Besides our worry thoughts about the future, there is another type of story we are telling ourselves which gives us a lot of anguish. These are the stories about what is preventing us from being happy in this now moment. The ‘if only’ stories, which often sound like this: ‘If only he’d listen, I’d be happy. If only the sun was shining, I’d be happy. If only my back didn’t hurt, I’d be happy. If only I had a little more money in the bank, I’d be happy. If only I’d gotten that promotion, I’d be happy, If only he loved me, I’d be happy...’ you know the drill.
Start by identifying the stories you are telling yourself about what’s keeping you from being happy at this very moment. Be very specific and write down exactly what’s preventing you from being happy right now.
What's Keeping You From Being Happy Right Now?
Think about this carefully and write it down. What’s keeping you from being happy right now? Is it your job? Is it your boss at work? If that’s what it is, what’s the story? Write it down. Is it your health? If it is, what’s the story? Is it your relationship with your partner or your children? If it is, what’s the story? Is it the weather? Is it your age, your looks, the amount of money in your bank account? What exactly is preventing you from being happy right now? Is it the world situation? Is it your father’s health? What is it? Pinpoint the story and write it down. Then ask the four questions about each of your statements.
The four questions are:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react when you think that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought? and The turnaround (the exact opposite of the original statement).
From Byron Katie’s book Loving What Is
In my experience, when you ask the four questions and investigate what is preventing you from being happy at this moment, the stories often dissolve in the light of truth.
A Mental Universe: Our Thoughts Prevent Us From Being Happy
We live in a mental universe and that means that nothing but our thoughts can prevent us from being happy right now. No event or outside circumstance can do this, only a story. But please don’t believe me; find out for yourself if this radical claim is true.
And there’s only one way to do this and that’s to try what I’m suggesting. Write down everything that is preventing you from being happy right now and investigate your stories. Find out what’s true.
When you have written down your stories and asked the four questions, you will have uncovered your own delusion! The delusion that is preventing you from being happy now. Why do I say this? Ask the four questions and find out for yourself! Find out if there is anything, anything at all in this whole universe that is preventing you from being happy at this now moment.
I know this is a very ambitious claim, but it’s true nevertheless. There is always – always – a story that is preventing you from being happy right now. Why is that so? Because as I just said, we live in a mental universe. All our experiences are determined by our thoughts. Nothing else is going on – and that’s the good news – because it means that nothing – absolutely nothing but our thoughts can prevent us from living a happy life right now. Nothing else, no outside event or circumstance can do this, only our stories can do this. But please don’t believe me; find out for yourself if this is true.
Another Kind Of Storytelling: Dwelling on Past Grudges & Hurts
There’s another kind of storytelling that can be veiling your happiness like a cloud and that’s the negative kind of storytelling that involves dwelling on past grudges and reliving past hurts.
No matter how much someone or something hurt in the past, by retelling the story in the present, it’s still happening now, it’s still your experience now, at this very moment. The unhappiness you are feeling is now. Just like when we worry about the future, your anguish is happening now. All our experiences are still happening right here and now. There is no place else they can happen and this is obviously because there is only the now. The past and the future do not exist; they are only thoughts in our mind, which are happening now. So your story, whatever it is, is also still happening now.
In trying to clear your mind and remove the clouds that are blocking the experience of your own true happy nature, you might want to consider how dwelling on past hurts is influencing you now. When you dwell on past hurts, how does it make you feel right now and how does this influence your present choices and behavior?
A good way to do this is to go through your so-called life story in as much detail as you can and when you find areas of discomfort, write them down. Write down the story of the events that are bothering you and then investigate them by asking Byron Katie’s four questions. And see what happens!
What About Memory? He Did, She Said...
But what about memory and the role of memory in all this? I bring this up now because your reaction to what I’m saying may be... but I remember... “When he left me, I was devastated.” Or “When she stole my money, I was furious because I had to start all over.” “When our business went bankrupt, I was so depressed that I had a nervous breakdown.” “When my father died, I cried for weeks.”
