The answer to that question is yes and no. Let’s find out why!
We are all on what seems to be a never ending quest to find happiness. Looking high and low, leaving no rock unturned. Sometimes we may even believe we found it, but it never seems to last, only temporary at best. Do we even know what happiness is? Are we even looking in the right place for it?
What if I told you that “true happiness” has been attainable for you this whole time, but you just don’t know how to access it!
Conventionally speaking, happiness levels are subjective varying from culture to culture, and person to person. One individual’s view of happiness is another individual’s idea of misery. It’s all relative. A person in Haiti for instance, may be extremely grateful and happy for having some kind of roof over their head and enough food to prevent their family from starving to death. On the other hand, the average American subjected to similar conditions would likely be filled with self-pity, lack, disappointment, and be absolutely miserable. One person may find happiness playing golf, while another may find golf extremely boring and would rather play soccer. One person may really enjoy reading a book, while another finds delight in watching a good movie. So as far as the unstable ego driven perception goes, happiness is in the eye of the beholder.
Happiness, according to Merriam Webster dictionary, is described as joy, prosperity, and a pleasurable or satisfying experience. This conventional definition suggests that one needs to have an experience or success, especially economic well-being, in order to be happy. Vocabulary.com states, “The “pursuit of happiness” is something this country is based on, and different people feel happiness for various reasons”, suggesting that happiness is something that we have to chase after to attain.
The common denominator with all forms of desire driven ego-centered happiness, no matter what form the happiness comes in, is that it can only be found through an external source, or outside ourselves. The problem with looking OUTSIDE ourselves for happiness is that there is no consistency. Not only do we need a constant stimulation from these externals to feel somewhat content, eventually these things that once made us so happy are now less appealing over time. So what do we do? We search for something else to fill the void, and this chase or “pursuit” for happiness NEVER seems to end!
The “Ill Be Happy When” Syndrome
Even if we don’t verbally state it, the majority of us have a serious case of the “I’ll be happy when’s”, always looking to the future hoping that happiness will one day arrive! There are SO many conditions we place on ourselves in order to be “so called” happy. I’ll be happy when I’m making such and such amount of money, I’ll be happy when I finish school, get a better job, a bigger house, a nicer car, etc. I’ll be happy when I lose more weight, gain more muscle, grow more hair, get better grades, have nicer clothes, find a significant other, get more friends, save more money, have more or better sex, or accomplish more on the to do list.
Or how about, I’ll be happy when the weekend comes. Not only does that mean your only happy two days a week, but even when the weekend comes its only superficial happiness based on conditions, like being off from work. You get the idea? Once again conventional and mundane, not extraordinary consistent happiness.
Even if and when we do acquire the things on the I’ll be happy when’s list, the ego can be very hard to satisfy, only stimulating a sense of happiness in the short term, then inevitably wanting more to fill the void. What once made us happy like a fresh relationship, a nicer body, a new car, a better job, or a raise, LOSES its excitement and newness. For most the relationship gets stale, the car loses its glimmer, the job gets monotonous, the body ages, and the raise is no longer enough to fit your new budget. Or we just end up SETTLING for less than what we originally opted for because we are fearful, stuck, or just not willing to match our efforts with our desires. In either case we are often left feeling lonely, envious, deprived, anxious, and incomplete, always looking for more, a better situation, or some other form of external stimuli to elevate our mood!
Ask any sex addict, wealthy workaholic, or professional athlete if these external desires are still stimulating them the same way they used to. Most all of them will have a similar story to tell (response), the sex is more habitual and has very little meaning or thrill, and making a lot of money or sinking another five-footer is just another day at the office. The reason for the inevitable discontentment is that the source of our happiness is misdirected! Like the song says, “I’m looking for love in all the wrong places.”
The list of things that one perceives they need to be happy can be fairly extensive. Ultimately, the only things we really NEED are food, clothing, shelter, and companionship (debatable, lol). The things on the list, which is fairy incomplete mind you, are what we THINK we need to make us happy, or what society says we need to “FIT IN” or increase our self-worth. We place far too many conditions on our happiness! We constantly look to the future for our happiness, and when that time comes, we just desire MORE, something different, or better.
When our happiness is contingent upon ideal life circumstances or external factors, like material wealth and feeding our self-image, we ultimately set ourselves up for failure and disappointment. There is nothing wrong with wanting a new car, house, boat, more clothes, a better job, a better body, more friends, a significant other, etc. However, discontentment is inevitable when we feel as though we NEED these things in order to achieve happiness. If we are waiting for circumstances to be perfect for us to be content, we will continue to be lost in the trees, never finding the forest (don’t hold your breath, cause it’s never going to happen.) While some of these mundane aspects of life surely have their place and hold value, they are still only temporal at best and should in no way DEFINE our happiness.
And if that wasn’t enough…
In addition to the ego never being satisfied, we also have a limited control over what life throws at us on a daily basis, adding to the inconsistency of our ego-centered desire to find happiness. Let’s take a look at what can potentially happen on a rough day to the average person. Your child misses the bus so you have to drive them to school, now their is tons of traffic so your late for work, you’re so backed up at work that you can’t take lunch so your cranky and tired, your boss is having a bad day and uses you as a pin cushion, there is too much traffic on the way home so you have to skip the gym to get dinner ready for the family, your spouse wants attention, your child needs help with their homework, the dog is barking to go for a walk, and you still have to pack the children’s lunch for the next school day! Checking personal emails, reading that book, meditation? Maybe tomorrow.
