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October 20, 2014

Happiness or Suffering: Feel Free to Choose.

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“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

~Buddha

According to Wikipedia, happiness is “a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.”

So it is no surprise that happiness is by far the number one thing people in our society want to achieve. How great we would feel if we were truly happy! It seems like we are relentlessly pursuing a constant state of well-being, which implies that we are not happy now. Why is that?

We come up with countless reasons:

“Because my parents didn’t raise me the way they should have.”

“Because of the deception in my past relationship, I can’t trust anyone.”

“Because my job is so stressful.”

“Because I don’t have enough money to do the things I want to do.”

“Because…”

We could go on and on with this thinking for hours.

But are these really the things that minimize our happiness?

Aren’t we the ones who feel dissatisfied? Aren’t we the ones who feel that these circumstances are making us unhappy? And aren’t we the ones who are living our lives?

Aren’t we supposed to take responsibility for the way we feel and how we live our lives?

Yes, life would probably be easier living in abundance with no negative influences—with a perfect childhood, the perfect husband or the two million annual salary. But this is not how life works. Who says that we cannot find genuine happiness in spite of these concepts of what the perfect life would be?

Blaming others = Playing the Victim = Suffering

We have been conditioned to blame external aspects that supposedly influence our lives and hold us back from doing the things we want to do, from pursuing our dreams. Blaming our emotional state on these outside forces makes us feel better about ourselves by relegating the responsibility for our lives to someone else. It always seems easier to reject personal responsibility for situations that are simply not desirable or exciting to us.

But you know what? No matter what our situation is right now, and no matter how unhappy it may make us feel, we have to take responsibility for it. I don’t necessarily mean that we need to take responsibility for not having money, not being capable of maintaining a romantic relationship, or whatever it is that we are frustrated about.

Instead, we have to be in charge of getting out of the situations and leaving our resentment behind us. Yes, every single one of us has a backpack full of emotional baggage to carry—from early childhood, through late adolescence, to today—and this doesn’t make things easier. However, the key difference is what we make out of it, and how we choose to handle it.

Get out of the victim role

Does it help to allow ourselves to accept the victim’s role and believe that because so many bad things have happened, we now have to suffer? No, it does not. Not at all.

We must get out of this role of the victim. We have to reclaim our lives and take them back into our own hands. We have to make the best out of our past for the sake of our future. We have to refuse to stagnate and instead, begin to change things. Only we can do this. No one else will ever take responsibility for our lives.

Taking Responsibility = Happiness

So, what exactly do I mean by “taking responsibility?” Well, this is pretty simple. Whenever we feel a negative emotion, such as anger, sadness, or embarrassment, we have the choice to either accept it, or change it.

Often, accepting these kinds of feelings can have an undesirable effect on us and our external worlds, so the solution is to consider changing our emotional state. Of course this is not easy, but with regular practice fueled by courage, we will begin to see what is behind the emotion. We will learn to openly embrace the cause, setting the path for an emotionally calmer, relaxed and much happier life.

The same applies whenever we find ourselves in a bad situation. For instance, what if we don’t have much money and have to live in a little, old apartment? Or we have been single for the last three years because our trust in others was demolished in our last relationship? Well, instead of complaining about it, or blaming others for it, take responsibility!

And this is how we can do it:

1. Figure out the areas in life we are unhappy about (emotional reactions, situations, relationships, etc.)

2. Ask: “Can I accept it, and from that moment on, live with it without getting hung up on this again?” If the answer to this question is no…

3. Ask: “How and what can I change (regarding that emotional reaction, situation, relationship, etc.) so I can finally live with it?”

I know what you might be thinking. “This is not as easy as she says.” Or, “She doesn’t have a clue about what is going on in my life. This will never work for me.” Please recognize that with these thoughts, we again are catapulting ourselves right into the arms of the role of the victim.

We can choose to navigate the direction life takes, starting today.

Choose happiness, not suffering.

 

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Apprentice Editor: Guenevere Neufeld / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: via author

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