Humans search for happiness in the oddest ways. We look to other people, we try to change locations, we seek out fame and fortune, yet all these things are as useful as blowing soap bubbles.
Happiness is somewhere else?
While cruising the web last evening, I fell upon a quote by Robert Holden, PhD, that took my breath away:
“Beware of Destination Addiction – a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.”
To be truthful, I had never thought of humanity’s always looking on the other side of the fence for greener grass an addiction. But it appears now to me, that is the case.
I looked online to find out what the dictionaries and encyclopedias had to say about the word “addiction”. This is a definition I found: “An unusually great interest in something or to do or have something” Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Our search for happiness
I have pondered on this revelation, and so I decided to write what my opinion is concerning the human addiction for our search for happiness.
My therapist Paula began speaking to me about this very subject many years ago. One of her favorite illustrations was the movie, The Wizard of Oz. She stated that many life lessons could be learned from the film.
For example, she would speak of how Dorothy spent so much of her time daydreaming of a place of acceptance that she totally missed the love she experienced at home. She had to go on a quest, going through many trials and sufferings, before she was awakened to that very fact. Indeed, she discovered, the grass is never greener on the other side of the fence, sometimes it can be rotten and toxic.
It took me many years to understand her words.
I didn’t comprehend that I had been traumatized so badly as a child, that I lived in a fantasy world where “if only” reigned regarding my happiness.
If only I didn’t live with a severe mental illness or I had a husband and children. If only I hadn’t dropped out of college…
The list goes on and on.
Like Dorothy Gale, I had to go through some hard times to find the truth.
Ready to take on life
Long after I had lost Paula to a bankruptcy, and after I had lived in a long-term psychiatric facility for many years, Paula’s words come back to me.
I had begun to see a new therapist through the local mental health clinic that served the facility. She understood my diagnosis, and began to give me the same wonderful treatment that I had received from Paula.
Due to her expert care, one morning I had an awakening that shook me to the core and out of my complacency. I knew, suddenly, with every inch of my being, that I was ready to take on life. I knew I needed to seek out my destiny, which meant carrying on my quest for happiness.
That was only the beginning. A year and a half later, I was able to move out of the mental health system, and back into the community. Remarkably, soon after, I began seeing Paula again.
I was reminded again of Dorothy Gale.
One day, in Paula’s office, I had an epiphany.
The happiness I was searching for, that I had been searching for from childhood, was never going to be found outside myself. I had to find it inside me.
I know this can be a disappointing revelation to many who are determined to find happiness in a geographical move, a new relationship, or a new job. But even quitting an addiction does not bring happiness.
“So, what on earth does bring happiness?” you may be asking.
I began to seek out what it was that I was looking for. What it was I wanted to spend the second half of my life doing. I stopped depending on other people to satisfy my needs for love, acceptance and joy. It became important to begin creating inside myself all those things.
Creating love, acceptance and joy inside myself didn’t happen overnight, and it will take constant maintenance. Also, this does not mean I ignore other relationships in my life. I am a human, and that makes me a social animal just like everyone else. It means though that I don’t depend on these important relationships to fulfill me and make me happy.
How to change
There were some important steps I needed to take.
One of the first things I had to do, with Paula’s expert help, was to take a good hard look at who I was and what my values were. It was a heart-wrenching experience. But after I had seen my true self, I was able to begin the process of accepting myself with all my flaws and shortcomings. I have been successful in forgiving myself for all the foolish mistakes I’ve made. More importantly, I have begun to love me. That is powerful.
Next, I had to look at my locus of control, (the degree that I believed I controlled my life). I found instantly that I was allowing other people’s behaviors and attitudes control how I felt about myself and my future. Realizing that would never do, I began to practise changing the way I viewed my reactions to other people. I started concentrating on where and who I am regardless of the messages they are conveying.
After beginning to search for happiness from within, to my amazement and relief, I discovered a caring, warm, intelligent human being. I found someone who wishes to use her experiences going down the road less taken. Someone who wants to enrich the lives of others who are on the same or a similar journey.
This piece is in no way meant to be saying I have found the answers, or that I live in some sort of self-accepting bliss. That would be absurd. Life is bound up in two lessons, which I have written about before, but have become my mantra.
Life isn’t easy, and life isn’t fair.
It is my belief, that after one accepts oneself as much as humanly possible, understanding these two fundamental facts of life makes life easier. It puts all problems into proper context.
Searching and searching for happiness outside ourselves will always be unsuccessful. The reason? Because other people are searching too, and will let you down when you don’t meet their expectations of making them happy.
Besides, you can have a meaningful relationship with another person only if you know who you are. That way you don’t bring to the relationship the baggage of neediness. Two half people do not make a whole.
As the quote by William Arthur Ward states, “Happiness is an inside job.”
“Realize that true happiness lies within you. Waste no time and effort searching for peace and contentment and joy in the world outside. Remember that there is no happiness in having or in getting, but only in giving. Reach out. Share. Smile. Hug. Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself.” Og Mandino