Taking A Stand On Happiness

Years ago, in the depths of ME/CFS, I took a course called the EST Training (now called the Forum) which was designed to increase one's vitality and participation in life. The course worked - altho I still had ME/CFS afterwards - it did increase my vitality enormously.

Taking A Stand - One of the things they talked about in the course was taking a stand on who one is in daily life. Take the issue of happiness. Most of us think of happiness as something that's a function of our circumstances; that is, if we're healthy, have money, are in a good relationship, have money, etc. we should be happy (and often are) happy. Happiness is not something we take a stand on; its something we either have or don't have. If we don't have it we often spend alot of time and money trying to put ourselves in a position where we think it'll show up; walla! we'll be happy.

Obviously there's something to that - we're generally more happy when we have the things (health, money, opportunity, etc.) that we think bring happiness. But are our circumstances the true root of our happiness? Or have we gotten it backwards - does true happiness come before whatever circumstances we are in? In EST they suggested that one can take a stand for happiness; that one can in effect commit oneself to being happy and out of that , not out of our circumstances, happiness will flow. How much easier (and less expensive!) that would be if true.

I think this is an important concept for ME/CFS patients simply because they have so many reasons for being unhappy; they're ill, their relationships are often problematic, they often have little money, they're uncertain about the future , etc.....If you look at their circumstances there are few reasons to be happy and many reasons to be unhappy.

A Big Upset. In the EST terminology people with ME/CFS are likely to be in a big 'upset'. Upsets occur when your expectations are not met and few of the expectations we have in our society (health, financial well-being, family, career, etc.) are met when you have a disease like this. This suggest that most people with ME/CFS are inevitably caught in a huge upset with all the mental, emotional and physiological turmoil that that implies. How could they not be with all that has become upended in their lives. :mad:

But how to be happy when your circumstances are telling you -based on your conception of happiness - that it's impossible to be happy? One way is to make a commitment to being happy based on nothing but your commitment; ie. to become committed to coming from happiness rather than searching for it.

Thanks for Sharing! What happens when you say I'm committed to being happy? Your mind immediately kicks in giving you all the reasons you should not be happy; i.e. you feel like crap, you're ill, etc. What to do with this on the face of it's quite logical reasoning? Simply Thank It For Sharing and then return to your commitment to being happy. :)

Note that happiness does not feel a certain way - that judging whether your commitment is working based on how you're feeling is just another attempt to fit your emotional state to your circumstances. Happiness doesn't feel a certain way - its a commitment - its a place to come from, not a place to arrive at. You never real 'get there' - you come from there. Above all it is not way to force down unhappiness or paper over unhappiness. The process only works if you acknowledge those feelings (Thank Them For Sharing!) and then re-commit yourself.

I really didn't get the Taking A Stand concept when I did EST but I think I'm starting to now. I'm not that good at it but when it works it really works. My sense is that it cannot but be helpful and healthful. I highly recommend trying to take a stand on happiness or whatever positive emotion you wish. :)

Comments

Cort,

I love this!

I think that Taking a stand, on happiness, on hope, are essential ESPECIALLY when we've been in long-term situations that don't naturally lead to happiness or to hope.

I had a few yrs when I gave up on such Pollyanna-esque thinking, was just "realistic" and thence quite depressed for a couple yrs. All it did for me was leave me in the dirt for 2 yrs.

I don't plan on staying in the dirt.

So I determined that even if the only hope and happiness I got was the hope and happiness I pulled in for myself every day, then so be it. And even if my circumstances never improved I was going to be happy and full of hope, dammit. :D

As it happens a few months after that my circumstances did begin to very slowly change as well. Coincidence? Don't know, don't care.

Gratitude is important too, I think. Especially when there seems precious little to be grateful for. Dig deep. Find it. Cultivate it.

Thanks for writing this, Cort.
 
Cort,

I think many people equate happiness with people, material possessions, wealth etc.

I have several books on the subject and was surprised to read a description of this emotion as being linked with other people ie you can only experience happiness if you have someone to share it with.

Hogwash!

The more I hear my friends or work colleagues complain about their lives & families etc, the more I realise how unhappy the world is.

Happiness for me, is something that comes from within.

Despite pain & chronic health problems, I feel happier more often than many successful, wealthy, socially active people I know.

I certainly have felt much despair & a sense of hopelessness at the never-ending bills & cycles of pain & fatigue in the past.

But these are intermittent episodes, that have a beginning & an end. I suppose I will have more of these episodes in the future.

But those in the future, will have a beginning & an end also.

Nothing goes on forever, although I dare say some people with chronic pain/illness may think so.

