About 10 years ago, I went on a wonderful holiday with my mum to San Remo. The 8 beautiful days we spent together were nothing short of a gift. Having quality time with my mum was not something I’d been used to having over the course of my life.
We enjoyed our time cycling and going on walks together; laughing and being lazy; even venturing to the casino one night and winning at some slot machines. I will never forget that time together… a rare glimpse of happiness between us.
My mum and I had always had quite a challenging relationship, even when I was a child, so being so close to her without any conflict was a real life miracle.
The year after, I called my mum and said, “Let’s go on holiday together again and have some fun!”.
She looked at me without a flinch and replied, “No. I won’t be coming to San Remo for any holidays with you anymore. I decided that was my last time.” I was in shock to say the least and it felt like there’d be no way to make her change her mind.
10 years later and we’re in the present day. I was having a session with a client and she was explaining how growing up, there was a resonating belief that she had no right to be happy. “The only way I can be happy,” she said, “is by making other people happy”.
I watched her as she spoke and for a moment, my mind flew to my mum. I thought, she too must have received that same message: “I can’t be happy unless it’s because I am making other people happy”.
It was a moment of awakening. I started to think about all the people I knew that were conditioned by this same cruel belief that they had no right to be happy for themselves. My mum, who is 80, my 38 year old client. Myself, my friends. The message we’d all internalised was that could only be happy through the happiness of others.
And if it ever so happens that we stumble upon happiness, like my mother and I did on that holiday, it seems that we are quick to step in and make a correction. Happy? Me? No thank you, I can’t.
I’m smiling as I write this because it all seems like a huge paradox when you stop to think about it. What we, human beings, want most of all is to be happy, but if you look closely enough, you’ll notice that whenever happiness comes knocking on the door, we are cautious and dismissive. We say “No, thank you. Happiness is not for me. Go offer it to someone else”.
How many of you can relate to this belief system that we mustn’t be happy unless it’s because we’re making someone else happy?
Subconsciously, trapped in our own denial and old conditioning, we keep living life doing everything we can to be happy, blind to the fact it’s in the palm of our hands. We ourselves are the ones who push it away by choosing stubbornness and avoidance instead. We avoid deep, logical self-reflection, which could help us see how and where we are creating and perpetuating our own unhappiness. We are the artists behind our own masterpiece, our life… so therefore, we are responsible for our own happiness and unhappiness.
Happiness is always a stone’s throw away for each of us, but our old conditioning and emotional family system blockages make us blind and deaf to our intuition.
My client was really blunt when she shared this realisation with me during our session. I’m thankful to her because I’d never had that message spelled out to me quite so clearly. Sadly, our society and educational systems keep us stuck in a belief system, or magic spell, that encourages us to perpetuate our unhappiness, whilst making us believe that we’re actually working towards attaining happiness.
As you may know, I strongly believe in building self-awareness. When we’re aware and truly see what we need to see, we shed light on what had been hidden in the shadow and we are given the gift of choice. Our free will can then be applied.
The majority of us have been conditioned to believe that happiness is in fact, not for us; that the only right we have to be happy is to do so through the happiness of others; that we must make others happy in order to be happy and this tends to mean forgetting about ourselves. These ‘others’ include anyone from our children, to our parents, partners, friends and colleagues.
I’d like to take this opportunity now to clarify that the above outlines one kind of behaviour, that myself and many of my clients identify with. But there’s also another kind of behaviour, wherein someone demands and requires others to make them happy in order to be so, that exists. These are two typologies of personalities and differentiating and defining the two would take a whole other article (don’t worry, it will come soon!).
So, having said all this, now we have a choice. Buy into the false belief and in doing so, keep repeating the same choices that keep happiness at bay, or recognise the falseness of the belief and step by step, walk away from it.
How? Simply, logically and emotionally transforming that false belief into a new belief, opposite to the original old conditioning. It should go something like this, “I have a right to be happy. I deserve happiness. From now on, I will welcome happiness when it shows up in my life”.
From now on, when happiness knocks at your door then, be ready for it by nurturing awareness. Take a deep breath, recognise the old self-damaging belief, feel the emotions attached to it. Embrace everything that comes up and then, with another deep breath, get yourself out of the magic spell by opening the door to happiness with open arms and saying, “thank you happiness for knocking at my door today”.
header image by Andreas Weiland
Read my blog posts on Responsibility & Accountability and I Am Worthy for more information on where our responsibilities to others and ourselves begin and end and finding happiness from and for ourselves.
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