Archive for February, 2016

Happiness and the “If Only” Syndrome

February 22, 2016

Happy confused babyI’ve written before about how the purpose of life is to have joy and that happiness can be gained in a variety of ways, especially with expressing gratitude. Since we’re all looking for happiness, it’s normal to associate happiness with particular people, places, events, foods, etc. This can sometimes be helpful. When we start to lose our way on the path to joy, they can be an anchor – something we can return to that reminds us of happier times, thus enabling us to re-experience that feeling of happiness. Sometimes however, these associations can be destructive. Perhaps the most common of these are sweet foods. People frequently get into a cycle where they eat to feel happy (comfort foods), but then they gain weight. When they see the weight gain, it causes a degree of sadness and disappointment. So where do they go for comfort? Sweet, fatty foods. Then they get into that downward spiral. I knew another guy who was a clean freak. He would spend so much time cleaning that he would often fall short on other important responsibilities. That would make him feel guilty. How did he deal with the feelings of guilt? Clean some more.

Situations where we frequently and easily return to things that make us feel happy can be destructive, or at least hold us back in life. However, there are often sources of happiness that are not easily attained, which can be just as destructive, if not more so. This is the “if only” syndrome. “If only I could lose weight, I’d feel more attractive, which would make me happier.” “If only I had more money, I would be really happy.” There are two varieties of “if only’s”. One is trying to return to a condition that you used to enjoy. This could be your childhood – a time when you felt safe and secure (if you were fortunate enough to have a wonderful childhood), when you had no debt, no marital issues, etc. It could be a great vacation you had but conditions won’t allow you to do it again at this time in your life. Perhaps it was a time when you were thinner, or had more money, or had a job you really loved, etc. In that situation, you can get stuck in the past. You’re not moving forward because you keep looking back.

The other “if only” is where you’re stuck wishing for a condition that you’ve never experienced. “If only I’d been born into a rich family.” “If only I was married to this other person.” “If only I’d been taller, or thinner, or smarter, or better looking, or more talented, or had the opportunity for better education, etc.” If only, if only, if only. Sometimes people keep wishing for a better condition, and then one day they finally accomplish their dream, only to find that they had their ladder leaning up against the wrong wall, as it were. I’ve known of some people who worked hard to become rich and famous, but then when they reached that point, they found that it did not provide the happiness that they thought it would. Some of these even resulted in suicide. That’s not to say that dreams don’t come true and that those dreams don’t turn out to be everything you hoped for and more. (I’m really not trying to pessimistic here.) Sometimes we can accomplish these “if only’s” and sometimes we can’t. I think that hopes and dreams can be great, as long we don’t lose touch with the opportunities of the present.

I work with a lot of people who get stuck in an “if only” situation. However, since I deal with so many people, I see many contradictions. I see people who are depressed and frustrated because they’re having a hard time losing weight. And yet, I see lots of thin people who are frustrated and depressed. I see people who are really struggling with financial problems. And yet, having money doesn’t prevent all problems. There are rich people who are miserable too, although having money does give you more and better choices. (I actually don’t see this too often. Most people who are successful have already overcome the if-only syndrome.)

Whether we’re linking our happiness to the past or the future, it’s a very risky and frustrating situation. Happiness is a choice. As I talk about in my Emotion Code class, no one can make you happy, sad, angry or anything else. Other people can provide input, but it’s your reaction to it that determines your emotion. There is very little joy except in the present. Even happy memories can hold us back if we get stuck longing for them. Feeling joy in the moment can help us to break free from the if-only syndrome. Tools such as the Emotion Code and ho’oponopono can assist us in that. Happiness (joy) comes from the inside. I believe that it is a gift from God.

As I work with people, I look for trapped emotions that are holding people back — physically, emotionally or in their life’s goals. We can often make a significant difference in their lives as we clear out this excess baggage (whether we do it in the office or remotely). We align the spine to help the nervous system, we balance chakras, and clear up other imbalances that interfere with the full expression of health and happiness.