I'm wondering about a collective cultural belief that seems to be lurking, one that is passed between us through our striving for something more, through our varying social media networks, through what we're sharing with each other, seeking from each other. I see it in the shiny marketing of big business right down to the quiet desperation of a trusted friend.
Happiness = Success
Pain = Failure
We're sold products that will make us happy, fantasies for the kinds of relationships that will make us happy, lifestyles that will make us happy, milestones and goals and accomplishments that will make us happy. There's a collective race, we're gunning for it: happiness.
Which, as a positively-oriented person who certainly delights in being happy and sharing such well-being with others, you'd think that I'd be ringing the bells and leading the parade. But I'm concerned that our preoccupation with getting to happiness, with what we think will make us happy and an odd combination of thinking that we're both entitled to it and need to earn it, makes the whole thing fertile ground for stress and pain. Which is not really the point, is it?
It hurts to be here. By here, I mean on this planet doing this human being gig. There's pain... like right here, right now. Check it out and see. Pause for a moment and feel into your experience of being here. There's pain...
Maybe it's a dense ache... fluttering anxiety... quiet despair... building resentments... sorrow nipping... wide-eyed envy... rage barely touched... exhaustion... desperation... shame... hunger... desire... defeat... discomfort.
But the mind trip comes when we think that there shouldn't be pain. "I shouldn't be feeling this way," or "If I were really doing the work, I'd be happier," or "If I hit this target, made that money, got out of debt, then I'd feel free and happy," or "If I could just meet The One and be in a truly loving and supportive relationship, then I'd be happy," or "If I could just overcome my insecurities, fully express myself and be creatively fulfilled, then I'll be happy." And the rest of the narrative looks like this...
... and until then... I am failing... inadequate... not reaching my potential... lazy... not disciplined enough... don't want it badly enough... not as good as that person over there who is really rockin' it (all the while in denial that that person over there is in pain too).
We're quiet about it. Because who wants to air their dirty laundry, right? Who wants to hear people bitch and complain? No one likes a downer... so chin up, kitten.
If things are difficult or painful, it's not because you're failing... it's because you're human.
That's the natural order of things: birth, growth, death. In all of that is pain. Sometimes we'll be happy. Sometimes we will not. Feelings and states of being move and change like wind and water and earth and fire.
If we spent one-third of the energy that we spend on chasing happiness on getting better at being in pain, our experience of being alive would dramatically expand. We'd need to chase less and run away from less. We'd be open to a wider range of experience and not slapping assessments on these experiences and what they mean for our worth in society. We'd actually be able to drop into deeper states of happiness and bliss when they arise because we're not fending off the pain that is just around the corner or seeping through the cracks of our high state. We'd be able to more fully, authentically and intimately show up for the events of our lives because we wouldn't be spending the majority of our energy and attention on trying to dodge, stuff down, sidestep or prevail over pain.
When we begin to truly accept pain as part of being here, as an ever-present aspect of the human experience, the degree to which we suffer over this pain will lighten. Our capacity to be in and express ourselves, our love, our purpose and our gifts will become increasingly more expansive. Which may lead to happiness. And sometimes not.
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