Sometimes I’ve had people ask me if The Happy Mind is recommending that we simply deny or repress all of our unhappy and negative feelings and experiences, and accept and acknowledge only the happy and positive ones. Wouldn’t this be dishonest? Wouldn’t we miss out on half of life’s richness? And how do we know that there isn’t some gift or benefit to a particular negative experience that we might miss if we simply discounted it?
No, because repression and denial never work
All of those are very valid objections. But The Happy Mind does not advocate repression or denial or suppression of any kind. From the perspective of one-power, negative feelings and experiences are valuable feedback that tell us we are somehow blocking or restricting our mind’s ability to experience deep and consistent happiness. Negative feelings and experiences are the symptoms of a something deeper: ultimately our restrictive way of thinking. To merely dismiss or ignore the feedback does not make the problem go away, just as merely ignoring the body’s symptoms does not heal the underlying disease or problem.
Besides, denial and repression never really work. Whatever you repress just comes back eventually. It is the nature of your truth to rise to full self-awareness and self-expression. And that rising forth will expose all of your mistaken and restrictive thoughts, no matter how much your ego might try to hide them. So if you don’t fully deal with those seemingly negative thoughts and experiences now, you will simply have to deal with them later. And how can we deal with them now in the most helpful way?
Using negative experiences as valuable feedback
We have to fully feel and acknowledge and own those negative feelings and emotions. They are extremely valuable guides for finding our way back to peace and love and joy. But to make use of them, we have to take responsibility for our own unhappiness, our own sense of fear and struggle, our own upsetness. If we blame it on other people or things or circumstances, we merely affirm that we are helpless victims. As long as we are looking to the outside for some change that will “make” us happy, we are turned away from the inner dimension of our being which is the only place we could possibly find a solution.
Looking within for a solution
The Happy Mind further specifies one place we can look for a solution: namely to our deepest core beliefs. If we can shift those core beliefs, and change the way we are interpreting the world, change the story we are telling ourselves about our lives, then we can shift the meaning of our experience for ourselves. And by shifting the meaning of our experience, we shift the quality of our experience. It is a shift from unhappiness to happiness, from fear to love, from (as Buddha expressed it) suffering to absolute bliss. And that shift is always a reflection of a change in our minds, rather than some change in the world. Our circumstances may or may not change. But the quality of our experience of those circumstances can change radically.
So far from repressing unhappy feelings and experiences, we really want to embrace them as valuable gifts and clues. We use them to liberate ourselves from our own illusions, so that we can discover perfect happiness that expresses our truth.