“Happiness is a decision”. Have you ever thought about what a guilt trip that statement is?
It dawned on me a while back that this statement implies that if I am unhappy, then I am deciding to be unhappy. When I was unhappy and depressed, I tried everything I ever heard about to get myself over it. I tried to “decide to be happy”. Oh I had brief success with it, yes, but not the enduring happiness that I sought after for so long. I got a little relief but never a permanent result. I tried self help; I tried books, affirmations and seminars. I took vitamins, changed my diet and exercise, bought new clothes and said “I love you” to myself in the mirror and did other affirmations. I quit coffee, quit drinking alcohol and quit smoking and I improved my lifestyle. I WANTED to be happy. I wanted to believe that life was worth living. It just didn’t seem to be that easy! If happiness is merely a decision… then no one ever told me how to make that decision.
I did a Google search for the phrase “happiness is a decision” and I came up with lots of articles about how we can just “decide to be happy”. None of it was very helpful at all but I think that when we don’t have any solution we are willing to accept half a solution or anything that sounds like a solution. Be mindful about where that acceptance might lead you though.
Other than for brief moments, such as when I got a new car, new haircut, new boyfriend, took a vacation, or read a fantastic inspiring self help book or attended an equally uplifting seminar, lasting happiness escaped me. I wanted MORE than a Band-Aid. I wanted the real deal.
But I believed that happiness was a decision that I could make. I believed that happiness was a choice. I even told other unhappy people that happiness is a decision and a choice. And deep down I felt like a failure because I couldn’t MAKE that decision. Because I believed that happiness is a decision, I also believed that I CHOSE not to make that decision. And there is the guilt. That was the underlying disapproval of myself. That was where the little voice inside got to say, “you have a choice, you can be happy, but you don’t want to be or you would decide to be”
Those statements got to me, but I never realized it. I never looked at it the way that I do now. I didn’t know that happiness was NOT a decision. Not in my life it wasn’t. Not for me. I think those sayings are really meant for different circumstances.
My teenage children have had some unhappy times in their lives. I am SO glad that I didn’t tell them that happiness is a decision. Looking at it through the grid of teaching that concept to children brings to mind so many ways that I was discounted and verbally discouraged. There is a subconscious element to this whole thing. If you tell an emotionally struggling person that happiness is a choice, the deeper reaction to that statement IS guilt and self blame. I “heard” that the choice was in my own hands when in reality it wasn’t until I went through the process of facing the truth about why I was unhappy.
I found real and lasting happiness when I faced the things that had caused me to be so unhappy in the first place. And now I really can choose my attitude. I found that being grateful, being able to sustain an attitude of gratitude came much easier after I faced the past and was allowed to have my resentments for the things that stole my happiness. When I gave myself permission to feel the anger and NOT judge myself for it, I didn’t have to fight it anymore. When I put the guilt,shame and blame back where it belonged and to who it belonged to, I was able to let go of guilt, shame and self blame. When I validated my right to be angry, hurt and resentful over the things that happened to me in the past, finally I was able to rise above the past. The anger, hurt and resentment were no longer a problem.
The biggest difference between today and back then is that I don’t have those dark days anymore now that I have faced my past and faced the pain. By owning my truth I have taken my life back. Emerging from broken is about HOW I did that.
Today I can decide to be happy but that was never possible with I lived with the black cloud of the past and all the lies that belonged to it. It was in facing the past that I let it go, found peace and regained my ability to choose. Happiness can be a decision now but I rarely think about it, because I am so rarely UN-Happy.
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