a high level of expertise to help with all aspects of the mind-body connection.