Monday, 28 February 2011
Contentment not happiness rules!
Happiness is an overrated activity in my world. Being happy is always something we have in retrospect, as in: I was really happy last month. But in reality, in the here and now we can rarely say I am happy right now this minute. We are always chasing happiness, as if, when we get to the place we think it will be, then we'll find it. Which I believe to be rarely the case.
There have been moments in my life when I am working in a mindful way that I can say yes I am happy in this moment. But that feeling doesn't last, it flies in touches me, and disappears off again without so much as a by your leave!
I believe the only people who regularly happy are those who lead a contemplative life,as in monks and nuns. But I'm not sure whether they would describe their emotional state as happy.
What I do have though, which for me holds much deeper meaning is contentment, peace and joy. These feelings have some substance to them for me, in that most of the time I can capture any one of them,which in turn will lead to another.
So in therapy I don't work with people to find happy. We work together to find their inner contentment. The sort of thing where very small things make people smile and feel good. For me the list of things that do this is huge, but it's not about my list. Its getting people to stop trying to achieve the impossible and to work with what is possible.
People come into therapy chasing happy and avoiding fear. So they end up on a perpetual place of going nowhere fast. It is the job of therapy, in my book at least, to help people see that confronting fear is never ever as frightening as fear itself.
We are all born with the ability to have fear, alongside the abilities to have anger, sadness and the ability to love.These are not scary emotions to the child. If a child is upset they cry, if angry they shout, if loved they flourish with all these emotions.
Instinctively children use their emotions to survive, the new born baby smiles to get love back, as love equals food and attention. The child who has fallen over needs a magic kiss to make them better. And if they don't get love and are ill treated the child learns to be silent as a way to protect themselves.
Current research suggests that young people get happiness through excitement of waiting for something. Whilst older people get it through a feeling of peace with their worlds. And the new thinking about the treatment of depression is walking!
If we can start to take pleasure in the world around us, the joy of growing our own food, the making of good food, the pleasure of producing something we have made, a picture, a jumper, a clay pot, then contentment isn't far away.
Seeing the beauty in the world around us, it may be as small as a bright yellow dandelion poking through the cracks in an industrial landscape,if it makes us smile then we are half way there to contentment.
So even on my blackest days hearing birdsong, or pattering rain, or getting sun on my face, or getting a hug (which for me is rare on a daily basis)then these things, and many more, will make me glad to be alive and then to be able to face the onslaught of whatever the particular blackness is about.