With that being said, anyone who thinks they can find consistent happiness outside of themselves is in for a NEVER-ending rollercoaster ride of ups and downs!
THE DECEPTIVE EXTERNAL FIX–ATTACHING TO EXTERNALS KEEPS HAPPINESS OUT OF OUR CONTROL!
The ego is always looking for some form of external stimulation to manufacture a superficial sense of happiness. We use external distractions like tv, music, video games, sex, porn, drugs, alcohol, social media, gossip, excessive work or cleaning, food, new stuff, denial, and anything else we can find to deviate us from our FABRICATED insecurities, NEEDLESS worrying, rumination, emotional distress, and overly-complicated, self-defeating thought processes that really only exist because we perceive them to. Unfortunately, many of these externals and emotions become addictions, tightening the ego’s grip.
These externals ATTEMPT to distract us from the negative, self-defeating chitter chatter playing out uncontrollably in our heads, day in and day out! Feelings of inadequacy: “I’m not good enough”, insecurity: “I can’t be alone”, jealousy: “Why can’t I have what they have?”, self-pity: “I can never catch a break”, self-image: “Why can’t I look like they do?” And the list goes on and on. So what do we do? We look for more eternal stimulation of course to distract us from our overbearing negative thought patterns and actions. Attaching to unconscious limiting beliefs and emotions like these will surely prevent one from being truly happy without question.
The overbearing voice of the ego traps us into this narrow-minded UNCONSCIOUS way of thinking. When our mind controls us in this manner, we do NOT have the ability to choose for ourselves, our pre-programed sub-conscious mind makes choices for us. So how then can we choose to be happy? We cannot. Being attached and CONTROLLED by our memories, emotions, belief system, self-image, and expectations of ourselves and others, places limitations on our awareness, hijacking our freedom to make unbiased conscious choices. If we don’t have the freedom to choose how we think and feel, then we certainly can’t choose whether we are happy or not!
I know exactly how deflating these uncontrollable negative thoughts can feel, because I of course, have been waist deep in uncertainty, fear, and lack myself. This self-defeating unconscious way of thinking is FAR more common than not. What this means is that there are very few people that can really claim to be TRULY happy. Too many people are knowingly or unknowingly stuck in a place of lack and disappointment, focusing on how they can GET more, as opposed to being in a place of gratitude and empowerment, consciously focusing on how they can GIVE more.
If we remain attached to our self-image, controlled by the same old belief systems (political, religious, economical, educational, personal, cultural, etc.), and accept this conventional understanding of happiness, we can rest assured that we will only experience a limited sense of happiness based on certain outcomes. This belief system has been ingrained in us since we were very young so it can be very hard to break free from.
The things of this world get old and waste away. The belongings of the spirit or higher self, however, are always fresh and new, free from decay and death!
SPIRIT TO THE RESCUE!
Until we open our minds, change our perception, and learn how to navigate our thoughts and emotions, as opposed to our thoughts and emotions controlling us, happiness can only be based on circumstance, and TEMPORARY at best! When we are able to separate our ego induced emotions from our higher self, being grateful in the present moment, then we can experience freedom of choice, and TRUE happiness.
“The whole idea of I, me, and mine was erected on memories, and these memories are NOT really you. If you release yourself from your self-image, you will be free to choose as if it were the first time” Feeling just like a child again where everything is new and exciting! –Deepak Chopra
Despite what Hollywood’s Jerry Maguire tells us, we don’t NEED anyone or anything “to complete us.” As far as the needy, insecure, fragmented ego goes, Jerry would be right, but our higher “true self” is 100% whole and ALWAYS good! The spirit feels totally complete, grateful, free of conflict, and is always in a state of fulfillment, whereas the ego is always feeling like something is missing, chaotic, and in a state of lack.
Your true self doesn’t need anything else to make it better, it is always PERFECT the way it is and needs nothing to make it more perfect. Society and culture mold your perception into believing that you are incomplete and out of place when you’re not following the “norm.”
SO, CAN WE CHOOSE IF WE ARE TO BE HAPPY, OR NOT?
The simple but complex answer to this question is that we DON’T have a choice whether we are happy when we allow the ego-dominated, deceptive, unconscious self to think, feel, react, and make decisions for us! However, when the ego is transcended or influenced by the spirit, we then have the ability or freedom to choose. When we can rely on the spirit dominated, self-realized, conscious higher self to think, feel, react, and make decisions for us, then and ONLY then can we can experience AUTHENTIC happiness and contentment!
ACCEPTANCE of daily events and circumstances while learning to identify with our higher self as our ultimate reality, is the ONLY way to experience “true happiness.” This does not mean that you will always be jumping for joy, and laughing uncontrollably every minute of the day, it means that you are consistently content and at peace with yourself and everyone around you.
