We are told from the time we are born that the purpose of life is to achieve happiness and yet everything we are taught after that can teach us that we will never get there!
The path to happiness is usually full of experiences of all kinds, ones that help us be happy and potholes which challenge us. Each one of our experiences can build us up, teach us things and enforce our ability to be authentic, yet we want to label everything “good” or “bad” and believe it is “giving” or “taking away” our ability to be happy.
As children we do not have the cognitive skills or know how to protect ourselves or choose directions that will enhance our lives…we have no power to change how things are. We try to figure out how to best make it through challenging families and peer experiences. Sometimes, the ways we adapt help us be safe and feel more powerful or distracted as children but don’t work very well for us as adults. For instance, building up emotional walls to keep safe in a dysfunctional family may have helped you survive trauma as a child, but if you continue to have these walls as an adult, you won’t be able to experience truly loving and intimate connection with those you want to connect with as an adult. Or you may keep choosing people who will hurt you.
Once we are grown and can choose who we want to be and how we want to live we can explore other ways to think and behave that can change how we feel. How we interpret the data (life experiences we have) will determine how we feel. How we choose to live our lives will impact our mood.
As an adult, you do have the power to live life in your own way. Make choices that fit with who you want to be and who you want to connect with, what kind of work and activities will fill you up and how you want to see the world. You no longer have to allow others to tell you how you think and feel and what you should be doing.
And remember, we have eight basic emotions and there is no reason to expect you will always land on the Happiness space on the board of life. Being sad or scared or angry or guilty or shameful ( the so-called “bad” emotions) does not mean you are unhappy…it just means you are human. We are all born perfectly imperfect and having a full range of emotions helps us accept and embrace our own humanity.