When we look at these statements, it is interesting to note that there are two pieces of information in each statement. There is our memory of the actual events, the so-called facts, which includes the first part of each of the above statements: “He left me.” “She stole my money.” “We went bankrupt.” “My father died.” These are the facts. This is memory of events, of the things that happened.
But then there is the second part of each statement or memory – which is the story we attach to the events. This type of memory is our interpretation of the things that happen to us. Our stories are our way of telling us what these events mean, and each story is based on our beliefs about life. So we say, “When he left me, I was devastated.” “When she stole my money, I was furious because I had to start all over.” “When the business went bankrupt, I was so depressed that I had a nervous breakdown.” In each case, we can see we combined the event with our interpretation of the event and came out with a story.
When things happen in our lives, we attach storylines to these events based on our beliefs about life. Then when we remember these events, they have specific meanings for us – and a certain emotional charge. This is something we are doing all the time, all our lives. And there’s nothing basically wrong with doing this except if our stories are making us suffer and are preventing us from living happy lives.
If this is the case, if our stories and memories are causing discomfort, anguish and distress, then it can be a good idea to take a closer look at these stories and the beliefs behind the stories, and ask Byron Katie’s four questions.
Can Outside Circumstances Affect Me?
All events, regardless of what they are, are neutral. They have no meaning in and of themselves, however radical this statement may sound. This is the way it is.
The truth is things just happen. Our experience of events is a result of our beliefs and our interpretation of whether these happenings are good or bad, happy or sad, right or wrong, etc. That is all we are experiencing. All we are experiencing is our interpretation of the meaning of these events. That is all that can happen. And that is our life; that is our world. Nothing else is going on. (Nothing else can go on.)
So if we believe an event is bad, that is our experience.
If we believe an event is good, that is our experience.
And even more basically, if we believe that outside events, circumstances and people can influence us – then they can! I know this is getting tricky, but it’s rather like the placebo effect. If you believe the pill will take away your headache, then it will, even if it’s just a sugar tablet! The same goes for everything else in life.
You Get What You Believe
So it really comes down to this: Events can only affect you if you think they can! But the truth is... nothing can affect you but your own thoughts! I find this so radical and so amazing, that the implications of this continue to fascinate me...
It’s like we’re collective sleepwalkers who don’t see this! Collective sleepwalkers who are walking around in the dream that other people, events, things and circumstances have power over us, when in fact they don’t! It’s a collective lie that we’ve all swallowed and until we wake up we’ll suffer just the way we believe we should suffer!
So if you want absolute freedom, which is true happiness, wake yourself up and play with these ideas until they click for you! Only you can do this, no one else can do it for you – and once you get it, no one else can take it from you.
©2013 Barbara Berger. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the author. Published by O Books,
an imprint of John Hunt Publishing Ltd. www.o-books.com
This article was adapted with permission from the book:
Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life
by Barbara Berger.
What is preventing you from being happy now? Is it your partner, your health, your job, your financial situation or your weight? Or is it all the things you think you “should” do? Barbara Berger takes a look at all the things we think and do that prevent us from living happy lives now. Barbara presents 10 practical ways to use this understanding in your daily life, your relationships, at work and for your health.
About the Author
Barbara Berger has written over 15 self-empowerment books, including the international bestseller "The Road to Power / Fast Food for the Soul" (30 languages), "Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life" (20 languages) and “The Awakening Human Being – A Guide to the Power of Mind”. American-born, Barbara now lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark. In addition to her books, she offers private coaching sessions to individuals who wish to work intensely with her (in her office in Copenhagen or on Skype and telephone for people who live far away from Copenhagen). For more about Barbara Berger, see her Web site: www.beamteam.com
NEWLY RELEASED BOOK (July 2017)
Find and Follow Your Inner Compass: Instant Guidance in an Age of Information Overload
by Barbara Berger.