Overcoming Unhappiness

(C) 2001, Don Mize

Unhappiness is a sore that will not heal.  Many people wander through life being continually unhappy, believing that happiness somehow happens.

The wrong approach

When they marry, land the right job, roll in money, or become more educated, they expect happiness will move in. Even more destructive than this fantasy of the future is wallowing in the past.  “If only I had not sold that land, had stayed in school, had not married so young, or had invested in Microsoft, I would be happy.”  However, unhappiness is a sore that will not heal, and unhappiness spreads infection in the soul that eats away the heart.

Witch doctor remedies

Witch doctor remedies fail to cure.  “Get a good education,” the witch doctor chants.  “Make money,” the witch doctor chants.  “Drive an expensive car, wear designer clothes, and you will be happy,” the witch doctor chants.  Many twentysomethings frantically obey and arrive at thirtysomething still unhappy.  They have finished school, married, created children, made money or whatever else the witch doctor prescribed, and they are still unhappy.

The thirtysomething realizes, “This is my life.  I am going to be doing this the rest of my life.”  The witch doctor lifts his mask and has no face.  Some have affairs, divorce their mates, abandon good jobs, become thrill seekers, or drug their unhappiness.  Some muddle through the crisis by telling themselves that they must do their duty, become more realistic, count their blessings.  Then they are fortysomething.

The fortysomething realizes, “I've only got so many good years left.  I've got to do something.”  The pattern repeats itself.  At fiftysomething retirement thoughts set in. The pattern repeats itself.  At sixtysomething death becomes more of a companion.  The pattern repeats itself.  The witch doctor remedies never work, and in truth, “most men live lives of quiet desperation.”

Moments of happiness

Not to say that moments of happiness aren't experienced.  One feels a moment of happiness when handed a diploma after years of study.  One feels a moment of happiness when someone says, “I love you.”  One feels a moment of happiness when a sought after job is acquired, when the first paycheck is received, and when the first baby is born.  But fleeting moments of happiness provide only temporary relief from the pain of unhappiness..  No goal is ever pursued unless we believe it will make us happy, but the goal achieved means another goal must replace it.  Witch doctor remedies never cure.

Healing can occur

The sore of unhappiness must heal from the inside out.  The infection that spreads in the soul can be removed, but only if definite steps are taken.

Clean the wound

First of all, we must clean the wound.  The origin of the sore is always a wound. We all have wounds, no matter how loving our families.  Families, after all, are composed of wounded people.  One child may never receive approval from perfectionistic parents while another is ignored by uncaring parents.  One child is lavished with attention and believes the universe owes her reverence only to encounter the reality that no outsider thinks her special.  A child who is always hungry wears anxiety like a second skin. Wounded parents who struggle with the sore of unhappiness cannot give what they do not have.  To discover happiness, we must first of all clean the wound.

Negative feelings of anger, fear, guilt, hate, and despair must be dealt with.  We grow tired of our anger, weary of our despair, exhausted by our fear.  We are tortured by our insecurity.  Hate destroys.  Negative feelings can reveal the wound.  Feelings may or may not be rooted in reality, but they are powerful.  Feelings are related to past experiences even if the memories are distorted.

Buried feelings will be expressed irrationally, often destructively.  Repressed anger can become depression, can be misdirected toward one's mate, or can explode at work. Expressing feelings in a way that will not harm us or others releases pent up energy and helps us become aware of the wound.

Telling God how you FEEL in prayer, writing your feelings in a journal, or talking with a counselor who can accept your feelings are examples of ways to express your feelings without hurting yourself or others.  We must first of all clean the wound if we want the sore to heal.

Remove infected thoughts

Feelings are related to automatic thoughts and/or pictures.  I CAN'T DO THAT triggers feelings of despair.  WHAT'S THE USE submerges us in feelings of hopelessness.  Past experiences produce distorted memories as thoughts/feelings.  Unless we become aware of these memories, we will automatically repeat destructive patterns. We are not free to grow.

I CAN'T DO THAT may or may not be true, but if first recorded with strong feelings of despair attached, the despair will overwhelm us.  However, if we dissect the automatic thought (I CAN'T DO THAT), we may discover that the thought makes no sense (Of  COURSE I CAN OPEN THAT LETTER).  Now, escaped from the memory and back in the present, we can start on the morning mail as a first step in completing all that work cluttering our desk (which triggered the automatic thought/feeling in the first place). Think of it as removing an infected thought.

Surprisingly, the negative emotion will disappear as we escape the memory and return to the present.  Unless we seek the truth about automatic thoughts, the attached negative emotions will dominate our life. Not only will we feel unhappy, we will never enter the process of reaching our potential, of becoming the person God created us to be.

Replace infected thoughts

After becoming aware of feelings and related automatic thoughts, we can move to the final step of putting in a more realistic and positive thought.  Self-talk or positive thinking helps, but the Christian scriptures also contain numerous promises to be claimed. In fact, thoughts of faith, hope, and love are essential to replace the old, outdated thoughts and related feelings of unhappiness.

Actually, we are talking about a process.  In daily prayer one should spend time telling God how one really feels (confession), look at the related thoughts (responses from the old life), and claim God's promises (acting in faith).  Positive thoughts of faith, hope, and love tend to have positive emotions attached.  Not only do we feel good, we can function more rationally.  Happiness is a learned process.  When we feel good, we are free to act more rationally.

You can be happy

If you are tired of being unhappy, if you are willing to discard the myth that happiness just happens to you, you are ready to enter a new life that includes becoming the person God created you to be.  Unhappiness is a sore that will not heal unless we enter a new life that allows the sore to heal from the inside out.
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