Be Happy Getting What You Don't Want

Excerpt from Chapter 8 - Thinking

This may seem impossible to achieve, to be happy when you get things you do not want. The reason it seems impossible is that you believe you should be unhappy when you don't get what you want. (In all of this, there is the following truth: if you believe such a situation calls for unhappiness, you most certainly will be unhappy.) The essence of changing such unhappiness is to change the underlying belief that it is normal and natural to become unhappy when you do not get what you want.

Most everyone would agree that the situation of having to change your selected flavor of ice cream if they have run out of chocolate is not one in which unhappiness is automatic. There would be far less agreement about other "more important" wants such as a desired new job or love interest that failed to materialize. Yet it really is in how we think about these denied wants. If you start emphasizing in your head all the reasons why that new desired job was not ideal, or emphasizing the spiritually-based belief that "my higher self makes sure I always get what I really need," then unhappiness is not likely. (And if it does appear, then you might choose some self-therapy.)

Recently during a Mississippi River flooding, several big-city reporters were astonished at the reactions of Midwesterners who had lost homes and livelihoods to the river. For some of those experiencing such catastrophic losses were neither unhappy nor stressed out. (Such losses are expected as a part of living close to the land or sea by farmers and fishermen, so unhappiness for some of them in such situations will be very limited, often only a few minutes worth.) Those incredulous reporters most certainly didn't realize that they were the ones who probably could have used therapy most at that moment!

There may be childhood successes as well as childhood trauma associated with this belief in automatic unhappiness when I do not get what I want. Many of us as toddlers learned to threaten a tantrum or tears in the supermarket when denied a favorite food item; this often resulted in our gaining the item. We learned that we sometimes could get what we wanted by being unhappy, so some of us sometimes continue the process today by hoping or demanding that others respond to our unhappiness or hurt feelings or depression. Those who did have such early successes in getting others to respond to threatened unhappiness will have difficulty giving up this mode of personal relating. As traumatized children, on the other hand, we were not successful in getting what we actually needed, items such as enough real love and acceptance. We wanted and needed these items and did not get them. Most of us learned that not getting what we needed did lead to unhappy feelings and trauma. Our minds then over-interpreted that experience as meaning that not getting what we wanted was the cause of the unhappiness.

This unhappy belief (if you don't get what you want, you'll be unhappy) is widespread. If you wish to read further, I suggest To Love Is To Be Happy With (Kaufman, 1978) (free online read). Just ridding any culture of this one belief would do worlds for that culture's happiness. You can be happy no matter whether you get what you want or not. Changing yourself in this regard is not necessarily that difficult; the most difficult part is usually just realizing that such a change might be possible.

A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor. Victor Hugo, 1802-1885

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© 2008 by Thayer White
Finding Your Soul in the Spirituality Maze

 

This Chapter
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Excerpt from Be Your Own Therapist: "Ignore your body; then enjoy all the wonders of modern medicine such as cancer operations and heart bypasses."