I really want to be happy! Don’t I? Then why do I find myself doing things that others want but that I don’t want? Why do I keep hurting myself doing things and reaching for goals that ceased to bring me pleasure long ago?
Do I really want to be happy? I do! But I also want fulfillment, and my mid-Western Baptist upbringing has told me all my life that there is no gain without pain. The way my brain extrapolates this is: the more pain, the greater gain.
Of course that extrapolation isn’t true. If it were true, then self-harm would be a virtue. And I don’t believe that. Yet I still find myself unconsciously expecting – and feeling satisfied with – experiencing pain for emotional and spiritual gain. It’s very true that we sometimes need to go through hard times to gain something valuable to us. Building our own business, having a baby, running a marathon. But not always. And not necessarily.
I’ve discovered that when I find myself making things more difficult than they need to be, it’s really because I’m scared that if I don’t add the pain, it will come on its own in a way that I can’t control. So in some form of magical thinking, I deliberately add the pain component – as insurance.
The key to changing that magical thinking is awareness, then changing it bit by bit, tiny step after tiny step, so that one day I wake up to a day that is effortlessly happy.
It does take time and it works.
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Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist. To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .