A lot of people seem to think that Happiness is something to be discovered, a goal to achieve.
The reality is, of course, that your own personal sense of happiness comes from not having, but doing.
Put another way, happiness has little to do with external things, and everything to do with how we deal with what happens; our mindset or mental attitude.
"You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness." Jonathan Safran Foer
As the Stoics believed, how we respond to anything that happens to us depends largely on the emotional weight (or importance) we give to it.
Some people have developed mental attitudes which actually stop them from being happy.
Here are a few of these sabotaging attitudes.
The “Yes But Attitude”: Something really interesting is offered to you, or an exciting possibility is presented and the first thought is NOT about the opportunity but about the problems. You’ll find yourself saying “Sounds great BUT….”
The “Janus Attitude”: Janus was the two face God of Roman mythology. It presents itself in our lives as a tendency to avoid challenging the things or people that annoy you, accepting them with a smile, and then moaning about those same things later. Surely if you were aware of how you really felt about something and made the choice not to say so at the time, there’s no value in going on about it later.
The “Expecting More Attitude”: Things and people are what they are don’t have to be what you want them to be. An event is not what you expected then that’s not the “event’s fault” it’s all about your expectation. Someone doesn’t behave in the way you expected - then that’s about your expectations and not necessarily their limitations.
The “Judgemental Attitude”: Closely related to the “expecting more attitude” and more directly about people not behaving as you would or as you think they should. Remember the story (and song) about the woman who rescues a snake who after being rescued turns around and bites her. When she asked why he treated her so badly, the snake said because it was in his nature. How people behave towards us is their nature, so to expect them to be different actually leads to disappointment.
The “They Made Me Feel Attitude”: Ok, so even if we agree that others are not us, we can still fall foul of the '“they made me feel” response to people and what they do. People do things for their own motivations and some folks are pretty shitty. Their behaviour need not be tolerated. However, we do have a choice about what we feel about what they do and of course the actions we choose to take. Others do not have control over our minds, but our minds can allow us to submit to the dramas they want to create. By, blaming others for how they made you feel is one way of not confronting ‘how’ you feel and “what exactly” is behind those feeling.
The “Never Again Attitude”: In the heat of any moment we can all hear ourselves saying “never again”. However, it’s worth thinking about what you’re saying “never again” to. It is often the case that we make “blanket never again” promises which actually we find ourselves going back on when we’ve calmed down. We realise that our emotional reaction was more about cutting your nose off to spite your face. When we reflect upon that situation we may realise that “never again” was not the most useful of responses. What is worse we can then find ourselves in our own “double-bind” resulting in conflict between what we have said and are now doing.
The “Transference Attitude”: The emotional state we are in will affect the way we perceive situations and the behaviours of others. If we are not emotionally self-aware, we can externalise our moods and emotions. It’s all about the event or the people around the event and nothing to do with how I've are actually feeling.
The “Always Happens to Me Attitude”: Life throws up challenges and issues, it’s actually part and parcel of being alive. We will have memories of good times and not-so-good times. We do have a tendency to group together events of the past into generalised patterns of experience. So we never really veiw new experiences as “new”. They are prejudged and linked to whatever is in our personal histories. Thus we can have the sense that “bad stuff always happens to us”. Our minds then seek to confirm that bias and so we create a belief about ourselves and our lives.
These attitudes can be explored by those of us willing to take the time to reflect on the things in our lives.
We can challenge ourselves when we say things like….
“….ought to be ….”
Some further thoughts
There are three pillars or attitudes which foster happiness.
If what you have seems insufficient to you, then though you possess the world, you will yet be miserable. — Seneca
Just keep in mind: the more we value things outside our control, the less control we have. — Epictetus
It is impossible that happiness, and yearning for what is not present, should ever be united. — Epictetus
There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will. — Seneca
Thanks for reading.
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