Happiness is not a “cure” for unhappiness–no more than day is a “cure” for night. It’s human nature to seek more and more happiness while trying (rather desperately at times) to avoid unhappiness. But happy and unhappy are part of a natural cycle. Life is up. Life is down. Things come. Things go. Trying to hold on to the pleasant, while avoiding the unpleasant, is always doomed to fail.
What’s the key to keeping your calm center while the ups and downs of life swoop and swirl around you? Awareness. Simply paying attention. If the dreaded thing happens, don’t just pull the covers over your head and wait for it to pass. Watch it intently, like a cat watching a mouse hole. Notice your thoughts, feelings and actions. Be honest with yourself, but do not judge. Do not assume your current–and by definition, temporary–state of suffering is a punishment of some kind. The cold of winter isn’t a punishment for the warmth of summer.
You’re already stuck on the roller coaster, so you might as well quit fantasizing about getting off the ride. Throw your hands up and scream if that’s what gets you though the next hairpin turn or sudden queasy drop. Do what you need to do, but keep both eyes open. This is what it means to develop mindfulness or presence. No matter what happens, you keep showing up. As it turns out, you are not the rider of the ride. You are the ride itself.
About the Author: James Robbins is a licensed professional counselor, published author and co-owner of Dallas Whole Life Counseling. He has over 15 years of experience helping people in various life stages that come from a wide variety of cultural, economic and family backgrounds. Learn more about his background by clicking here.