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No Way Out: The Illusion of Unhappiness

[ Jul 17, 2014 ] [ by Wendy Dolber ]

Psst.  Today I want to tell you a secret about unhappiness. Something that you can use to free yourself. 

Think about those times when you’ve been caught up in feeling sad, depressed, angry, miserable, frustrated - you name it – and you just can’t imagine being happy again.

Perhaps you can’t even remember the last time you were happy.

Perhaps it seems as if you are in a deep, dark tunnel that has no light at the end of it. Or lost in a maze with no apparent way out. 

You might even be asking yourself – how will I ever stop this? – when will I be happy again? – how do I break out of this cycle of misery?

Here’s a secret that may help you.

It’s the nature of unhappiness to believe that there is no way out.

I’ll say it again.

It is the nature of unhappiness to believe that there is no way out.

In fact, all unhappiness is based on believing we will be unhappy in the future. Even though the future doesn’t exist yet, we are still capable of imagining it exists - we are already living it and feeling it.  And if we believe we are going to be unhappy in the future, it’s very hard to imagine a way out.

I may think that what is happening right now is causing me to be unhappy right now, - as in - You are making me angry!  But if I really limited my experience of my unhappiness to the here and now – guess what happens? My unhappiness evaporates instantly. Or rather, it never happens in the first place. We do not create unhappiness in the light of the here and now. It is always based on the belief that we will be unhappy in the future. 

If you doubt this, just take a moment right now and imagine being unhappy tomorrow. How do you feel now? Chances are you are already unhappy. The same is true for happiness. 

So there is an illusory, magical quality to unhappiness. Have you ever been in a house of mirrors or found yourself between two reflecting mirrors? Magically, instead of seeing one mirror reflected, you see an infinity of mirrors in the reflection. We call this an optical illusion – of course, there is no proliferation of mirrors behind us – it just appears that way. 

The same is true of unhappiness. We are caught up in the illusion that we will be unhappy in the future. We each have our own reasons for believing that.   When we are in the house of mirrors, we can just walk away and the illusion evaporates. Can we walk away from the illusion of our unhappiness?

Yes, by understanding what our reasons are for being unhappy. 

So the belief that there is no way out of unhappiness is a very common belief. That belief is connected to other key beliefs, such as we will be unhappy in the future. Another fundamental belief is that things make us unhappy. Things make us unhappy. 

So here’s something else to consider.  We could never be unhappy if we didn’t believe there was something to be unhappy about. We could never be unhappy if we didn’t believe there was something to be unhappy about.

 In other words, something is happening that is making us unhappy. As long as that something is happening, we believe we will be unhappy. We are caught in the belief cycle of unhappiness. Now, if we believe we can control that something, perhaps we can see an end to our unhappiness. For example, we may say - this relationship is making me unhappy, so I’ll leave the relationship and then I won’t be unhappy. 

So when we believe things make us unhappy, we live our lives trying to avoid those things. And on the flip side – typically when we believe things can make us unhappy, we also believe that things make us happy, so we live our lives seeking out those things. Sound familiar? Nothing wrong with this – but is this the way you want to live your life?  Would you love to be free to feel exactly the way you’d love to feel no matter what? 

So when I say the nature of unhappiness is to believe there is no way out – I want to add that often people believe there is no way out unless something outside of me changes. What we don’t see is that the belief itself is what is causing the unhappiness. What we don’t see is that we can break out of the cycle – a cycle that we create with our own beliefs and that we can change by 1. Realizing that, 2. Questioning the belief, 3. Finding out why we think we have to believe it, and 4. Making a choice about whether we still need to believe it. When we do that, we instantly release ourselves from the belief cycle of unhappiness that we have created. Then we can begin to see ourselves and the world very very differently. 

I mentioned choice. It’s important to understand the power of our own choice in the matter of our own unhappiness. Here’s a simple exercise to get you in touch with that.  Think of five things you believe you have to be unhappy about. Now think about a time you were happy and make it be a time that coincides with the existence of at least one of the things on your list. Got it?  Now I have a question for you. How is it that you are able to be happy if there is ever a reason to be unhappy?  Why are you not unhappy about that thing every moment of every day of your life?

If that thing truly causes us to be unhappy, why would it ever take a vacation? More to the point, why would we ever give it a rest? We have to make that belief relevant to our happiness. In deciding that it is relevant to our happiness, we are choosing to be unhappy.

So here is how that might work. 

Perhaps you believe global warming is something to worry about. By worry, I don’t just mean something you want to do something about. I mean worry, as in feeling bad, fearing, anxious, losing sleep over, obsessing over, etc. You worry every time you hear about another severe weather report. The closer the weather is to you, the more you worry. Imagine you are at the shore in Maine happily enjoying your long-awaited summer vacation when you hear the news that a major hurricane is forming off the tip of Florida and may be coming up the coast in your direction. Just hearing that news immediately puts a damper on your happiness. Your belief just became relevant and the closer the storm gets to you, the more relevant it becomes and the stronger your unhappiness becomes.   

So why do you choose to make your belief relevant? What is your reason?  Even though it may not be on the tip of your tongue, you do have a reason. You have a purpose. You can break the cycle of unhappiness by understanding your beliefs, your reasons, your purpose, your choice.  

 This is what The Option Method is designed to do – to help us identify and question the beliefs (reasons) behind our unhappiness. So that we can make all unhappiness irrelevant to us. So that we can live a fearless, happiness-infused life.

Even if you can’t answer the questions I’ve posed here, remember this:

If you could ever be happy – if you ever were happy in your life – you can always be happy.

Because unhappiness doesn’t happen to you.

Unhappiness doesn’t have a life of its own.

It is not a closed system.

Unhappiness doesn’t exist in the future.

Unhappiness can’t exist in the now.

We can always find a reason to be unhappy.

But we would never do that unless we believe it is relevant to us.

We can always find a reason to be unhappy.

But to be happy, we don’t need a reason at all.

Wendy Dolber

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Happiness is being glad for who you are.

[ Bruce Di Marsico ]