Can Happiness be Permanent?
Includes an excerpt from the book The Essential Companion to Talking Therapy by Karin Blak
The concept of happiness is used in many forms to sell products or services, lifestyles and ways of thinking. This is an excerpt from The Essential Companion to Talking Therapy (Published by Watkins Publishing) where I write about happiness and challenge the idea that we have a right to be happy 100% of the time:
“We might have heard or read about this supposedly easily achievable feat in articles, telling us that we all deserve happiness and that happiness is a decision we can make. Some profess to hold the secret to eternal happiness in just a few easy steps or can tell how to achieve the highest level of happiness as if happiness were an Olympic sport where bronze, silver and gold can be won.
It is easy to understand how we have come to believe that happiness is not only our birthright but the solution to everything. We are not perfect unless we have happiness in our lives 100 per cent of the time.
Of course, feeling happy is fantastic, but memory plays an awful lot of tricks on us. The rose-tinted glasses are so easily slipped on as we remind ourselves of times gone by. We talk about how happy we were, how life was so carefree and filled with spontaneity, the two requirements we believe will provide the happiness that seems so elusive to us now. While the memory holds plenty of promise of what our life could be, happiness simply cannot be a permanent state of heart or mind. This would be a little like a child wishing for Christmas to be a year-round event.
Social media and marketing campaigns that constantly tell us we will not be happy unless we possess a certain thing or have the life that is portrayed have instilled in us a sense of entitlement. Happiness is a concept that is exploited for its dreams of how life should be better than we experience it right now. The idea that everyone else is happy and there is something wrong with us if we are not, promotes the belief that any other emotion is invalid and unwanted.
Happiness may happen as a result of therapy but making us happy isn’t what therapy sets out to do. It isn’t as complex as it seems; learning to be okay with life in general actually leads to more happiness than chasing the perfect ideal of it.
Don’t get me wrong, I like it when clients tell me of moments when they are happy. It is a wonderful thing to explore and their version will be special and unusual. When I start to explore a client’s happy moments, their initial reaction is “I don’t want to take it apart, it’ll ruin it.”
The fear that looking at something we remember as perfect will ruin the memory is a common concern in therapy. We want to preserve these moments so we can reminisce and feed our need for “if only life was like it used to be”. Exploring our happy moments will make it easier for us to notice them as they pass through our life. We will be able to hold those happiness bubbles for just a little longer if we know what we are looking for. If we can notice when happiness is with us, we can save those moments too for the grey and rainy days when we need a little sunshine in our life.
While therapy itself will not make us happy, knowing how happiness feels and how we experience happiness will give us a chance to catch happiness as it passes through our lives. Just like any other emotion, it is a passing moment. Happiness isn’t elusive, it is a part of the human condition. If we value one emotion more than another, chances are we will be numbing or suppressing the less desirable ones. If we numb one emotion, we will be numbing others too. Learning to welcome in the range of emotions we are gifted with is the ultimate in contentment, where happiness is just one emotion of many. In therapy, we will learn to appreciate our emotions, to know that they all have something to contribute to a life lived whole-heartedly.”
The Essential Companion to Talking Therapy
This book takes the reader through the process of talking therapy, from the moment we decide to engage with therapy, through finding the right therapist for us and our issue and getting the most for our emotional and financial investment. It then leads us through the therapeutic journey while metaphorically holding our hand and guides us out on the other side, when therapy is no longer part of our life.