Do you have any advice for dealing with happiness as a trigger? I feel like I associate happiness with either punishment, abandonment or loneliness. How do I work with that?
This is common, we all want happiness so badly. We think we want it more than we want anything else in the world but the moment it arrives, we shrink back because it scares us. Then we wonder why happiness is so elusive.
So what does happiness really mean to us? Our subconscious programming can have quite a different meaning than the literal definition of the word. In order to get clues about what happiness really means to you, you need to look back at your childhood.
Questions: What was the outcome of your being happy as a child? How did you express your happiness? Was it okay to be happy? How did your mother, father to caretakers react to your happiness?
In our families of origin, we receive subtle clues that teach us what we need to do in order to be accepted into the family unit. In some households, loud noise and frenzied action isn’t acceptable. In some houses, quiet and solitude are considered odd or uncomfortable. In some families, it’s not okay to express emotion at all while in others, emoting is the main form of communication. Take a moment now and remember what it was like in your family.
If you find that “being happy” tends to trigger anxiety for you, there are numerous things we can look at to explain why that happens, but today we’ll concentrate on this common aspect: When your parents are uncomfortable with your happiness.
Happiness often equals joy, and in children, we see joy expressed as excitement. If high energy and excitement were things that set your mother on edge, perhaps her reaction to your joy was to send you to your room, ("Stop being so hyper!") so that she could get some quiet and space. If this was the case, you could easily equate happiness with abandonment. As an adult, there would be legitimate fear that if you were to express happiness that you would be ostracized for it.
Perhaps your mom felt that she wasn't able to accomplish the things she wanted to in her life and then you come along and are able to easily do the kinds of things she wasn’t able to (lets say you're confident or beautiful or dynamic in ways she felt that she wasn’t), this may trigger some jealously. So when you’re happy and feeling good about your accomplishments, she might react by telling you to “be quiet” or “stop being so full of yourself” or she might just ignore you. Her misguided disdain would easily feel like a punishment to a child, and one could easily carry this correlation into adulthood. Happiness or excitement would be cause for punishment.
Maybe you grew up in a family where you were emotionally responsible for the household. When you were happy, your mom would lament and say things like “how can you be so happy when I’m so lonely and miserable?” This would have taught you that your happiness was not only unacceptable, but that it caused other people to feel lonely or bad about themselves.
These are generalizations, and I use mothers only as the example. Fathers and other caretakers can just as easily influence your subconscious beliefs around happiness. I encourage you to go somewhere quiet and sit with the questions I proposed earlier and see what insight you can draw about your own relationship to happiness. See what emotions happiness triggers for you and see if you can correlate the early reactions of your parents to any subconscious patterning you see surfacing in your current life.
Please submit your questions (your name will be anonymous) to firstname.lastname@example.org