Sunday, March 16, 2008

Happiness

We all want to be happy, but what does that really mean?
To quote June Stepansky:
I wanted a small thing really.
I wanted to be happy.
That was my mistake,
and the beginning of a terrifying,
exhilarating odyssey into
the very core of being!
Why is happiness so difficult to achieve?
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(June Stepansky is a published poet and writer who now has a monthly self-help web-site on the internet. For a variety of self-help information visit A DIFFERENT VOICE- -Monthly newsletter featuring poetry, opinion and the exploration of a happier lifestyle.http://home.att.net/~adifferentvoice/)

Therefore, we must look inward first; if we ever hope to achieve true happiness. Trying to shape the world around us without first re-shaping our true inner selves will not produce happiness. Quite frankly, that method usually creates more unhappiness in the long run.

Let’s look at our goals. What do we want? What do we think is going to make us happy?

We have already established that we all want to feel pleasure or happiness. In striving to feel this way we can sometimes form addictions to things like food, money, drugs, alcohol, and even other people. These types of addictions have the ability to turn us into slaves, and prevent us from freely dealing with other people and situations around us. Most addictions dull our perceptions and give us a false sense of reality, making it impossible to enjoy the love and beauty within ourselves. If you can learn to turn these addictions into preferences and are able to live with or without them you will find that you are able to live more freely, which ultimately means you will be happier.

As a victim of abuse you have probably had to use manipulation just to survive, even if you didn’t realize it at the time. Now that you are free to make your own decisions it may be very appealing to you to try to control and/or manipulate everyone and everything around you in order to prevent being abused again. You may find yourself feeling the need to have power over others and may express this in many ways, some of which are; acting sick, weak, or more helpless than you are in order to gain the attention or cooperation of others. You may feel that the only way they will help you or do what you want is if you gain their sympathy, thus you feel like you are controlling the situation and hold the power over their actions.

Our need for support from others is the driving factor that most often leads to this behavior and can be countered by realizing that we do not “need” someone else’s approval of us to be happy. Many of us think that we can gain respect and acceptance of others by controlling them, when in fact if we respect ourselves and love ourselves others will also. It is the inner respect and love that we must strive to achieve. Once achieved others will want to support, respect, and love us also.

After escaping an abusive relationship many of us feel that our lives are in a whirlwind. We have to start over both in the physical and emotional sense of things and that feat appears to be impossible. You have been told over and over again that you can’t do anything right, that you couldn’t make it on your own, that no one wants you, etc. Deep down you know those things aren’t true but human nature prevents us from seeing that. You have been programmed to think you are worthless, so you must re-program your mind.

There are several things that are necessary to re-programming. Some of them are: forgiveness, getting rid of self-inflicted guilt, dealing with the sense of loss, and re-establishing who you really are. All healing must start from within, no one else can give you the magical formula, and you must delve into yourself and ask some very difficult questions. You must also be prepared to face those answers, deal with them one at a time and above all be honest and true to yourself.

The reality that each of us creates in our minds is just as real as the reality that others see us in. Often it is our mental reality that leads our physical reality, rather than the other way round. As human beings what we perceive to be true will be true for us, and will carry all the emotions and feelings of physical reality, which in turn will affect our physical reality. Many abuse victims will often say “I know I’m not crazy, but why do I feel that way”. It is because of the constant struggle going on between what you perceive and what is real. This is not your fault, as you weren’t the one in control of your physical reality, and therefore you perceived a reality that
allowed you to survive.

Many abuse victims hesitate to leave their abusers or to call the police on them because they feel love towards the abuser, and do not want to get them in trouble. On the other hand many do not report the abuse because they have been conditioned to think they are nothing without the abuser or that the abuser needs them, with the abuser playing on sympathies to keep things the way they are. Many victims also return after leaving for these same reasons.

To regain any semblance of practical reality we must first realize that the person we were in love with no longer exists. Once that person became an abuser they were changed from what we loved. Next we must examine the fact that we do not need them, it is much easier to keep a house clean and raise children without being abused. Now that you have been forced to do it the hard way, you can do it the easy way with out the abuser there. And last we must realize that the abuser in no way needs us except to pad their ego and to feel they have control of something.

One way to bring yourself to these needed realizations is to contemplate the emotions that are waging war inside you. These emotions may be pushing you forward too fast or holding you back. Since we have already seen that what we perceive is what really creates our reality then it will be easy to take that one step further and examine the emotions driving those perceptions.

By examining your emotions, you will begin to form a clear path to your happiness by noting which emotions are holding you back and need to be let go, which ones need your attention and which ones you can safely maintain. Do not let your desires stray from being wants to being needs. You control you now. You can decide what is going to make you happy and what isn’t. You will notice that once you start working through your emotions, no matter how hard it is, you will start to see a change in your self-esteem also. This is a wonderful side effect of trying to achieve happiness!

Here is an exercise to help you with this:
Some people find it helpful to start out by writing it all out. You can do this in the form of a letter to your abuser; of course you know you aren’t actually going to give it to them so you can be very open, honest and actually quite frank in what you have to say. Others refer to this as a “burn letter”; where you write it all out, put it aside in a sealed envelope where you know no one is going to read it, go back and read a few hours or days later, then destroy it. From that you should gain a sense of what you are most hurt by, thus giving you a starting point.

If that seems to daunting, or you just simply do not have the time to lock yourself up somewhere to put it all down on paper, or even if you have the time you just don’t want to write you could skip the longer letter and go right to the shorter version. Some people find it helpful to do both or only one. Read through it and see what you think will fit you.

This will be a list of everything you are feeling right now; beside each feeling describe what that feeling means to you. I suggest you work with three to start with but choose however many you like. After you have made your list answer these questions about each feeling or emotion on your list.
Who is making you feel this way?(If it is yourself then say that)
What are the actions that are making you feel this way? (Be detailed)
What other emotions or feelings surface when you think about this?

Some possible feelings to choose from to get you started, you will probably have more and different ones. You will notice that some of the feelings below are positive feelings; you will need to look at those also to ensure that those positive feelings are for the right reasons.

Anger (at yourself, your abuser, or others); Aggravation; Bitterness; Despair; Hate; Jealousy; Joy; Relief; Resentment; Sadness; Sense of Loss; Worthlessness

You may have already noticed that by answering the questions about your emotions you are finding out things that you really hadn’t thought of before this point. Answer the questions above about these new feelings that arise, the same as you have the ones you already realized. Understanding exactly what you are feeling at any given time and knowing what actions will trigger what feelings will allow you to be in control of yourself.

For now, just knowing what emotions you are having is enough. You do not really need to do any major in depth analysis about how to re-route your feelings or how to change them. You only need to put them into order as to the ones that you feel you want to work on changing or getting rid of all together and the ones you want to keep or increase, and have a firm understanding as to why you what to do so.

You may have also realized that there are emotions that you wish to experience that you are not experiencing at this time. Those feelings may be on your needs list. It is possible that you listed happiness as a need, since emotions or feelings can be needed. Or you may not have realized that you were missing some feeling you’d like to have until doing this assessment, and you can now go back and add this to your needs list.