We all just wish to be happy, don’t we? Is it too much to ask? Don’t we deserve it? And certainly yes, we all do. But why exactly is it so difficult to achieve?
Even for those, who are super successful in their careers, are of royal heritage, attractive, intelligent, you name it. There is a struggle. The cases stretch from addictive and avoidant behaviours to severe depressions and suicides. So, what's the deal? How is it that contemporary societies, with material and comfort standards never higher, are at the same time characterized by higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, eating disorders, and other psychological distress factors and it keeps crawling up?
The question is, can we figure out what the problem is and can we break free from the vicious circle of becoming unhappy by pursuing happiness?
There is substantive scientific evidence provided by contemporary psychological research, that chasing happiness is far from straight forward and an unproblematic practice. It’s tricky! What if your very efforts to find happiness were actually preventing you from achieving it, as psychologist Dr Russ Harris suggests in his book “The Happiness trap”?
The idea behind the Happiness trap is as follows. We get caught up in vicious circles. In the pursuit of happiness, we habitually engage in getting rid of/escaping unpleasant and uncomfortable thoughts, feelings, objects and practices. Seems pretty straightforward, doesn't it? We just want to feel GOOD. So, we get into the habit of avoiding unpleasant thoughts and feelings. But the short-term solution might become a problem in itself. We apply the control strategies to manage undesirable feelings and situations. And used excessively, in situations where they can’t work and as a substitute for practices that create real value, they become real problems. So in the pursuit of feeling GOOD, the ability to FEEL might be lost.
What if we turn the table? What if the answer is counter intuitive? What if the answer to the full and satisfactory life is to FEEL good? To be fully in contact and engaged with what is important, to your values and feelings. To learn to accept and feel all authentic feelings and situations rather than avoiding them. To engage in actions pursuing your values. Building a life congruent with values, creating a long-term foundation for satisfaction with happiness in your life.
The only way out is through.