Val is a life-long practically oriented student of effective emotional and attitudinal responses to the many challenges of life.
Happiness is not an ideal or reason, but of imagination.
Emotionally Lost Without Instructions
Believe it or not -- and am about to try helping you to believe -- happiness is nothing more but a mental skill, which gets better with practice. Look at it this way -- if you decided to jog every morning, you would rely on a bear chasing you down the road, so that you would have a "reason" for running.
Now, ever since my intuition pushed me into this life-long venture to think for myself, I kept discovering one after another some limiting beliefs running the engine of our cultural paradigm.
One in particular was this common attitude of emotional dependence on a nature of circumstances, and what kind of mood was "prescribed" for each of them by collective and customary practice.
At times it makes me wonder if people would know how to emotionally react to life if no one gave them that manual in the process of their growing up. By the time we grow into adults, it's already a well played-in routine, and we don't question anymore if it's appropriate to be cheerful on Monday morning; or react with joy for standing in long line-ups.
Isn't it great not having to decide upon our feelings? We got them all covered somewhere in the hard drive of our brains. And no one seems to dare questioning such robotic behavior, since every aspect of it so nicely fits under the umbrella of "no one is perfect".
Indeed, it's like we have absolutely no say over what kind of emotions may "befall" us. So we hear something like: "He made me so angry"...or: "Her complaining drives me crazy"...or: "I'll be the happiest person on earth once that the mortgage is paid off."
Yeah, sure. Somehow, by magic, those people make their way inside our skulls and find those buttons which they mercilessly push. Well, I count on everyone's intelligence when I tell them that it's all of their own make. They just use others' behavior as a trigger for feeling crappy -- not because they want to, but because "they can't help it." Or can they?
There is some kind of sweet innocence in being human -- in not having to be just happy or just sad -- in the nature of being able to be both broke and whole, at the same time.
-- C JoyBell C.
Not Knowing That We Can
Indeed, to a Mr. Calm of my breed it's almost painful to observe how people fuss over things without a slightest idea that they could "calibrate" their emotional apparatus and screen out all crap happening around them, and at most distant parts of the globe -- since that also seems to bother them.
By the end of this article, I hope that at least some of you may start questioning this popular passion of playing an emotional victim of the outside stimulation. Maybe, along with me, you will start seeing folks as upright walking pianos with a keyboard, with those black and white keys corresponding to their emotional repertoire and always available for pressing.
The problem with all that doesn't seem to be in our inability to be more emotionally pro-active and much less re-active in daily computation of what we feel -- but rather in our not knowing that we can.
Let's face it, folks -- we don't hear anyone on any given Monday morning say: "I just love making myself happy"
That's the main problem -- this "monkey-see-monkey-do" syndrome. Meaning that, if monkey doesn't see, monkey doesn't do, and monkey would start choosing his own feelings only after all other monkeys started doing it. Now, of course, I am not being impolite to call people "monkeys", I just like the metaphor enough to use it.
When as a kid you did something "bad" enough for your mother to send you to your room, she didn't finish her verdict with words: "It's now up to you if you want to see it as amusing or as a punishment".
We have been heavily programmed how to react. And now, unless we have been enjoying it that way, it could be a good idea to consider undoing some of it. What do you say? I understand that some of you might have read my other articles which didn't do much for your desired inner changes, except possibly giving you a passing inspiration.
So, here I go, persistent as ever, trying from just a little different angle to convince you that we really can feel as happy as we want -- and I mean, without that shot of brandy or getting laid.
The secret of happiness is freedom, the secret of freedom is courage.
-- Carrie Jones
Try My New Dish with Those Same Potatoes
In some of my previous articles I might have called it something different, but let me explain this apparent paraphrasing. We all know what a potato is. If you are served potatoes in one dish, for some reason you may not find it as appetizing as those same kind of potatoes in some other dish, maybe with some extra spice or two.
You got where I am going with this. So, I am writing this post in hope that my today's potatoes may taste more delicious and easier to digest. Sometimes a single phrase used triggers that deeper understanding, and even prompts us to try it.
So, this time, let's try it with that phrase which is quite familiar:
Fake it till you make it. And it doesn't matter how well you are faking it -- but how persistently.
Being this kind of dude with this apparent mission to inspire people to feel better, sometimes I ask people of my life: "Why don't you try something for the first time -- like deciding right now, this moment, to feel great -- and I mean great? Then they give me a look like I just asked them to use a dull knife for splitting an atom.
