Do you sometimes see people running around enjoying life and wonder what you’re missing? Sometimes I used to think I must be a horrible person. I had so many things going for me, and I still couldn’t be happy. I would ask myself, is there something wrong with me? Am I a narcissist?
Then sometimes I would decide I was just going to be happy. I would fake it until I made it and just accept that’s who I was. But it wouldn’t take long for me to feel overwhelmingly depressed. I had a little dark hole that would just constantly keep pulling at me and I just didn’t have the energy to keep ignoring it. My attempts to do so just made it scream louder and then I really was in a mess. This, of course, made me feel worse because it would remind me that I really must be crazy.
As I worked through my healing journey, I discovered there are three key reasons why we can’t just muscle up and be happy. Working through these three obstacles is what we need to do to move from just surviving and having moments of happiness, to thriving and living a life full of joy and inspiration. To living a life where we love who we are, what we are doing and have hope for the future. Life is never perfect, but it sure is a lot more enjoyable and fun when we love, enjoy, and fully experience the present moments we are in.
So, what are these obstacles? And what strategies can you use to work through them?
1. Validate Past Experiences:
When you have past experiences or events that you have never had the opportunity to fully validate and process, the energy of that experience gets trapped and contained within your body. It takes consistent and continual emotional energy to keep the walls around those experiences high, and the energy within contained. The energy and emotion inside is deep and strong, and to keep these feelings away from our consciousness we can’t allow ourselves to experience any deep or strong feelings, even the good ones.
Allowing yourself to pull down these walls and grieve all the deep and strong feelings inside is what will free your emotional energy to feel deep and strong happy feelings too. You will be able to feel your feelings in real time, rather than keeping them stuck in the past.
2. Let Go of the Need for Control:
When you’ve been hurt in the past, it is normal to want to curate a life where you can’t get hurt again. We create this sense of safety by ensuring our life is as predictable as possible. Anytime someone in our circle acts in a way that is outside our control we ensure they “get back in line” so we feel safe. For example, if your partner doesn’t immediately return your text, you get upset and lash out about how disrespectful he is being. If your kids don’t seem to be as concerned about their grades as you think they should be then you panic and shame them saying they will be stuck working fast food the rest of their lives. We want everyone to act as we think they “should,” so our world feels nice and safe and predictable.
Honestly, if you zoom out and look at this scenario…. Could it be any more boring? No wonder it is impossible to feel true joy and happiness. Joy and happiness come from the ability to be spontaneous, light, free, and unpredictable. I think a lot of people mistake the feeling of safe for the feeling of happy. Being in a constant search for safety keeps us in survival mode. Knowing you are safe with yourself no matter what allows you to move out of survival and into a higher consciousness that brings joy, pleasure… and happiness.
It is true that many of us have very real pain from the past and it is perfectly normal to want to self-protect from feeling any of that pain again by attempting to curate a life we can fully control. This is an unconscious decision we make out of self-protection. Choose to now make the conscious decision to let go of control. Trust that you now have all the resources within yourself to feel safe. Releasing the need to control will bring you the ability to feel joy, pleasure, and FUN again.
3. Look for Happiness:
What we look for we will find. There is a reason we constantly hear people talk about gratitude. When we look for things we are grateful for, things we enjoy, or things we love, then we create more of those things in our lives. We begin to see how much joy and happiness we already have. We so often completely overlook the goodness that’s all around us, because we are so preconditioned to see and experience all the things going wrong.
This third step is caused by not working through the first two. When our past painful experiences haven’t been validated, we look for validation in all our current painful experiences. It’s like those experiences keep haunting us until we take the time to turn around and look at them. They cloud our ability to see the happiness we already have all around us. We can’t experience the innocence and joy in our children. Nor can we accept the love and connection our friends want to offer us, or appreciate all the amazing things we are doing well at work.
When we are stuck in a pattern of the need for control, we look for all future outcomes that will help us to stay safe instead of looking for all the joy and pleasure that is already in our life. We don’t have enough bandwidth to do both, at least not all at once, so if we spend all our time subconsciously looking for ways someone else might hurt or abandon us, then we don’t have the energy left to look for joy and pleasure.
If enough is enough and you are ready to move on from feeling like you are just surviving life, implement the following three strategies to overcome the obstacles to joy.