The Science of Happiness
Saanich News June 8, 2005
Paul Beckow M.Sc. R.P.C.
Individual couple and Famliy Counsellor
Recently I had the thought that maybe I couldn’t be happy in my relationship for the simple reason that, if truth be told, I have little idea how to be happy - period. This thought shocked me...
What a great insight. Yes, this could be one of the greatest challenges in a relationship - perhaps in life. To be responsible for our own sense of satisfaction, our own happiness, moment by moment, is big.
Our happiness is something each of us must look after personally- for the simple reason no one else can. Or will. They’re busy looking after their own. So it’s up to us.
How are we doing in this regard?
Many people seem to be wrestling with life, surviving, or “braving on” in some way. Frequently exhausted and stressed through our days, we seem to have lost touch with our ease, our inner joy, our freedom to be. Life’s a battlefield.
How has this happened?
Lost in roles, responsibilities, doingness
First, I’m positive there was a time in “growing up” when each of us came to believe that life as an adult is a very serious and significant matter.
Then we “became one of them ” ( adult ) and stopped listening to our own internal signal giver. Stopped thinking about what really nurtured us, touched our soul, gave us joy or satisfaction. What made a day magical.
Our roles in our family, our work, our community – the roles that used to be vehicles for the expression of play and pleasure - become the vehicles for responsibility, obligation, work, and duty. Being adult means losing ourselves in doingness.
Certainly, it wasn’t always that way.
I remember when I was 9 years old I would jump out of bed, my feet would hit the floor, and I knew ….“I am going to play today !” I didn’t know where, how, or with whom. But I knew, as sure as I was alive, that I was going to play. That was my job.
How do we get out of bed now ?
We have forgotten how to play. We’ve forgotten that life IS meant to be play at whatever we are doing.
Lost in wanting, and waiting
Another sure way to be unhappy in life is in wanting and waiting.
“When I finish school then I’ll be happy”
“When I get my promotion then I’ll be happy”
“When I find that special woman then I’ll be happy”
“When I get rid of this woman, THEN I’ll be happy”.
This happiness we are waiting for doesn’t seem to arrive or last that long. When we get what we want we are happy for a while. But only a while.
Wanting and waiting is an old game. We learned it as children. We discovered the thought “I have to have”… then I’ll be really happy.” It began with that special cereal, the new pair of sneakers, or our driver’s license.
We also learned that if we weren’t happy, if we became upset, others just might attend to us. Being unhappy seemed to work.
As we got older we added to the pile of “what I need to be happy.” We increased and elevated the demands. Now I need: to be thinner, to be married, to have money, to be appreciated and approved of, to feel secure, to be listened to, to be loved, etc.
Our wants turn to emotions-backed demands, the cause of lots of disappointment and unhappiness.
“Someday… then ..” is a state of mind. Basically it means that we want the future. We don’t want the present. We don’t want what we have and we want something we haven’t got. This life, that we have now - this isn’t it.
There are many ways we’ve learned that can make ourselves unhappy.
Yet I believe that we do know, somewhere in our hearts, that life is this beautiful, precious gift. Being with my 3 month old granddaughter as she is sleeping on my chest is a powerful reminder of this. Wow. This is it ! This moment is it.
It is a challenge to settle or quiet ourselves, to let go of the habitual doing, the race, the striving, the obligations, the distractions. When we do, we step off the wheel and wake up to the simple things in the present moment. It’s here ( and now ) we find our life.
The taste of the orange juice, the light as it’s hitting the glass in your hand, the smell of the toast, the child sitting right on your lap, the pile of dishes waiting to be washed, the sound of the rain on the porch, the voice of your friend on the phone.
Nothing is wrong or needs to be improved. Just taking part in life is sweet.
So, for sure Brian, the science of being happy is a special kind of challenge and practice. A practice that can make a very big difference.
Paul Beckow is a certified individual, marriage, and family therapist. He can be reached at the Victoria Family Institute at 721 2477 or contacted through his web site at www.paulbeckow.com
For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.