August 19, 2015

Why We’re Afraid to Be Happy.


Do you know what the greatest expressed longing is amongst those fellow travellers who come to see me, or contact me for help?

You could probably guess the answer—I guess it’s what most of us long for.

It’s to be happy.

That sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Sounds like it’s something that, once you sort out the practicalities and put some goals in place, agree the right affirmations, work out what needs to change and how that can happen, ought to be attainable.

I see you shaking your head, so I’m guessing you have some idea of what’s coming.

You know what I’m going to say. Something like, If only it were that simple.

And that’s what you’d be expecting me to say, isn’t it, because maybe that’s what you’re thinking too.

It’s what we all think—at least sometimes.

But what I’m going to say next might surprise you.

I’m going to suggest that the reason it isn’t that simple is because most of us are afraid to be happy.

It isn’t that we set out to sabotage ourselves knowingly, but every time we get close to the sense that we could be happy right now a number of different blocks to that wonderful freedom to let go and just enjoy come into play.

Let me share a few with you—see if you recognize any:

Fear that something bad will happen

“If I allow myself to be happy, something is bound to go wrong and it will all be spoiled. It really is safer not to risk it.”

Fear of disappointment

“I am bound to be disappointed. Whatever I hope for is never as good as I imagine. I’d rather not hope for too much and then it can’t hurt me when it doesn’t come up to my expectations.”

Fear of the unknown

“I’m scared of the unknown. I can’t cope with not knowing what I’m going to feel like. Even though I don’t particularly like feeling unhappy, at least it’s familiar. I feel safer inside my comfort zone.”

Fear of losing control

“I need to feel in control of things. What if being happy means that I start to feel out of control, and can’t get the control back? What if I can’t get me back?”

Fear of changing

“Being happy might change me. I won’t know myself. But worse still, other people won’t know me either. My whole world will change and I’ll be different, unrecognizable. People won’t like the new me.”

Fear of being unworthy

“Happiness is for other people, not for me. That’s not how my life has gone. I’m being punished for something I did a long time ago and I’m not supposed to be happy.”

Fear of others’ envy

“If other people see me being happy, they will want to spoil it. They will be envious and jealous and I will invite attack. I’m not supposed to be in the spotlight. That’s reserved for other people.”

Fear of not suffering anymore

“I’ve always been this person that these things have happened to. It’s my story and my identity, who I am. I don’t know how to be any other way. Suffering is familiar, and I can go there when I feel hard done to. I don’t want to give that up.”

Fear of being selfish

“Isn’t wanting to be happy selfish? I don’t think I can put myself first, my needs first. I would feel so bad not thinking about everyone else. “

Fear that it will be boring

“Life is more interesting when you’re having ups and downs. To be happy all the time would be pretty boring, always the same. I wouldn’t want to be happy all the time.”

Fear of tempting fate

“Happiness always comes before a fall. You mustn’t get too happy, because Fate will suddenly step in and deal you a blow to bring you down. Probably because you forgot to be properly grateful and started to take it all for granted.”

Fear of dying

“If I were too happy, I would die. My body couldn’t sustain it. I would be on overload, and would have a heart attack or stroke or something.”

The list would go on.

And on.

Some of our fears are seemingly more rational than others—but fears are fears are fears.

They are unconscious assumptions that have become thoughts we think frequently, and so they have become deeply held beliefs.

And, as such, they prevent us from daring to reach for happiness.

Whatever we mean by that.

I say that because I’m not sure we necessarily do know what we mean by that.

To many of us, even the word happiness is overloaded with misperceptions.

That’s why it comes with so many associated fears.

When we think of happiness, we can so often think of someone being deliriously ecstatic and upbeat, successful in material ways, self-focussed, living life as one long party. No wonder we would have all these fears about that.

While being happy can involve those things, I personally don’t think that’s being happy. I might even say, with my psychotherapist’s hat on, that what I’ve just described can more often be a manic defence against feeling anything.

So what is happiness? How do we find it?

Well, for starters, it’s very different to what all those fears up there take it to mean.

It is the deepest, most unshakeable, all-encompassing sense of wellbeing and safety.

It can be noisy, but it is just as often and just as easily quiet and peaceful.

It is the deepest knowing that we are held in a loving embrace that will never let go.

An embrace that:
has held us since the beginning,
is holding us with every breath,
and that will hold us always.

A trusting that:
we can never be lost,
and never forgotten.

A conviction that:
we are completely known,
and unconditionally loved and accepted,
with enormous compassion and grace,
exactly as we are.

And that we too are that embrace, we too are that unconditional love, and so we never can be lost or forgotten or not known.

We can’t not belong because we are part of the belonging. Part of the Oneness that is All.

And so when people come to see me, and tell me they want to be happy, and that they are not so, we don’t talk about possessions or wealth or beauty or popularity for long.

We move on pretty quickly to thinking about the only things that will bring enduring happiness.

They can be summed up pretty simply:

1. Being who we truly are: authenticity, not pretending any more, living in true alignment with who we truly are.

2. Being enough: knowing who we are and trusting that, as this amazing being who has survived and grown thus far, we have everything, all the resources, that we need already inside us.

3. Being known: feeling known and understood and a part of something greater than you. A sense of belonging.

It isn’t always easy to shut out what the world of the ego tries to tell us that happiness is. The noise can be extremely loud and it comes at us from all directions.

But we know it’s not got all the answers when we get there and things still feel hollow.

I wish you the blessing of finding yourself and the courage to be that self, fully and unashamedly, together with the knowledge that you are enough.

And the joy of knowing that you are an eternal Being of light and love having a human experience, just as I am also.

And that, in that, we are all One.




Author: Janny Juddly 

Editor: Renée Picard

Image:Waithamai at Flickr 

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