As a word nerd, I love to look up the definition of words, even words I know. As a therapist, the idea of happiness and trying to help people “be happy” has been mulling around in my head so I thought I would try to sort it out on paper. Webster’s defines happy as “feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc.”; “pleased or glad about a particular situation, event, etc.” (emphasis added) And there, in the definition we have the answer: the circumstances of life are not always pleasurable. If we start from the distorted premise that we are supposed to be happy as the goal of life, it is easy to see how we can be led on the endless pursuit of happiness...down whatever yellow-brick road we think will get us to Oz, i.e. a relationship, beauty/body image, success, wealth, excitement, escape, etc.
What if the premise is wrong? What if life is about BEING and embracing all of the emotions of life instead of chasing after only one and avoiding or repressing the others. No one wants to experience sadness, hurt, or worry. I know it is not enjoyable; in fact, it is painful and hard. And, at the same time, it is a necessary part of life when fully embraced and fully lived...in truth, it is probably where we grow and change the most. Happiness feels good, and I hope for as much of it as possible for all of us; however, it is not the marrow of life; it is not necessarily where we grow to a new level of understanding and loving and being. It is not usually where the journey of living is done, but rather, the reward and respite along the path of life to be savored and shared with others, for us to have the energy and strength for the hard parts of the journey. If we are so busy chasing happiness, speeding down the path to where we think it is, we may miss a lot of it along the way. In life, there will be times of great happiness, times of contentment, times of worry, times of great sadness, and times when it’s all mixed up.
-Acceptance of and loving ourselves,
-Allowing ourselves to BE in this life, and
-Allowing ourselves access to all of our emotions for the purpose they were intended...to bring understanding and ability to cope with the circumstances of life...
May just be the way of happiness...maybe it isn’t a pursuit after all...maybe, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we have the answer all along and don’t know it is in every step we take.
Perhaps it’s not a destination nor something to pursue, but something to look for, cultivate, and embrace along the way. The more things we notice and allow to make us happy; the happier we will be. The simpler they are; the easier they are to find. So... where do you find happiness? I hope you notice and experience as much of it as possible while also allowing yourself to experience all of the emotions of life.