Author: Justin Mckibben
When it comes to our own happiness, many of us love to let ourselves down. When we find ourselves sabotaging ourselves, we tend to put the blame more on the circumstances surrounding our situation, or we just chalk it all up to bad timing or divine misfortune. But the truth is much worse.
We are all, to some extent or another, intolerant of our own happiness.
When reading into this list I learned that accomplished author and nurse Bronnie Ware wrote a bestselling book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, where she reported that one of the most common regrets people have at the end of their lives is that they wish they’d let themselves be happier!
I can identify with the idea of preventing myself from pursuing the things that I love out of some strange misconception of it being selfish or irresponsible, and we all have moments when we listen to an internal critical voice that encourages us not to set goals or expect too much for our lives, to settle for less than the joy we deserve, ironically triggered every time we start taking steps forward.
In addiction we see these kinds of self-deprecating patterns over and over again in a cycle of self-loathing and self-destruction. We get angry at ourselves for trying to stop using when we fail, and we punish ourselves or avoid the pain by getting trashed over and over.
These are just 4 reasons why we won’t let ourselves be happy.
Who we are in our minds is a security blanket, even when our sense of self is based on a bad image in a broken mirror. If our perception of ourselves is a poor one, and we start to make positive progress it can make us feel anxious and uncomfortable in that we are afraid to lose our sense of identity.
Letting go of the old expired and negatively exaggerated perceptions we develop early in life is huge for allowing ourselves to have happiness. If we keep telling ourselves we have a limited worth, we confine our potential.
This is one I definitely can identify with whole-heartedly.
Sometimes we convince ourselves that choosing to be happy in the present represents abandoning our past. Naturally we feel guilty to step out of our imaged roles in life and leave them behind to be independent from that, or to grow out of old relationships from our past.
Changing our lives to pursue happiness can feel like separating from our identity, and also feeling like we are throwing away a bond with others that we had. I once made the mistake of believing that moving on was the same as never caring at all, and it kept me trapped in guilt for a long time.
Freedom to be truly happy is not about feeling guilty for surpassing our former selves, or even surpassing the connections we used to have. We should never feel guilty about living in the presence of our own happiness.
Humans spend a life-time building walls to defend ourselves from a world we may see as cruel, judgmental or harmful. We get jaded and shelter ourselves to adapt to our environment. We build up a tolerance to the injustice of our own self-defeat.
Then when we get older, those old defenses don’t always rise to the new challenges we are presented with throughout our lives and we find it difficult to rely on our default settings, so we undermine our happiness either by avoiding new situations that are unfamiliar, or by subconsciously recreating harmful situations so we are comfortable with mediocrity.
Dropping our defenses is the only way we can hope to escape the solitary prison of discontent we hold ourselves in. If we take the risk of something new in our lives, we have greater opportunities at genuine happiness. Too often do we avoid a perfect opportunity for an amazing piece of life waiting for us because we are too busy comparing it to the past.
The fear of pain keeps so many of us from really trying to seek happiness, and I have seen this and felt this intensely throughout my own experience. Sometimes we forget the world isn’t so black and white.
Psychologist Pat Love once said:
“When you long for something like love, it becomes associated with pain.”
Have you ever felt like getting what you wanted made you feel pain and sadness?
It’s because it reminds you of something you didn’t get in the past. It takes you back to a time you were hurt in contrast. Maybe when you are finally chosen by someone, you remember the suffering of a rejection, and your mind scrambles for those old defenses to protect itself.
In life, we must all eventually face one very real, very profound inevitability- We. Will. Hurt.
We will be sad; we will feel crushed under the weight of existence; we will feel defeated. We may have moments where happiness seems like an abstract feeling far beyond the comprehension this world will ever allow us, and in times most vulnerable we will feel lost… but with all the pain comes beautiful uncertainty; that is not all there is.
A full life experiences these things, but it allows itself to experience love, gratitude, pleasure and ambition. A fulfilled life has rain clouds and thunderstorms… just like it has sunshine and clear skies. We can intrinsically be resistant to our own happiness, but we cannot falter, for it is our responsibility to fight for it.
Happiness is what we make of it. In addiction it seems nearly impossible, and in recovery we find a new freedom and a new happiness, but that still takes some effort. Allowing ourselves to be happy can be hard, but once we reach for it, it is always obtainable if we are willing. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135