Dear Brooke, When I drill down into issues I’m having and do models, I find that a core issue is a belief that “I have difficulty being happy”. For example, when I find it hard to make decisions about my work or personal life I think one of the stumbling blocks is that I anticipate difficulty being happy in each case. I can see this is a past focussed problem – since being a teenager I’ve had brief times of feeling happy (often in the early stages of new relationships), some episodes of grief and depression, and long swathes of mostly feeling somewhat sad and struggling across all different jobs, relationships, living situations etc. The “meta” unintentional model I now have looks like this:
T: I don’t know how to be happy
F: Powerless, sad, shame
A: Hide. Accept happiness is out of my control and may not be for me. Instead focus on “useful” activities that could serve my family – earning money, housework, parenting etc
R: Outwardly life is running smoothly but inwardly feeling sadness and disappointment (proving I don’t know how to be happy).
Knowing that life should be 50:50 positive and negative helps me, but can I gain more control of creating more happiness in my life? I don’t feel as though I’m still processing old pain, but rather as if I’m just someone who seems to have the biology or personality that struggles to be happy. I’m even crying writing this! But having experienced depression I feel sure I’m not depressed, it’s much less severe and I am fully functional and productive. I often have the thought that a situation or result (e.g. having a nice home or a healthy family) “should” make me happy but just doesn’t, thus providing more evidence that I’m not able to be happy. Do you think it’s more useful to stop trying/expecting to be happy or to put more focus on it? Is there anything I can do to try and shift this? I’ve been trying to work with the new thought “I’m learning to be happy” but the actions I’ve tried taking so far have tended to support my original belief rather than my new belief. Thank you.