I Can’t Fix You; But You Can (Why you are your last, best hope)
That’s a scary boatload of responsibility right there eh? Nobody is going to save you, you’re on your own. You are an island.
It’s not the cold hard truth that it first appears though; it’s actually the answer you’re looking for. All those questions you ask: How do I get happy? How do I get out of debt? How do I lose weight? How do I fix this pain? They’re inevitable and forever. I must ask one or two of those every week, maybe every day. Challenges fly in thick and fast and we’re faced with all those ‘how do I’ questions to which we hardly know where to start. Sound familiar? You’d better hope so otherwise you may not be alive right now. It’s the suffering that Buddhists tell us we need to escape from to reach enlightenment. It’s the human condition. It’s life.
So how do we fix ourselves when we feel a little broken or stuck?
We turn to our friends and our families, we turn to books and classes, self improvement manuals and lifestyle gurus, weight-loss experts; we join gyms, buy into philosophies and religions, join cults (honestly, I joined two before breakfast this morning). We turn to anything and anyone that promises to answer our questions. Sometimes we get drunk; try to escape, but we can never run far or fast enough to outrun our own thoughts. You have to turn towards them in the end.
We look to other people and external forces to fix us.
Other people and external forces cannot fix us. They can only fill our toolbox; arm us with advice, strategies and cuddles; give us the benefit of their experience and the time of day. But it’s still only their experience.
You have to own it, whatever it is. Your happiness is only ever going to come from within you. You can’t hook yourself up to an intravenous bottle of help and expect the drip feed of other people’s experiences to flush out your poison. Only you can do that.
Smiling is the perfect example. I had this same conversation (are we having a conversation? It’s weird, I feel like we are!) with my youngest son this morning. He’d had a string of bumps and bruises, the homework was tough and he was tired after finishing his first 5k park run (VERY proud dad). I told him to smile anyway. He said he couldn’t smile when he felt sad. I told him to smile anyway. He insisted that this was impossible. I told him to smile anyway. He looked at me like I was a few sandwiches short. But he was smiling.
I explained to him that even if you feel sad and the last expression you could possibly contort your face into was a smile, in fact especially if you feel like that, then you should smile anyway. Because if you smile, your body thinks you’re happy and supports the whole con job. If you smile, you will get happier. Smiling isn’t always just an automatic response to external happy factors, it’s also a choice. You can choose to smile. And when you do, you will get happier. Maybe only a bit, but keep smiling and it’ll grow. It won’t take away the pain but it will dampen it and if you do it enough it will turn you around and point you the other way.
As it turns out, smiling isn’t the only choice you have
Happiness in general is a choice, forgiveness is a choice, even peace of mind is a choice. Fixing yourself from the inside out is a choice you can make by yourself, independent of anyone and anything else.
You’d think that writing this kind of stuff that I’m just chipper most of the time, that I’ve got the tools in the locker and my happiness is constantly turned up to def con rad. I can be; it can be. But only when I choose it to be. I can wallow in self pity, lose myself in hot memories and the perception of loneliness. I can choose to drink and eat crap, I can choose to engage with the thoughts that pry at the cracks in my heart, teasing open the slashes I work so hard to seal. It’s easy to do that, but they’re all still choices.
Ultimately the responsibility is yours and mine; we have to remember who’s in charge. It’s not fate, it might be God, it might be the universe, it might be aliens puling strings at the other end of some almighty VR project in which we’re just lines of advanced code (you never saw Fox Mulder smiling). But I tend to think that what we choose generally ends up being what we get and what we feel. The bottom line is that you are more in charge than you think you are of rocking your own world.
Choosing to feel happy when you’re most definitely not actually makes you feel kind of stupid. A false smile painted on a sad clown. But stick with it and I promise you, that will change. Bit by bit you will scrape away the old feelings and replace them with something new, something positive. You just keep on trucking.
Why you are mostly dead…
So am I actually saying that the secret to being happy has nothing to do with having the perfect relationship, well behaved kids, your loved ones not dying, on cancer getting cured, on it being sunny today or getting a raise, or not fired? I think I am. I think it’s a little simpler that.
Hedonic adaption states that whatever positive or negative fortune befalls us, we adapt. The happiness spike upwards or downwards will eventually return us to our default setting; our own personal ‘set point’. It isn’t stuff or the stuff that happens, good or bad, that dictate our happiness but what we invest in our default state, and that’s 100% up to us.
Do you know what our default state is? All of us? Dead. Sorry but we are; for billions of years we are dead. Then there’s this tiny, weeny little blip of life, then we’re dead again for billions more years. So yes, we’re mostly dead.
So I strongly urge you to rise above the cheating ex’s and the evil bosses and the diseases that steal your family members from you and choose to be happy in your tiny blip. Fill your blip with the things you love. Choose to live fully in your blip. It really, really, really is up to you.
Don’t read my blog to learn anything from me; read it to figure out what you can already do. You’ve got this!
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