Questions about The Happy Mind: #5. What if I don’t want to be happy?

by William R. Yoder on February 7, 2011

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What if I don’t want to change my feelings?

Recently I was in a discussion group about my book, and one person claimed that he did not want to feel happier. He simply wanted to fully feel whatever he felt, and to do nothing whatsoever about changing any of his feelings. Moreover, he thought that the whole enterprise of shifting your mind in order to be happier was a complete mistake, and one that would ultimately lead to more suffering.

From his perspective, to make happiness a “goal” was simply to make yourself unhappier (although if he really didn’t want to feel happy in the first place, it’s unclear why that would make any difference).

Is doing nothing a better alternative than doing something?

At one level, I do think that he ultimately desired more peace and joy in his life. But he had learned that fearfully struggling against anything would only bring more fear and suffering into his life. And somehow he interpreted my book as advocating that we “should” either fearfully struggle against or fearfully repress unhappiness. For him, both of those alternatives would only make things worse. nd so his solution was to do absolutely nothing at all. But I think he was choosing that alternative because it felt better than struggling or repressing.  Doing nothing is one form of doing something.

Struggling against unhappiness will not lead to happiness

Struggling against unhappiness or repressing it only leads to further unhappiness. But there is a better choice than just passive resignation. Of course we don’t want to rush the process or force anything. But once we have fully acknowledged and owned our unhappiness, without adding any blame or shame to it, then we do want to discover and undo the inner causes of the unhappiness. That is an active step that will allow us to experience our natural happiness.

Yes it is possible we might get to the same place with complete passivity. But I’ve found that taking some active role in the process works better for me. Again, it’s never a matter of rushing or forcing anything. But it is more than mere passivity.

You don’t want to act unnaturally or inappropriately. But neither do you want to not-act unnaturally or inappropriately. In the end, its a matter of truly listening to your own inner guidance.

In the end, we don’t have to make ourselves happy—
we just have to stop making ourselves unhappy.

A how-to book about happiness

At another level, it is possible that some people simply don’t want to be happy at all. For those people, The Happy Mind might offer nothing of interest. The Happy Mind does not try to persuade you that you “should” be happy. It is rather a kind of how-to book: how to make those inner changes in our minds that enable and allow us to experience deeper and more consistent happiness. But if that’s not what you want to do, then there’s probably no reason to read a how-to book about it. If you don’t want to build a boat, and in fact dislike all things nautical, there really isn’t any reason to read a book about boat-building.

So in answer to the initial question, if you don’t want to be happy, that’s perfectly OK.   I think that happiness is a choice, and not an obligation or a moral imperative.

If you would like to experience a happier life, however, and don’t want to settle for being merely “sort of happy some of the time,” then perhaps The Happy Mind book and The Happy Mind Workshop could be of value for you.

Only you can tell what works best for you

There is no one way that is works for everyone. In the end, only you will be able to tell whether these ideas and this approach work for you. And you will be able to tell that only after you have tried to actually live the ideas and practice them in your day-to-day life. I have found that these ideas can help me to shift from unhappiness to happiness, from fear to love. I have found that they free me from the guilt and limitations of my past—i.e., from the story of my past that I am telling myself now to justify and explain my supposed limitations now.

I believe that the possibility of perfect happiness is available in every moment and in every situation. Moreover, I believe that it is the only possibility that is truly available. But it exists in our lives only as a possibility. And it is up to each of us to either realize it or not in our own life experience.

Will these seven principles work for you?  (That is, if you want to be happy.) Find out.

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