Happiness

Here are some of my thoughts on happiness. Some of these concepts are the basis for the exercises.

1) The act of simply asking yourself what is bothering you and writing it down is therapeutic.

One reason for this is that once you bring your problems to your full awareness your mind can better evaluate them and put them in perspective. For example if you are bothered by anxiety that you will lose something you have once you bring that anxiety into focus your natural coping mechanisms will be better able to deal with it then if it is in the back of your mind.

2) Questions that lead you to focus further on the problem and to analyze it will help you understand it and the more you understand it the more you will be able to deal with it.

3) Errors in one's thinking may be partly responsible for one''s lack of success in dealing with one''s problems as well as in creating unhappiness. Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck have out- lined such errors. By learning to recognize erroneous thinking one can prevent oneself from making these incorrect conclusions which lead to unhappiness.

4) One of the values of painful emotions are that they like physical pain are a warning that something is wrong and may lead you to corrective action. This program first helps you identify what the painful emotion is warning you about then asks you to plan a course of action to deal with the problem to the best of your ability.

Once you plan a course of action the need for feeling the painful emotion is reduced. The program by bringing that to the user''s attention helps the user reduce his or her motivation to feel that emotion. For example, if one feels anxiety that one will not be able to solve a problem that one believes one has to solve, one can use that anxiety constructively. One can react to ones anxiety by spending some time planning a course of action that will maximize ones chances to solve the problem. Once that plan has been made there is less need to feel anxiety since it will then be less likely to be helpful. Realizing this makes it easier to feel less anxiety.

5) Trying to feel an emotion that opposes a painful emotion is a powerful aid to displacing the emotion from your mind. For example, trying to feel optimistic is a way to reduce anxiety. This technique is called "positive displacement".

6) There are five categories that most emotional distress can be categorized under.
1) Low Self Concept
2) Paranoia
3) Pessimism
4) Fear
5) Pain

7) Most of the evil done in the world is done by people who feel justified in doing what they are doing. Common justification techniques that people use are:

1) They convince themselves that the person they are acting against is bad and deserves it.

2) They convince themselves that the person they are acting against is a threat and so they must do it to defend themselves.

3) They discount the opposing opinions of the other person on the grounds that the other person is bad or ignorant or crazy. When we act against other people we must ask ourselves if we are doing these things.

8) Thinking about how we would like things to be gives us hope that they can be that way and give us a target to shoot for. Once we have a clear target to shoot for we have a better chance of our hitting the mark and finding happiness.

9) We often think about problems over and over that bother us. We may do this because we want something and we keep trying to think how we can get it and then we think of the obstacles preventing us from getting it. The obstacles may be difficult people in which case we may be angry at them. Our wanting then becomes fuel for our being angry. We may believe that the reason we don't get what we want is because of our inadequacies and so feel low self concept. We can diagram this as follows: Want -----> Think about obstacles -----> Feel anger or other painful emotion. To deal with this we can attack at each step. We can reduce the time we dwell on wanting something by making a plan of action in order to get it and then deciding not to think about our desire for it at present. We can decide not to think about the obstacles because that leads to painful emotions and because we do have a plan of action. We can try and displace our emotion with a corresponding positive emotion, for example anger with forgiveness.

10) Mental illness escalates when one''s efforts to solve one''s problems actually fuel''s one''s problems. For example an anorexic who believes her problems will be solved if she just eats less will make an effort to solve her problems by eating less and will thereby exacerbate them. In fact self reinforcing destructive cycles may be an important fuel of mental illness.

11) Interpersonal relations is key to success and happiness. Once personal appearance is of great importance. Awareness of what others want or need from you and of what things are annoying to them and the self discipline not to do the things that annoy them is key to social success. When you are aware of something that annoys someone else that you do by mistake it is best to plan a way of preventing yourself from doing it.

The secret to happiness can be broken into several secrets. Barry Kaufmann the founder of the Option Institute and a pioneer in the understanding of happiness, has stated the most fundamental and most important secret of of Happiness which is that "Happiness is a choice". In fact that is the title of one of his books. The reaction I would have had a while back to a statement like that would have been that it is nonsense. I would have said "I want to be happy and I''m not so it is absurd to say that happiness is a choice. Now I understand that we do have the choice to learn to understand the causes of our unhappiness and usually when we do we then are in a position to choose to be happy or not. That may sound strange, one would expect that everyone would choose to be happy if they were in the position to do so. I have found that in my case that is not always true. I may choose to be nervous because I feel that will motivate me to get something done that should get done. The choice to be anxious will make me unhappy. I can choose to dwell on things that I am upset about. That is a choice to be unhappy as well. I can choose to be frustrated that I am not achieving my ambitions. The anxiety and frustration that I choose to feel may have value in motivating me to do improve my situation. Frequently though I have felt a lot more anxiety and frustration than was constructive or necessary. I can decide to do something without motivating myself with anxiety. Now I periodically say to myself, happiness is more important to me than the benefits of anxiety and frustration. By saying that to myself I make a choice to be happy and often when I make that choice happiness comes to me. Another secret is that an accurate perception of reality leads to happiness. If reality is really bad we may be temporarily happier if we don''t realize that but in the long term we can better solve problems if we have an an accurate perception of what they are. This statement contradicts studies that show that people whose perception of reality was distorted in a positive way, were happier than people who had an accurate perception of reality. I do not believe these studies looked at the whole picture. Having an accurate perception of how far one can throw a ball, for example, is not what makes someone unhappy, the perception that it is awful if one cannot throw a ball a long way is what makes one unhappy. It is these perceptions that the studies should have considered. Another secret is to treat unhappiness and other painful emotions as constructive warnings and to determine what is the reason for those feelings and to make a plan of action to deal with the problems that those feelings are warning you about. By doing so you reduce the need for the feelings that are making you unhappy. Another secret is that honesty and goodness lead to happiness. If we lie to, or otherwise mistreat other people there is always someone who knows we did it and that is ourselves and generally this interferes with our self esteem and our happiness. In fact often bad behavior leads to self hate. Self love is an essential part of the joy of living, and so self hate from doing bad deeds takes that away. There are people whose self esteem actually increases when they do something bad. They feel pride that they were able to get away with it. This gives them a feeling of power. It is difficult for me to enter that mindset but I suspect that they are filled with hatred and unhappiness. In addition to the negative effects in our own mind, if we if we mistreat others they are likely to retaliate and make us unhappy in that way. If we decide to spread sunshine in other people''s lives we will bring happiness to our own. One way to bring happiness to others is to be happy oneself. Happiness spreads. A ray of joy from one person enters the hearts of other people.

12) If we are depressed and try to stop feeling depressed we may find it too difficult to do. Depression builds up over time. Another approach is over time to catch incorrect negative thinking make use of it to motivate oneself to improve one''s situation and to correct it. this one''s mood will most likely improve.

c o p y r i g h t   ( c )   1 9 9 9 -2004 Karl Ericson Enterprises.  All rights reserved

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