Even the most spiritually focused individuals have higher vibrational days than others. It’s not about being manically happy pretending to be perfect with no frustrations or dilemmas. That’s just not realistic unless you’re a monk in a monastery. Some of us put an immense effort into forcing ourselves to look happy, even putting on a fake smile when necessary. The problem with these types is they often suppress any negative emotions and eventually snap as a result! They often snap in private because they are too focused on protecting their self-image to express their true feelings in front of others, or just want to maintain their persona of always being “so called” happy. Their source of happiness is ego generated and superficial, fabricated based on how they THINK they should feel, not how they ACTUALLY feel all the time.
Authentic happiness is organic or effortless and can only be produced when one identifies with their “true INTERNAL self.”
It’s all about having the conscious ability to detach yourself from negative thoughts and daily events that do not in any way define your higher self. It’s about detaching from internal and external attachments like memories and emotions (fear, worry), self-image (insecurity), possessions, people, expectations of yourself and others, and false belief systems that only produce inevitable internal conflicts, ultimately preventing you from experiencing pure, unconditional happiness. This doesn’t mean you have to live in poverty, deny your feelings, and live without structure. You just don’t want to attach yourself to these externals of impermanence and let them define and control you.
EXPERIENCE EMOTIONS, BUT DON’T LET THEM CONTROL YOU
Emotions are a big part of the ego and can be extremely powerful and irrational at times. While we don’t want to get rid of emotions by any means, we want to have the ability to manage them and keep them in check. While having emotions is part of being human, we don’t want to ATTACH ourselves to these emotions as if they define who we are, allowing them to negatively influence our thoughts, decisions, and reactions to everyday situations.
Take anger for example. Remaining angry at someone that may have harmed us is contradictory to well-being. Stagnating anger does not negatively impact the person whom we are angry with, only ourselves. There is a saying, only a fool would drink a cup of poison in attempting to hurt someone else. Experiencing emotions and attaching to them are two VERY different things.
Or how about fear or worry? Like being afraid of what others think about you, fear of failure, fear of change, worrying about the future, fear of life, fear of death, fear of sickness, fear of relationships, fear of crowds, fear of being alone, the list is endless…. These false perceptions of reality are what creates these emotional attachments and fears, ultimately preventing us from experiencing true happiness.
We can’t find true happiness when we search outside ourselves. True happiness can only be found when we dig deep inside and identify with our true, everlasting, always perfect self that is separate from this world and what it has to offer. True happiness is UNCONDITIONAL, and not based on circumstance. So basically no matter what happens to us, unless we are in physical danger or duress, we can remain in this place of contentment.
As far as our unconditional happiness is concerned, Deepak Chopra does not say the choice is to be happy or not, but states “THE CHOICE IS TO BE CONSCIOUS OR NOT.” The complexity of this statement lies in the fact that we cannot become conscious until we first realize that we are living unconsciously. We cannot ESCAPE the imprisonment of this world until we first realize that we are in PRISON to begin with!
NOW I’M SURE YOU’RE WONDERING; HOW DO WE GET TO THIS HAPPY CONSCIOUS PLACE?
There are a few ways to become awakened or increase our awareness. However, most people are way too desensitized and attached to the emotions of the past, beliefs, and things of this world to make this shift towards consciousness under normal circumstances. One may suddenly or gradually develop a burning desire for internal growth or personal development following a potential or dramatic life changing event, or immense suffering.
The opportunity to become self-realized or spiritually awakened may present itself in many ways. Like following a tragedy or life changing event like the loss of a loved one, serious addiction, illness, a cancer diagnosis, imprisonment, financial disaster, near death experience, or child-bearing. Most people that have a child will tell you what an incredibly awesome experience it is and never imagined it to be so. Becoming conscious minded can be a very similar experience as you are re-born. However, even if one’s awareness is expanded somewhat following lets say childbirth, most often times the drama of life sucks you right back in and the doors to self-realization slam shut.
The practice of yoga and meditation, or perhaps opening your mind with some spiritual literature or teachings can also assist in opening the doors to consciousness as you learn how to calm the unpredictable fickle mind.
Once we are able to identify with our “true self” and embrace this PROFOUND “secret to life”, we will begin to see and hear more CLEARLY as we continue to challenge the way we think, view the world, and everything about our lives. After the initial spark, it’s then our job to continue doing our INNER work, expanding your consciousness beyond limitation to become the best version of our self!
But be careful, the ego or negatively programed sub-conscious mind is afraid of the unknown and will do whatever it can do to sabotage our efforts, avoiding change, so it can remain in a place that it falsely perceives as safe, keeping us stuck and unhappy!
At the end of the day, understanding these principles is not enough. Increasing our awareness is a daily practice that involves examining and micromanaging our thoughts and emotions and aligning them with our higher self. Self-awareness requires development, INNER WORK, it doesn’t happen on its own. It took many years societal and cultural conditioning to become attached to this fear-driven limited false sense of self, so it will take time to re-program and escape this victimization mindset!
Finding true happiness takes a CONSCIOUS effort. Be patient, be PRESENT, and enjoy this LIBERATION process!
The Book of Secrets- Deepak Chopra