How Close Can We Come to "Happily Ever After"?

Excerpt from Chapter 8 - Thinking

There is a huge cultural investment in the happily-ever-after belief. Not only do most of the tales we tell our children end this way, but we also have a number of similar beliefs that keep tripping us up as adults.

One of the most common of these unhappiness-causing adult beliefs in happily ever after is, "If we do the right things, then we should be rewarded with happiness." Anger and outrage often follow when the result seems to be more like punishment than a reward. Justice is supposed to prevail, according to many of us; yet, it all too frequently seems most blind and capricious. We do not have to give up our belief in justice, just our belief that justice will happen in our lifetime. Punishment by God or by karma will suffice, thank you. We don't have to try to spend Herculean amounts of time, energy and money to make it happen here on earth. More than anything else, it is our failure as societies to have satisfying spiritual beliefs that propels overzealous concentration on justice systems. We spend billions suing each other, we spend billions on frivolous appeals and we personally await jury verdicts (years later) before we let our old wounds go.

We really can come close to "happily ever after." But the necessity for some unhappiness for a limited amount of time must be accepted. Our growth processes are commonly triggered by our feelings of unhappiness with a given event or person. It is often necessary to go through a certain amount of unhappy feelings before we feel happy; however, that process need not take long. We tend to accept days and weeks of mild depression as OK, but they are not necessary if the feelings behind the mild depression are felt. We tend to expect many months of grief after a death, but often that can be shortened dramatically. As a general rule (this will vary from one person to the next and from this week to the next), try for 23-plus hours of happiness a day during normal times. Stay with your unhappiness only for a short time, but do not attempt to avoid it entirely. Unhappiness can be postponed for a few hours or even a few days, but its complete avoidance will boomerang on us.

There are several "thinking" therapies available (e.g., Option, Rational-Emotive and Cognitive Behavioral). Often such "thinking" therapies are the most productive in terms of happiness for your therapy dollar. Many of the thinking changes required can be accomplished by using this book or by reading others.

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


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Excerpt from Be Your Own Therapist: "Do you routinely ignore your body and its signals, as you might ignore a carcass alongside the highway? Is your body dull and lifeless, like a carcass? If so, you may be like many psychotherapy clients who have the mistaken impression that just doing verbal psychotherapy will eventually make them happy."