Most people think that happiness is the goal. It’s what they want for themselves. It’s what they want for the children. It’s what they want for relationships. In this episode, you’ll learn why that goal is actually not making you happy at all.
I want you to think about what you want in this life. What do you want for yourself? What do you want for your children? What do you want for your marriage? Most people, when asked this question, the answer is “I want to be happy” or “I want my children to be happy” or “I just want to be happy in my relationship.” And what I am going to offer to you today, is that thought is actually going to do the opposite…and it’s going to leave you disappointed and unhappy.
I know…you are thinking “what? That’s ridiculous! Of course I want to be happy….So let me explain!
When our goal in life is to be happy all the time, then when we are unhappy, or frustrated, or irritated, or sad, or bored or any other “negative emotions” we think that there is something wrong with our life and our relationships. And then we try to either do something to not feel those negative emotions, because they don’t feel good. We try to escape feeling bad by doing something that brings us “false pleasure” in order to feel better. OR we try to manipulate the situation so that we feel better.
Giving into those urges to escape negative emotion is what I call “Buffering”. People do a lot of things to buffer. Some things are not necessarily bad, but anything in excess can be harmful. To escape the discomfort and negative emotion we eat, sleep, shop, Netflix, scroll for hours on social media, work, exercise, drink Diet Coke, or alcohol. Then there are things that are more harmful that we do to escape, like drugs, pornography.
So we use these buffers as a way to not feel the negative emotion. These buffers feel good. They give us pleasure which feels similar to positive emotion but they don’t last. And a lot of times they cause us to feel guilt or shame or some other negative emotions later…so we end up feeling worse than if we had just dealt with the negative emotion to begin with.
So last night, my husband was really irritated about something and then I got irritated at his irritation. I left to go take my daughter to work and right by her work is a Chick-fil-a. And I LOVE their cookies and cream shakes. And oh…I wanted a shake so bad. It would have made all my negative emotions just go away for a bit. The urge was so strong. My brain kept offering me thoughts the whole way there about it. “It will taste so good.” “You need this to feel better.” “Sugar always makes everything better.” “It’s no big deal” “Your health goals don’t matter, you can cheat just this once.” etc. And I had to just sit with that urge and remind myself that my goals are important and sugar is not going to solve anything. Eventually the urge went away. I was miserable during it, but afterwards I was so proud of myself. And if I had given in…it’s not the end of the world, but I would have felt some shame after for not sticking to my goals and not processing my emotions like i know I can. And I would have just had compassion with myself, but the pride of doing what I know I can was awesome.
The next thing we try to do to not feel negative emotion to trying to change the situation so that we feel better. Most of us think our negative emotions comes from the situation we are in. But this isn’t true. If you remember we talked about in Episode 17 – how our feelings come from our thoughts. Always! They don’t come from our circumstance. But most people think they do. So they try to change the circumstance so that they feel better.
Let me give you an example. When I was in my first marriage I was miserable. So in order to feel better, I buffered a LOT with Diet Coke. But I also tried to change my circumstance. Less than a year before I filed for divorce I tried to buy a new house, because if I had to be in a miserable marriage at least I’d have a nicer house. When it fell through I decided that I needed a pool in my current house. We were going to start the pool in another couple of months when I decided it was time to get divorced.
I was really trying to change my circumstance in order to feel better rather than deal with my negative emotions.
How to actually feel better
So how do we actually feel better? I’d like to offer you a thought that I have found really helpful. I choose to think that I’m only supposed to be happy 50% of the time. This life should be about 50% positive and 50% negative. This thought is really helpful to me because when things are more negative my brain doesn’t go crazy thinking something is wrong. I just remember that this is part of the 50% of life that is supposed to be negative.
When my husband and I aren’t getting along, instead of thinking that I married the wrong person or this relationship isn’t working… I just choose to think that this is part of the 50% negative and I move on.
When my kids are struggling and I just want them to be happy, I remind myself they aren’t supposed to be happy all the time. It’s just part of the 50%.
This life was not meant to be happy 100% of the time. We are taught in the gospel that there is supposed to be opposition in all things. We are supposed to be tested. We have to experience the bad in order to understand the good. 50/50!
Now…if you are happy or experiencing positive emotions more than 50% of the time…AWESOME! If you are experiencing it less that 50% of the time, we should probably talk.
But…there is an amazing thing that happens when we realize that life should be 50/50. When negative emotions becomes something that we expect and that we don’t need to fear, and we don’t need to buffer away, that we learn to be present with and process and be ok with the discomfort…negative emotion isn’t so bad. So then our entire life experience fuller overall.
If you can be ok with negative experiences, irritation, sadness, frustration, boredom, and all the other negative emotions, then you can do ANYTHING and experience ANYTHING! When you are open to feeling EVERYTHING it make for a fuller life because you are evolving. You can also develop positive emotion about your negative emotion. You stop judging and worrying about it and you just go with it.
The more you try to resist or push away negative emotion, the bigger it grows. But if you just learn to sit with it, move towards it, you are being willing to have the whole human experience. And that is a life worth living!
If you want to learn more about processing emotion, episode 4 is great. And if you need more help, sign up for coaching. I always offer a free mini-session to help you with whatever you need.