Barb sighed, “I’ve tried so hard to live a good life and follow many of the guidelines for happiness that I’ve read online and in books by life coaches, rabbis, and psychologists. I know that Judaism says that happiness is being content with your portion and I try to count my blessings every day, yet, I’m ashamed to admit, that after all these years I’m still not a happy person. I don’t know what to do. All those happiness formulas just don’t work for me. I’m beginning to believe that I’m doomed to be unhappy the rest of my life.”
Barb is not alone. There are many like Barb who work hard at being happy but the happiness formulas don’t help. Why not? I think the answer is simple. They don’t work because there is actually a good reason why these people are unhappy.
As it turns out, Barb is unhappy because her mother constantly compared her to her older sister who was a super star in every way. Barb never felt she could be like her sister and so from a very early age, Barb just gave up. She concluded, “I will never be like my sister and will never please my mother, so why try?”
Barb feels hopeless and hopeless people are unhappy people. She feels hopeless because she believes that she can never be successful in life. Once Barb discovered this truth about her experience as a child, it opened new worlds of possibility for her. Over time, her life was gradually transformed. She learned to believe in herself and that she didn’t have to be like her sister to feel good about herself. She learned how to value herself and be herself. She now understood that the happiness formulas did not work for her because she had been suffering her whole life with a very specific problem. Once the problem was identified she was on the path to feeling more fulfilled and happier.
Josh is not just unhappy, he is also angry. He has gone to anger management classes and learned all the techniques for calming himself, shifting his focus, and thinking more positively, yet he still gets angry and feels miserable. He wonders why the techniques aren’t helping him feel better.
Josh has a good reason for being angry. Josh is angry at a teacher who molested him many times when he was ten years old. He only discovered this by reading a book on child molestation and realized after talking with a close friend that he had repressed these memories because they were too painful and overwhelming to face. Once Josh faced the truth and worked it through with a therapist he got his anger under control and he began to feel much calmer and happier.
A good piece of advice for becoming a happier person may well be to spend less time reading happiness articles and to spend more time getting to know yourself in a deeper way. Asking the following two questions may help in this regard:
Might there be a good reason why I am unhappy which I’m just not aware of?
Might there be some disturbing experience in my past that is still causing me pain now?
Before going to the next happiness seminar, perhaps a better use of your time may be to stop and take a good honest look at yourself and your life. You just may uncover the reason why you have been unhappy. If you do, you now have a powerful tool that can open new worlds of possibility for personal transformation and for finding the happiness that has eluded you.