Especially if you're new diagnosed (or perhaps still NOT diagnosed, after years of misery).

On re-reading my old diary over the weekend, at one time, I certainly felt convinced that I wasn't going to survive those terrible, long nights of excruciating pain a few years ago.

But I did, & I have.

I do wish I didn't have to work full-time to support myself. I do wish I had enough money & physical health to travel again. I can't honestly say there aren't things that I don't wish for. There are & there always will be.

But ultimately, since I have accepted that these things may never happen, I have been finding greater happiness in simple pleasures.

There are times when the anger & frustration overwelm me too.

But I know that these episodes will pass. They always do.

I am eternally grateful in some ways for the excuse to slow down & not be forever "chasing the rainbow". I am grateful for not having to be forever going here & there, seeking fulfillment & material things. Money does not make the world go round. It helps to make the world go faster & in a more complicated fashion.

Money does not buy us health.

Sometimes it's good to just "be". Live in this moment.

Accepting the life you have, is one of the first steps to happinesss. Despite daily fatigue, I am so grateful to have a job (especially in this Global financial downturn). It may not perfect, but what job ever is?

I am also lucky enough to live 15 minutes walk to work - manageable.

I also live in reasonable comfort - not dependent on family/friends all the time like some sufferers of CFS/FM. This may change. All things change in life. Nothing is permanent.

I am extremely lucky to have spent my twenties travelling & working overseas. I've had a wide variety of jobs, met interesting people from all walks of life, experienced some of the very best of loving kindness (as well as a few horrific experiences that are best forgotten).

In fact, as I write this post at work, with the piles of accounts & papers threatening to overflow on the floor, I feel a great sense of thankfulness at the knowledge that I will get paid next month (& the month thereafter. I hope).

I didn't lose my job in May 2006 (as threatened).

Perhaps, we should all set some time aside to think about all the good things in life (no matter how small, or how few we perceive at this very moment).

And remember that all the bad things just make the good things so much better (when they do come along).

So take a moment to redefine your expectations of life.

Take a leaf from my diary......

27/9/04 - My first appointment with a highly recommended Rheumatologist, Dr M.

"Bloody, useless, nasty, irritating man. Couldn't have treated me worse if I'd been a lump of raw meat in a slaughter house or meat packaging factory! As I lay on the examining table, he picked up each leg and each arm in quick succession & dropped them without care or consideration of any kind. He (literally) throw each scan & x-ray at the scanner on the wall, & then proceeeded to say with lightening speed - nothing wrong with you! - and ushered me out the door with haste that left me gob-smacked (or stunned as a mullet)"

(A mullet is an oily, rather ordinary fish from Australian/New Zealand waters, & this expression is widely used when you are left speechless. Not to be confused with the red mullet so beloved by the Romans).

And then again, my GP (general practitioner) is not only kind, thoughtful, considerate, respectful of my concerns & anxiety, but always asks me make the last appointment for the day, so he can spend extra time with me. He also respects my dislike of drugs & unnecessary surgical interventions, but gives me appropriate prescriptions when the need arises).

Victoria

PS And no, I didn't have a particularly good weekend. I had a brief interlude at the local hospital emergency department on Saturday & an exhausting day yesterday, so didn't get my usual re-charge for the working week.
 
Very good blog here.
I might add that sometimes I get a giggle thinking of a time when I was excruciatingly healthy, but excruciatingly unhappy.
 
Marylib,

You make a very good point.

I had a few years where I was healthy but unhappy too.

Now, if I can just switch things around so that I can be healthy and happy at the same time ... :D
 
Great blog post, Cort! I read the EST book a few times and find it helpful. Would like to do the landmark forum intro class some time if i get the money together.
I used to be resistant and resentful of the whole "be grateful" thing. Like people were telling me i have it so great and owe the universe for making it that way.
Now i see deciding to be grateful and happy (though i can't always pull it off) as something like you described- as a lifehack or cheat to being happy without necessarily having to go thru all the effort of amassing $ etc.!
 
I hope you get to do the landmark Forum as some point. I very much regret not participating further. Unfortunately where I live there are no programs. I think anything to take the stress of our oh so impaired systems is helpful; that's what I've found. Sometimes it works - sometimes it doesn't.

EST - a tough, two weekend experience - actually helped me enormously at that stage. I surely wasn't and haven't been well since then but it helped my vitality enormously and my quality of life. I still couldn't exercise but it was a important event for me. I'm lucky my mother happened to take it about a year before :)
 
Cort, thanks so much for your inspiring words! You remind me that despite trying and frustrating circumstances, that we still are capable of influencing our inner experience for the positive, bringing some light into our darkness, which as you say, can only be helpful and healthful.
 

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