Practicing happiness 19

Nothing is more important than that I feel good.

It’s easy to say, but takes some work to really internalise this principle. I don’t think I’m there yet, but I’m learning more each day.

I’m learning that “good” isn’t always within reach. In which case aim for “better” or “less bad”.

If you’ve suffered chronic anxiety and depression with underlying complex trauma you’re probably going to need to aim for “less bad” for a while.

Still it’s a useful question: is there anything more important than me feeling good right now?

Well yeah: looking after the kids. Helping out my wife. Doing work. Running errands. All of those are more important than how I feel. They need to get done, and if I fail to do them I’m basically failing as a human being.

See? I told you it was a useful question.

Having beliefs like that explains why you don’t feel good. And that’s another useful measure: if I don’t feel good, I probably (definitely?) don’t actually believe there’s nothing more important than me feeling good.

I can easily say “nothing is more important than that I feel good” but that’s not what I really think.

So how can I close that gap?

Because if I really think that, I’m much more likely to act in accordance with it. And before I even act in accordance with it I’m going to feel tuned into it. That thought is going to orient my whole approach to life and help me create a reality that feels good to me.

And obviously that’s going to include things I want, like my kids being happy and healthy and a good relationship with my wife and enjoyable fulfilling work and everything in life unfolding in satisfying ways.

But in the meantime how do I close the gap?

I think the general direction is to act according to the thought, even if I haven’t fully accepted it or still hold contradictory thoughts.

If I start acting as though I really believe nothing is more important than that I feel good, I will add momentum to that thought.

At the same time I might start to notice I have false premises or resistance on some issues. For example: why do I think some important activities (like looking after my kids) are not compatible with feeling good?

Surely there are ways of doing that (housework, study, work, family duties) that are compatible with feeling good?

I’ve accomplished this before on the subject of cleaning my kitchen: I went from feeling resentful that I am forever cleaning my kitchen, to feeling really good about having a beautiful, tidy, clean kitchen – while allowing that it doesn’t have to always be in that state.

That proves it’s possible to change perspective, to find a way to feel good, and that means I really can believe that nothing is more important than that I feel good.

Doing the dishes…happily?

I’ve struggled with doing the dishes and tidying the kitchen because on the one hand I don’t like it being messy and cluttered but on the other hand I’m tired of being the one cleaning it most of the time.

My wife and I have discussed it in the past but it feels like a stalemate.

I find myself again and again gritting my teeth and just doing it because “otherwise it won’t get done”.

So I decided to apply some of the Abraham-Hicks principles I’ve been working with and see if I can feel better about this situation.

It’s not the situation

It’s not the situation causing me to feel bad, it’s my thoughts about the situation.

I don’t need to know specifically which thoughts, and trying to hunt them down is usually counterproductive.

I already know I feel trapped because I want the dishes done, I’m tired of always doing them, and I don’t want to revisit a fruitless and aggravating discussion with my wife.

So what’s the opposite of all that? I want to feel free, I want to feel inspired and energised. I want to feel easy about doing the dishes.

My first thought is “they have to get done” and before I even get to the follow up I can tell this doesn’t feel good.

Do they really have to get done? Is that really how I want to approach these chores?

No wonder I feel stuck. The dishes are a burden even before I decide that I’m the one who should bear it.

Focus on the positive

After much practice at feeling better I had enough momentum to reconsider the situation and say “I love having a clean and tidy kitchen!”

Now it’s no longer a burden, it’s a statement of value. I love a clean and tidy kitchen.

And suddenly it flowed from there: I might not always have the energy to clean and tidy it. It might not always be entirely clean and tidy. But I still love and appreciate a clean and tidy kitchen.

And somehow with that positive statement I found I had the focus not just to clean some of the dishes…enough to make some room…but to clean all of the dishes. Three lots including some dirty pans from earlier in the week.

I cleaned them and dried them and put them away, not because they are a terrible burden under which I must suffer, but because I love and appreciate a clean and tidy kitchen.

Then I took the bin out and various bottles and cans that needed to be recycled. I kept going until the kitchen was as clean as it usually gets. I kept going until it mirrored the satisfaction and love that was guiding me.

Domestic insanity

I was definitely raised to see these kinds of chores as a burden, and carrying that attitude into my own home life is a shame.

All this time I could have been rewarding myself with love and appreciation for my clean kitchen, instead of forcing myself to endure the endless burden of dirty dishes that just have to get done somehow!

I can see now that when my wife did do the dishes I’d feel guilty that she was shouldering the “burden”.

It was a no win situation, but by finding a better-feeling way to think about it, it is totally transformed.

I like to think this is a microcosm of my Happiness work at large. Starting where I am, I’m finding that there have always been many things to feel good about, and many ways to feel good about them.

The importance of looking within

It’s easy to feel resentment when others don’t do their fair share around the house or in the workplace.

And it seems like a big enough task to work through or with that resentment and anger, trying to find a path forward that restores a sense of fairness and balance.

But it’s completely the wrong approach.

We can look to overcome resentment through a course of action, demanding that others change. But the likelihood is that unless we change our perspective, our outlook, and our emotional point of focus, we’ll end up finding or creating a new situation based in resentment or something similar.

Flawed premises

I was raised believing that there are a number of unpleasant tasks in life that just have to get done, and no one really wants to do them.

The best approach to these tasks is to get them out of the way, so you can enjoy your remaining leisure-time unencumbered by worry, or the looming demands of these unwanted but necessary burdens.

But from a positive-thinking perspective, there’s no such thing as a task or situation that is entirely negative. Moreover, there’s no such thing as a persistent number of unpleasant tasks that are so intrinsically unpleasant that one cannot help but get pulled out of alignment when performing them.

For me these beliefs are the basis of resentment towards others who don’t “pull their weight”. I resent them, because their apparent laziness means I’m the one left to complete these unpleasant tasks.

So rather than trying to work out how to overcome my resentment or work cooperatively to share these burdens, my negative feeling is actually a clue or sign that my beliefs are off.

The resentment isn’t really about other people not pulling their weight. That’s just another manifestation of it.

The real resentment is in me, resenting these supposed “necessary but intrinsically unpleasant tasks”.

Knowing what you do want

In this instance I’ve been suffering under a false premise. There is no such thing as a task that is both necessary and so intrinsically unpleasant that I can’t find alignment in it.

What I want therefore is not a fairer share of these nonexistent duties; what I want is to be able to find alignment no matter what the circumstances.

I don’t actually want people around me to change – and if they had changed the way I thought I wanted, they would only have come on board with my own flawed perspective!

That wouldn’t actually have helped me and certainly wouldn’t have helped them.

The irony is that the people I resented probably have a happier attitude to life in these important aspects that I struggle with. Their frustrating behaviour has been exactly the trigger I needed to let go of my own resistance.