Do you feel stuck in your life without a clear path forward? Sometimes, we might think about the pros of cons of taking action, and how it might be fair or justified yet never be able to reach a clear conclusion.
To serve ourselves well,in relationships or other situations, we need to look at the objective proof rather than justifications or excuses. If we are unhappy, this is the objective proof that we need to begin with. It is easy to get lost in justifications and fantasising. None of it truly matters, because our happiness is not determined by something that fits neatly and linearly into our logic.
I hope you read on though because this is not as simple as leaving a situation whenever we feel unhappy. Rather, our unhappiness is the starting point for a self inquiry. This is what we must accept as true and important – as the most important data point that we have. Yet it is not the end of the inquiry.
THINKING OUR WAY OUT DOES NOT HELP
The reason why looking at justifications, excuses, etc, does not really help is because all of these are not rooted in reality as much as they are mental patterns we are used to run. Our mental patterns tend to be better at avoiding and evading reality than facing it head on – we tend to reject anything that challenges the status quo and our view of the status quo. To shake up the current state of affairs means discomfort and a literal death of who we are at the time. Our minds are hardly bound to accept it easily.
If the number of excuses and justifications we can come up with are potentially endless, no matter how absurd, the truth remains only one – we are unhappy. For as long as we fail to deal with this head on, we cannot resolve anything.
There are various reasons why we might be inclined to justify the situation rather than face our feelings head on:
- We may have grown up in a family where our happiness was simply not important. No one asked us what we wanted; no one took us seriously; or we might have even been told outright that our happiness is not a priority. It simply may not even cross our minds that it matters at all.
- We may be used to placing other people’s needs ahead of our own. We might have an inflamed sense of responsibility – we might even feel responsible for strangers we meet briefly. Our sense of responsibility for others would preclude us from prioritising our own happiness because it would feel irresponsible.
- We might be overly analytical – this can also come through our upbringing. If we grew up having to justify how we feel to our parents, we might engage in an analysis that would seek to evaluate whether our emotion is correct or incorrect. This pattern may be so dominant that it may never cross our minds that we are allowed to feel what we feel without any need to justify it.
- We conflate emotion and action – if we believe that emotion equals action, we might simply refuse to look at how we feel because our fear of the resulting action could be overwhelming. Each time we consider how we feel, we also feel the fear related to taking action. Yet, emotion and action need not be conflated. In fact, emotion has nothing to do with action. First, we need to learn to feel safe feeling our emotions. Then, once we process our emotions, we can decide what action we need to take. In considering the action before we process the emotion, we are getting ahead of ourselves and scaring ourselves out of both steps.
- We know that acting to rectify our unhappiness will result in other people’s unhappiness or make us uncomfortable. In this case we already know what we want to do, but we are postponing out of fear.
EXPLORING OUR EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL TRUTH
Our unhappiness is the main point that we need to consider. We need to acknowledge our unhappiness stripped bare of all excuses and considerations. We need to dive in deeply into it to feel it and understand it. Whereas we may wish for an answer as to the right course of action to come quickly, it will most likely entail some exploration and patience. It can be difficult to know our own path forward even when others might see very clearly we would be better off with a different course of action. Others can inform us, yet it is for us to own our actions and choices.
Our unhappiness may well be the result of our mindset combined with circumstances that are acting on us. Leaving aside the notion that we have the capacity to be happy in any circumstances – the truth remains that most of us are not yet at the stage of our evolution. Our relationships, jobs, friendships, all affect us deeply. Therefore, our unhappiness requires some exploration – an adjustment of various elements until we can get to the root of its cause.
Here are some tips on how to approach this process so that you can understand what may be the right course of action for you:
- Begin to observe your thoughts. Practicing meditation will be helpful for self-observation. Our thoughts tell us what we care about. When we are obsessing mentally, we are usually doing so because we can’t let go of something emotionally. Observing our thoughts also shows us how much we engage in negative thinking about ourselves or others, which greatly contributes to our unhappiness.
- Observe your own behavior and moods. Are you laughing in the way that you used to? Are you enjoying any activities? Are you physically trying to escape certain people or situations? When are you losing your joy? This will help you understand what it is that you need to pay attention to, and what you need to address in your life.
- Date yourself. Truly, date yourself and bring into your life activities that speak to your soul. Observe what happens. How do you change? Do you have more energy? More joy?
- Observe your mental attitude toward the areas/objects/persons in your life that you believe are causing your unhappiness. It is a natural human tendency to assume that inner unhappiness is caused by something external. We often fail to see how it is our own inner interpretation of reality that hurts us deeply. We are used to assume much about others and external circumstances, and this can be hurtful to us. Whereas others may seek to offer us something beautiful, we may simply be unable to even see it. Seek to expand your horizons and discover whether your perspective is the result of inner strife or indeed related to something external. A therapist or coach could help greatly in bringing a fresh objective perspective on the situation.
- Let go of control. Check to see what happens if you let go of your attachment to a certain course of action. Much can be revealed when we withdraw our grasp on situations and relationships. What is revealed can surprise us in pleasant or unpleasant ways – but it will reveal the truth. Letting go of control is not harming anybody, it is merely allowing the onus of responsibility to be where it needs to be. The range of controlling behaviour is far wider than we realise.
- Consider whether you are giving away your power. We might be unhappy sometimes simply because we give away our power in situations where we are not even asked to do so. Choosing to act from a place of power can give us back our joy in a situation or relationship. Sometimes when we give away our power, we do it because we cannot see that we are actually invited to be empowered. We might be used to wait for permission when we don’t really need it. Unless we are dealing with toxic situations, other people would prefer it if we were empowered – this is when we give our best, be it at work or in relationships.
- Reset your perspective. Sometimes our unhappiness is merely the cause of a habit of thinking negatively. Everything in our lives might actually be very much as we wish to be otherwise. To learn to be more positive is not the same as choosing to ignore reality. Educating our mind is different from suppressing our emotions. Choosing to practice gratitude and to assume the best when we have no reason to the contrary can go a long way.
These are some ways in which you can explore what might be at the root of your unhappiness so that you can then address it. Inevitably, when we intentionally embark on a process of self-exploration, our intentions will yield awarenesses if we are truly willing to pay attention.
In exploring our emotions and mindset, we can understand ourselves and get to the core of our desires. In this way, we can make a decision that we can feel confident about so that we can proudly own our choices without regret or resentment. All we can ever do is our best. And our best always entails trying to know as much as we can about ourselves.