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Putting the "Happy" in the New Year

Taken from:
Saanich News, January 3, 2006

Paul Beckow M.Sc. R.P.C.
Individual couple and Family Counsellor

My sense is that being happy is a skill. Many dont see it that way. Many see it like if good things are happening in life then generally we're happy. If not-so-good things are happening in life then we're not happy. In this view being happy in the new year seems to depend on circumstances or personal luck.

I dont see it that way. I consider being happy a real skill that we bring to life - a skill that calls for both our attention and practice.

What is the practice that will give us a happy new year ?

The foundation for happiness, begins with the willingness to be cause of our UN-happiness; In this view we consider that if we’re unhappy it’s something we’re doing, or something we are not doing. Simply. For many this is a huge leap. Yet, if taken, it is a leap that puts us in the driver’s seat, and places our hands directly on the steering wheel on the road to personal contentment.

Want a happy new year? Begin by considering your happiness is not necessarily caused by the specific events happening in your life.

Your experience of happiness, or unhappiness, is caused by your talk to yourself - the ongoing chatter that is going on in your head. Your feelings are directly hooked up to what you are saying to yourself. And you are talking to yourself all the time !

We have opinions about everything. Further we believe everything we say to ourselves. If we think it, it must be true. It doesn’t matter how it makes us feel.

What is the nature of this chattering? Much of it is evaluating, assessing, wanting, groaning, blaming, judging. Regularly, there’s something about “how things are’ that “shouldn’t be”. It’s like we’re in an ongoing quarrel with reality much of the time.

Byron Katie, in her best selling book “Loving what is” reminds us: “When we quarrel with reality we suffer – but only 100% of the time!”

Many therapists say that our natural state is happiness, satisfaction, curiosity, wholeness. Then we become experts at the unhappiness thing.

I have a teacher in this matter - my eleven month old grand-daughter Emma. I love being around Emma. Talk about happy ! It’s outrageous. She’s so happy she lights up our entire street! Open. Enthusiastic. Wide eyed. Playful. Totally engaged in each moment of life. Wow.

Oh sure there are times she’s unhappy. She bumps her head on the chair leg, she cries. Sometimes Mom leaves the room and there’s tears. But it’s over quickly. Emma has her upset quickly. Its done and she’s right back into life again.

Why? Well, Emma doesn’t make up stories. ( Yet ) She’s doesn’t say to herself, “I knew chairs couldn’t be trusted”. Or “It’s not fair. Mom always leaves me”. Notice as adults we make up lots of stories.

Emma’s not busy with unhappy stories. She’s busy and totally engaged, with real life here and now – the only place real life is found.

I think it is this unqualified participation, this “yes” to life, that creates her joy and happiness.

We sure can learn a lot from such a young one !

Have a happy new year 2006 everyone.

Paul Beckow is a certified individual, marriage, and family therapist. If you have a relationship, personal issue or concern, he can be reached by phoning 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.

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