Oh, the myths about happiness! Many people struggle with several myths about happiness. Some feel happiness is the natural state for all human beings. They compare themselves negatively to other people who are obviously (at least to those making the comparison) happy. Every person is unique. Everyone has worries, hurts, concerns. All of us go through cycles of being happy and otherwise. When I’m unhappy I’m not seeing that. I feel miserable, they don’t, and it’s not fair. I’m comparing their happiness to my own and find myself lacking. And down that deep, dark, rabbit hole I go. That’s myth #1. Happiness is not a natural state, its cyclical.

I work with people all the time who have the unspoken idea that if they’re not happy they must be defective. Nothing is further from the truth. Unhappy people are not defective. They’ve simply not learned or forgot how to make themselves happy. This one is easily fixed and I showed you several ways last week. And that’s myth #2.

Some people feel they have to get rid of all negative feelings in order to be happy. That’s a trap. The more I want to get rid of a negative the more I tend to have it. Don’t believe me? A nasty example I use with my clients is to bounce or roll a small rubber ball in their sight while telling them to ignore the ball while we talk. They can’t stop focusing on the ball. They think about my ball and me being annoying. Most folks can’t tolerate 5 minutes of this. Some get to the point of grabbing my ball and yelling at me to stop. Imagine that! The same thing happens with our negative feelings. The more I try to ignore them the more I find I’m thinking of them. Then scold myself for not being able to focus, not being able to concentrate, for being weak, etc., and react badly. And down I go in a negative spiral. My rabbit hole is getting full, myth #3.

The last trap happens when people feel they should be able to control their thoughts and feelings. I just showed you (hopefully) that this doesn’t work. That’s #4.

What’s the way out of these traps? We think constantly. We feel sensations and emotions constantly. Short of death, this stuff doesn’t stop. Notice I skipped sleep? Ever hear of nightmares? Nightmares can be thought of as our mind’s way of telling us we have unfinished business. Here are several ways past these myths and traps.

First, don’t compare yourself to others. You’re unhappy right now. That’s fixable. I gave you four methods last week, and you have the ability to make yourself happy. Keep in mind that everyone has problems and worries. When we focus on negative thoughts and feelings we literally buy into and embrace them. In a sense, we fuse with them. What I need to do is defuse from them. One way is to challenge them. If my thought is “I’m useless” I can add a preface. An example might be “I’m having thoughts about my being useless. I wonder why? I’m not useless or hopeless. I’ve done things I’m proud of, I’ve had success in the past and can do so again. If someone told me I’m useless they’re obviously mistaken or they have a problem.” Lastly, I can recognize that my feelings and thoughts are temporary. They will come and then they will go. I simply don’t need to buy into them. It’s a choice I can make.