Do You Want to Be Happy or Free?

photo by Michael Julian Berz

photo by Michael Julian Berz

I too bought the traditional view of happiness/joy. You know the one that goes: Happy = good. Anger or sadness = bad. I bought the trap of happiness because as a child, when I said yes to the uncomfortable emotions and expressed them, I lost relationship and had to feel a ton of shit that didn’t feel very good (i.e. judged, rejected, abandoned). I learned pretty quick to tuck them away. As I grew, I understood “happiness” to mean that I was supposed to feel good all the time, so I did everything possible to act happy and avoid feeling pain or discomfort, stuffing anything that threatened relationship. Like so many of my friends, I tried to prop myself up on half of my experience, doing my best to make it look like I was happy, because that’s what I was told to be.

Because I felt so inadequate at the time and because I really wanted acceptance, I enrolled anyone I could in the project of liking me. In order for them to like me, I had to be pleasant to be around, so I hid the darker emotions. And since I continually received ongoing affirmations from others saying how awesome I was, I stuck with my game. My mask worked (the double bind of the enneatype 3). I sold everybody, including myself.

Understandably, my need for belonging and acceptance was a higher priority than being true to myself. So, my approach required chronic self-abandonment for years. Of course, my outside-in love-seeking approach was limited at best, even though I made it work for me. But deep down I knew something was off. I had this nagging, empty knowing for as long as I can remember. Oh, people would like me for sure, but because their approval didn’t satiate the itch inside, I felt even more empty and alone. This empty feeling was so trustworthy, even though I tried to squelch it. But I kept making myself wrong anyway. Why do I feel miserable when everyone likes me and tells me I have a great life?

Fortunately for me, my ability to trust this feeling finally grew and I did something about it. I finally made this whole nagging empty/longing feeling a top priority in my life to learn about, understand, and transcend. Among many insights, I get now that enJOYment is when I am completely relaxing into what’s happening, regardless of where it is on the pain or pleasure spectrum. It requires trusting everything that is arising in my experience is for my benefit. It also requires that I believe in my inherent worth and value as a human being, irrespective of what others think, say, or feel. When I’m relaxing into Life in this way, I feel vulnerably strong, courageous, and free.

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