NOTE: When I use the word “relationship”, I don’t only mean romantic relationships. I don’t even mean just relationships with people, but relationships with all forms of life and all forms of creation – people, God, animals, creative expression and most importantly, the self!
Type in “happiness” into Google.com and you’ll get 74,240,000 results. To say happiness is a topic of interest is an understatement, but we seem to still want to know how to “up” our happiness barometer.
For some, this is not so difficult. Life is not so complicated and in fact, is a fairly happy one. For others, life seems wrought with episode after episode. Some artists actually use these life episodes to create art. They call this angst “a creative spurt”. Neither life, relationships or art has to be that painful if we choose to be open to a different perspective.
Bringing Past into Present
Everybody has a past, but so many of us don’t realize how much we bring our past into the present and sabotage our happiness. Here are some ways we replay the past in our present:
- Waiting for and expecting the worst
- Hanging out with negativity
- Staying friends with self-doubt
- Finding solace in unhealthy habits
- Telling ourselves and others oodles of stories about how we can’t, how we’ve tried and how it’s not possible, etc.
We can get used to these habits of thoughts and these beliefs so much so that they can become part of us. It feels uncomfortable and in a nagging, subliminal way, a betrayal to give them up. We are anchored to our painful perspective. David Richo, the author of “When the Past is Present” says,
The enduring impression made upon us by significant relationships sets up a template that we apply to others throughout life. Anyone who becomes deeply important to us is, by that very fact, replaying a crucial role from our own past. In fact, this is how people become important to us. They come from central casting and they pass the audition for us, their casting directors. We then make them the stars of our dramas. We don’t call them “stars.” We might instead call them “soulmates” or “archenemies.”
I used to bring my past into my present repeatedly. I did this through significant relationships with others and I’ve done this with my art. I almost always saw relationships through the lens of my unique personal history, which I believed was set in stone. During this time, I wasn’t able to see any relationship with a person or any of the artistic things I did clearly. I saw them as characters in an ongoing drama – a fantasy of my own making in which expectations were impossibly high and failures were the norm. It was a compulsion for which honest clarity was the only escape.
My life “sensei” once told me that even if I wasn’t willing to see things differently, I could become “willing to be willing”. That was so much more of a palatable thought! Once I became a more willing to be willing, something greater than me took over to actually allow me to be willing. And once I became a willing human being, I finally considered the possibility that “there is another way” and it starts with perspective.
Then the Universal Intelligence responded to that openness and perspective by making me a more aware of my thoughts, beliefs and actions. Life and creative opportunities opened up. I then recognized and became grateful for the fact that I was responsible for my own happiness.
I realize this sounds easy. It wasn’t. To be willing to accept contentment and creativity has given me blissful results in life, but it took commitment and choosing over and over again.
Is Happiness A Choice?
The documentary film which is simply entitled, Happy mentions that United States of America ranks 23rd on the happiness barometer compared to other countries. The filmmaker found that happiness was dependent on perspective. People who value compassion, meaning and making the world a better place are happier than most.
Happy is one of the most enlightening documentaries I’ve seen and also one of the most encouraging because we get to see how happiness and health, despite even the most challenging of life situations, is a mirror – a reflection of our belief system. And if that’s true, then we get to alter that reflection through perspective. Up goes the happiness barometer!