Happiness, the eternal quest – A two-part series
By Norman Araiza
Happiness: It’s the goal of every human being. But what is it? It is many things to many people. But one thing that all definitions include is the idea of satisfaction. Satisfaction is usually associated with goal achievement. The late Abraham Maslow referred to them as needs, which then become identified as goals. When we reach a goal we feel good. We have been successful at accomplishing that to which we committed ourselves. So, are we happy? Maybe we are happy momentarily. Yet, some of the most accomplished people I know are not necessarily the happiest people I know.
I think happiness is a skill. If we don’t learn it at a young age, it is harder to learn as we get older. Sadly, many equate happiness with buying things, as though spending money is the key. Yet we all know that you can’t buy it. But we can all relate to the rush we get from finding and buying an object of our desire. Sometimes it’s wonderful. Is that happiness? Or, is it merely a distraction from our lack of it?
For those that know, happiness is found everywhere they look for it. Maybe that’s a clue. Most of us don’t look for it. But, we get angry because we have lost it. Many search for happiness with a plan… “Let’s see, first I get my degree, then I get a good job, then the wife and kids, the big house and then I’ll be happy.” Or, “When I retire, then I’ll be happy.” But do they look for it? Many take it for granted, as, when they have accomplished this or that, they will be happy. I call it postponing happiness.
Happiness only occurs here and now. It can’t be found thinking of the past. Whatever joy you may receive from a brief memory is lost when you return to the present. Then you feel worse as you realize it is not real and is only a distraction. The future is a fantasy you may create or may not. The problem is that most of us take whatever thoughts come to mind as gospel. As if, because you thought it, it must be true. We just accept the thoughts as if it is coming from some higher authority. That’s because originally, it did come from some higher authority, usually our parents or some significant other when we were quite young and could not think clearly for ourselves. At that time we were grasping at any and all information in an attempt to make sense of the world in which we found ourselves. We have been reacting to that information all of our life as though it was gospel. The truth is, our parents were doing the best they could at the time. However, that does not mean that what we learned from them about who we were and what we were capable of was necessarily right. Many of the clients I see are still reacting to the erroneous messages they received from others about themselves. They buried themselves with the B.S. others have dumped on them. For many of us, therapy means digging themselves out of the B.S. and discovering who they truly are, can be or want to be.
Try this; take a deep breath, hold it, now slowly release it. As you do this think of nothing else but the pleasure in releasing that breath and let a smile come to your face. That’s it! You have found it. It’s just that easy.
Next week, the top 10 ways people keep themselves from being happy.
Norman Araiza M.A. is an American trained psychotherapist enjoying a limited practice in SMA. He is available for consultation at 152 7842 or firstname.lastname@example.org.