The most common answer I ever hear when I ask people what they want, is Kate, I want to be happy.
We have an innate craving for joy. We want to feel happiness radiate through our bodies as often as possible for as long as possible. It’s in our nature to strive for happiness.
When I remember back to my childhood, I was always seeking out the things that brought me joy. Swimming in the pool, playing with my favourite toys, spending time with my family and doing ballet. My life was about seeking joy.
Somewhere between then and now, I learnt to seek joy at any cost. I had to rush past everything in order to get back to my happy state.
I told myself that anything that didn’t feel like happiness, was not welcome in my life. Often at the cost of my happiness itself.
In my late teens, this looked like avoiding how I really felt when I was rejected by my friend group, or as an adult when I was afraid to feel the depths of loss.
I was avoiding how I felt with all I had, doing my best to positive think myself out of the discomfort, in whatever form it showed up as.
I was avoiding my feelings, rather than allowing them.
If we truly want to experience radiating happiness on all levels, we need to stop being afraid of everything that isn’t joy.
Because in being afraid, we avoid feeling altogether. And with feeling comes the shifting of the emotion. Rather than packing it away for a later day, next time, try allowing yourself to feel it.
Remember that nursery rhyme about whether to go over the forest, through it or under it? We have to get through it, because when we get to the other side we move back to joy. Real joy. Not the kind of false joy that is actually masking pain.
It’s at this point that our emotional scope opens.
I like to think of our emotions as a big room, and each time we avoid something inside the room, something else leaves.
We mute out our ability to feel to our full capacity, on both ends of the spectrum, the more we avoid it.
In trying to feel happy, so many of us avoid what is present for us, actually stepping ourselves further away from the pain.
The key is to allow it.
Find a safe space to check in with yourself. How do you actually feel today? Were you honest with yourself and those around you about how a particular situation affected you? Could you resist something without fear, now that you are in your sacred space?
It’s also important for me to note that this is a learned behaviour, not something you were born with. All you need to do is look at a toddler and witness how unafraid they are to feel their emotions to their full capacity. It’s also worth witnessing how quickly they come back to joy after they have expressed themselves.
In part they are learning to understand how to express themselves, and I’m not suggesting you act like a toddler, but remember you once knew how to express yourself, which means you can do it again.
Its was purely the judgement of the expression that changed everything. Whether it came from you, or from someone else.
Give yourself the space to feel. Make it an experiment. Just see what happens.
If you believe that what you are feeling is beyond what you can process on your own, reach out for support. Whether it’s your partner, friends, family or a local support line, there is always someone willing to allow you the space to express yourself. You are never alone.
The world would be a vastly different place if we took responsibility for how we feel, and expressed our emotions in a way that doesn’t cause harm.