Le Urban Retreat website now has exercises that you can work on and then post your experiences, ask questions, and simply just do the work!
The Secret to Happiness
by Terryann Nikides
In my practice I often hear: “How can I create my reality?” and “I cannot be happy unless I have what I want or get control over my life.”
We feel as humans that as long as we have control we can be happy. Less understood or investigated is the concept of control. It is obvious that “Control” is an absolute. We cannot have just a bit of control, the latter would presume that; at any moment we would spiral out of control.
We can, though, make choices and our experience is just that: we do make choices even though we do not have control over the choices we make. Life, as we know it, involves making those choices whether or not we know the outcome or from where our choices arise.
The root of our unhappiness comes from our expectations and believing that we can control our choices so that they meet our expectations. Despite knowing better, we keep trying to control. When we try to create our realities some things pan out while others never do. All the while we conclude that: one, what works is under our control; two, what does not work needs to be controlled! A precocious correlation to say the least.
In the latter conclusion we audaciously ignore the unconscious, cultural, societal, familial, educational, and peer conditioning. Additionally, the unconscious seeks its own expression.
The unconscious is the part of us that we cannot see like the iceberg that sunk the titanic. The tip of the iceberg does not look very ominous and seems easy to get a grasp of but we forget how much we do not know that influences our actions, behaviours and choices.
Another misconception is that we can just let go of control. If I had control then I could let go and go with the flow. Any one of us would stop experiencing what we do not enjoy, if we could, but we cannot. Once we feel pain we can cover it up, suppress it, run away from it, but it comes back to haunt us when we least expect it.
We are haunted by the shadows of the un-lived Self or aspects of the psyche that have been dismembered and disposed of – albeit only seemingly . Socialization, a necessary part of the developmental process, fragments the completeness and wholeness of Self through the paradoxical “good and evil” “black and white” understanding of the mind. The Self seeks throughout our lifetime to re-assemble itself.
Each time something “triggers” us we are jolted into experiencing life in a painful way. The rejected aspects of Self that seek out our love and compassion come to life kicking and screaming vying for our attention. They are like disobedient little children seeking a parent to help them grow up and meet their own needs.
So now what? How do we access the inaccessible- the unconscious. The unconscious communicates with us cryptically, much like our dreams and the multitude of possible interpretations. The interpretations are not right or wrong but only represent possible reflections of what the unconscious is communicating. The interpretations of the unconscious shed light on aspects of Self that we have never seen before. In doing so we have a shift in awareness or consciousness.
This shift in perspective sends shivers down our spine, a moment of euphoria, and a shift in our awareness about our selves and our experiences. We see the world in a new light. The old perspective broadens to include what we have been excluding and rejecting for so long. The new perspective is like a breath of fresh air, we can breathe more freely, colours are heightened, we experience joy!
The things I know are: one, I know that if I could control the problem I would; but I do not know the problem so that is out. Two, if I knew what was keeping me in the same old problem then I would see it and get out of it.
Hence I have to find a way to get to a problem I cannot see. I also have a bunch of defences around the problem. How do I know that? Well give someone as resolution to a problem they keep repeating over and over again, combined with emotional attachments to the problem: then, give them several solutions to the problem. When there are emotions attached to the thoughts about the problem you will find we have a multitude of reasons, justifications, excuses, and “ya buts” to explain why we cannot get out of the rut they are in! If we could get out of the rut, that plainly is hurting us, – we would!
So, the question is how do we get through the defences we have built up around the unconscious wounds we have acquired in childhood. The fragmented aspects of Self are the wounds we so effectively keep hidden from view. The wounds cry out for us to hold and care for them the moment we are triggered and throws us into a struggle in life.
We have one should after another that struggle to push our pain and hurt away and at bay. We will blame whatever we can just to stop the hurt. We may suppress it or find a way to numb it but it is never gone. Where can it go? Like a child starving can be put out of our sight the child never goes away.
The shoulds and should nots we hold dearly are part of the rigid walls that keep us from taking care of the starving child within us. How can we dislodge the rigid stronghold that our defences have against revealing the child to us? Simply, questioning in ways we have never dared to questions before.
To question the status quo leads us on a journey to a part of ourselves we never knew. Beliefs about life and how life should be that are meaningless. They only serve to keep the status quo. When the status quo no longer serves us we begin to question what we have valued and assumed to be the Truth. The rules that have led us to more struggle – the truth will set you free not imprison you in further suffering!
One question that arises often in practice is “Why do I keep making the same mistakes?”
The question that could trigger us to think outside the box is “How does it serve you to keep making mistakes?” “What is the payoff?”
This requires a pen, paper, and sitting down HONESTLY and writing a list of what you gain from making mistakes or whatever your rut is.
You can make a list for one of your addictions, habits, and/or neediness’ i.e. a behaviour you are driven to do. Identify something that you are compelled to do and cannot stop doing but would like to have a choice to do or not to do.
Then make a list of what you gain from this behaviour. What is the payoff every time you behave in this way.
For example, one client used over-eating as an example. She began to write the list of what she gains by over-eating, such as:“Comfort” “Love”, “Importance”, “Calm” “Relaxation” “Fun”, “Joy”, “Happiness”, “
Once you make your list, look at it closely. You can see that the list is a list of what you lack.
Next re-experience your driven behaviour, feel it as though you are doing it right now and then feel everything you gain from it, as in the example: love, comfort, importance. Really live the driven behaviour, how you cannot stop it and then really feel what you gain from the behaviour: such as love, comfort and so forth.
Now you should see that your driven behaviour is dishonest and your addiction-(acknowledge this out loud to yourself. )
At this point just seeing that our driven behaviours are supplying us with something believe we lack, shifts our awareness. We shift from thinking we are just helpless victims of our addictions to seeing that we are fulfilling a goal that undermines us in the end. Of course there are many other goals we have. I look forward to hearing the goals you have found that you are addicted to achieving.