Author’s Note: I’m using an unusual number of quotes in this piece, but I think once you see what I’ve written, you will appreciate why.
Humans search for happiness in the oddest ways. We look to other people, we try to change locations, we seek out fame and fortune, yet all of these things are as useful as blowing soap bubbles.
A Breath-Taking Quote
While cruising the web last evening, I fell upon a quote by Robert Holden, PhD, that took my breath away.
“Beware of Destination Addiction – a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.”
Always Looking on the Other side of the Fence an Addiction?
To be truthful, I had never thought of humanity’s always looking on the other side of the fence for greener grass an addiction, but it appears now to me, that is the case.
I looked online to find out what the dictionaries and encyclopedias had to say about the word addiction. I searched for several minutes, because the sites I visited seemed preoccupied with drug and alcohol problems, and ignored the root meaning of the word. I finally found the definition I had been looking for in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, which gives the following definition of the word addiction:
“An unusually great interest in something or to do or have something.”
I have pondered on this revelation, and decided to write what my opinion is concerning the subject of the human search for happiness.
The Wizard of Oz
My therapist Paula began speaking to me about this very subject many years ago. One of her favorite illustrations was the movie, The Wizard of Oz. She stated that, although some of the things taught in the program are not true, many life lessons could be learned from the film.
She would speak of how Dorothy spent so much of her time daydreaming of a place of acceptance, that she totally missed the love she experienced at home. She had to go on a quest, going through many trials and sufferings, before she was awakened to that very fact. Indeed, she discovered, the grass is never greener on the other side of the fence, sometimes it can be rotten and toxic.
I pondered her words for many years, trying to understand.
The Fantasy World of “If Only”
I didn’t understand that I had been traumatized so badly as a child, that I lived in a fantasy world where “if only” reigned regarding my happiness.
- If only I hadn’t been traumatized
- If only I didn’t live with a severe mental illness
- If only I had a husband and children
- If only I hadn’t dropped out of college
The list was endless.
Like Dorothy Gale, I had to go through some hard times to find the truth.
Long after I had lost Paula to a bankruptcy, and after I had lived in a long-term psychiatric facility for many years, did Paula’s words come back to me.
I had begun to see a new therapist through the local mental health clinic that served the facility. She understood my diagnosis, and began to give me the same wonderful treatment that I had received from Paula.
Due to her expert care, one morning, I had an awakening that shook me to the core and out of my complacency. I knew, suddenly, with every inch of my being, that I was ready to take on life. I knew I needed to seek out my destiny, which meant carrying on my quest for happiness.
The Beginning to My Understanding
That was only the beginning. A year and a half later, I was able to move out of the mental health system, and back into the community.
Remarkably, I soon began seeing Paula again, who reminded me of Dorothy Gale.
Finally, An Epiphany
One day, in her office, I had an epiphany that will last forever.
The happiness I was searching for, that I had been searching for from childhood, was not ever going to be found outside myself, I had to find it inside of me.
I know this can be a disappointing revelation to many who are determined to find happiness in a geographical move, a new relationship, or a new job, but even quitting an addiction does not bring happiness.
What Does Bring Happiness?
“So, what on earth does bring happiness?” You may be asking.
Inner peace, joy and happiness are an inside job. I began to seek out what it was that I was looking for, what is it I wanted to spend the second half of my life doing. I stopped depending on other people to satisfy my needs of love, acceptance, and joy and began to create inside myself all those things.
Creating Love, Acceptance and Joy Happens Inside
Creating love, acceptance and joy inside myself didn’t happen overnight, and it will always take constant maintenance. Also, this does not mean I ignore other relationships in my life. I am a human, and that makes me a social animal just like everyone else. It just means that I don’t depend on these important relationships to fulfill me and make me happy.
Steps I Took to Self-Acceptance
One of the first things I had to do, with Paula’s expert help, was to take a good hard look at who I was and what my values were. It was a heart wrenching experience, but after I had seen my true self, I was able to begin the process of accept myself with all my flaws and shortcomings. I have been successful in forgiving myself for all the foolish mistakes I’ve made, and more importantly, I have begun to love me. That is powerful.
Next, I had to look at my locus of control, (the degree that I believed I controlled my life). I found instantly that I was allowing other people’s behaviors and attitudes control how I felt about myself and my future. Realizing that would never do, I began to practice changing the way I viewed my reactions to other people, and concentrating on where and who I was regardless of the messages they are conveying.
What I Discovered
To my amazement and relief, I have discovered a caring, warm, intelligent human being who wishes to use her experiences going down the road less taken, to enrich the lives of others who are on the same or similar journey.
This piece is no ways meant to be saying I have found the answers, or that I live in some sort of self-accepting bliss. That would be absurd. Life is bound up in two lessons, which I have written about before, but have become my mantra.
Life isn’t easy, and life isn’t fair.
It is my belief, that after one accepts themselves as much as humanly possible, understanding these two fundamental facts of life makes life easier by putting all problems into proper context.
Searching for Happiness from the Outside Will Always Be Unsuccessful
Searching and searching for happiness outside ourselves will always be unsuccessful. The reason? Because other people are searching too, and will let you down when you don’t meet their expectations of making them happy.
Two Half People Do Not Make a Whole
Besides, you can have a meaningful relationship with another person only if you know who you are and don’t bring to the relationship the baggage of neediness.
Two half people simply do not make a whole.
As William Arthur Ward stated, “The search for happiness is an inside job.”
“Realize that true happiness lies within you. Waste no time and effort searching for peace and contentment and joy in the world outside. Remember that there is no happiness in having or in getting, but only in giving. Reach out. Share. Smile. Hug. Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself.” Og Mandino