But, being also a persistent, albeit a well-meaning pest, I keep pushing: "Come on, your face is not even trying to relax, with those over 80 little muscles, each insisting on maintaining a crappy disposition. And look at your raised shoulders that are crying to be dropped. Your whole posture is dictating to your mind to feel on guard, as if thousand demons are lurking from every corner."
Of course, I don't use that colorful language -- I may simply tell them: "No one is after your precious ass, so brighten up, buddy!"
Well, admittedly, my success record is nowhere near Tony Robbins' -- while they might pick up some enthusiasm, but then they forget it at times when someone mentions politics.
That's where I lose them completely. More often than not, the opposite happens -- I join their bitching out of sheer compassion. Well, they are so much easier to imitate than I.
So, let me repeat that important point:
It's not that we "can't" feel happier at will, but we don't know that we can, since no one ever told us that we can.
We are social beings, and as a part of our much needed feeling of "belonging" we feel obligated to be as much as we can like everybody else, not to be looked at as oddballs, or even traitors of a sort.
Just think of the situation when everyone around you is pissed off, while you are leisurely whistling your favorite tune. Well, reminds me of the time when on a Monday morning my boss told me: "Come on, Val, it's Monday, you are making everybody around nervous by being so happy. Be miserable, like the rest of us. Be a part of the team, will you."
There is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort.
-- Charlotte Bronte
Really, It's All About Some Re-Training
Back there I mentioned the old, good advice: "Fake it till you make it". While you might have already used it for some new dance steps or something, you probably never expected that a dude would ask you to fake your happiness.
Now, even if you tried it, how long would it last, before fading away, replaced by the usual emotional routine dictated by the situation. You might have tried that faked enthusiasm at mother-in-law's birthday -- even caught yourself complimenting her hairdo -- just to drop that phoniness like a dirty shirt as soon as it was over. It felt so good to be your pissed old self again.
But, again, the trick is not even worth the effort if we are not planning to persist. Like the good Dr. Joe Dispensa's much repeated mantra goes: "Brain cells that fire together -- wire together". Meaning that, thanks to something like neuroplasticity, or ability of brain to change itself, we can create new neural pathways when we insist on the same pattern of emotional experiencing.
So much for fancy talk -- let's get back to this simple truth that happiness is a skill to be practiced -- not a result of some favorable life circumstances. Unless we got that capacity for happiness cultivated, no sex, no fine foods, no winning on lottery will do it -- except for a temporary spike of our feel-good neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, endorphin, and other good chemical crap from those smart books.
For that practice you can pick a time when it's easier to see the instant effects -- like at Sunday barbecue with few empty beer bottles already sticking out from the bucket. Don't try it at first when your boss comes to you and with a poker face tells you: "Come to my office, we need to talk".
Just like you wouldn't pick your first day for jogging on a gloomy, sunless day -- do your happiness practice when it's easy. That emotional pattern will get reinforced every time you do it, and one day you'll catch yourself "choosing" to feel happy as a lark while everyone around you is pissed big time.
And then, to your delight, you will realize that now, in the name of "belonging" you have to fake being pissed -- while inside having fun with the whole situation.
One priceless thing to derive from all this is worth remembering at all times:
Whatever is going on within your personal space is of your own make. Since your level of happiness greatly affects your immune system and your general vitality -- expand this truism to your well-being as well.
Nobody really cares if you're miserable, so you might as well be happy.
-- Cynthia Nelms
Changing the Concept of "Normal"
It's been some decades now that I watched a comedy movie called: "What's So Bad About Feeling Good", with George Peppard in leading role. It was about this rare (fictional) bird that rapidly spread a "virus of happiness" -- with some comically disastrous consequences following it.
All of a sudden, police had nothing to do, with the whole justice system coming to a standstill, hospitals getting empty, as well as shopping malls, because people suddenly were just happy with what they already had. A state of emergency was declared. "Luckily" for the whole "system", before it collapsed, that virus didn't last, and soon everything went :back to normal".
A little taste of that movie is what you may get after you snap out of your "normal" and start being a "happy human specimen". I should know it too well, being called "weird", more by looks I got than by words. There were times when I had to literally defend my state of happiness, since those around acted offended by it. Although, jealousy was much more frequent feature of responses I got.
So, be ready for some mixed reactions from folks who habitually re-act a lot. But that's the price of happiness on this culture market where mostly misery is being sold as an "item of normalcy".
But then, always think of all the benefits your happiness is producing on every level of your life.
For, ultimately, our happiness is our own choice, our own responsibility. If we don't expect others to tell us how to breathe, how to sleep, and eat -- why expect the world to dictate our thinking and feeling?
You have more power over your emoting than you think. Use it. Cheers!
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© 2020 Val Karas