Happiness is Not Cheap

When people are anxious, depressed or otherwise emotionally troubled, they seek to control their feelings.

Unfortunately, the goal of controlling your feelings is at odds with one very important fact. Your emotions are the output — not the input. They’re the “printouts” which follow from the way you think and act throughout life.

For example, if you go through life failing to pay attention to what makes you happy in your job and career, then eventually you’ll feel depressed or hopeless about your career, or even about life yourself.

If, at that time, you ask someone: “Please tell me how to change my feelings,” or (more common), “Please make my feelings go away, or make them different,” you’re missing the most important point. Your emotions are the result — the output — of your own policy, to date.

The same applies with romantic relationships, friendships or anything else. The most common reason people become depressed, I find, is because they feel that life is not going their way. The same is true when people are excessively worried. Instead of standing back and examining what’s not working in what they’re doing, they seek to relieve the symptoms.

One way of seeking to relieve the symptoms is substance abuse. That’s well known. Another way is to compulsively spend, i.e. to buy things not because you need or really want them, but simply to help you feel alive or happy or successful; in other words, trying to alter your emotional state without ever identifying the cause of your emotional state.

Quite honestly, this is where even my own field of psychiatry/psychology/psychotherapy usually goes wrong. Professionals encourage or allow their “patients” to believe that the purpose of such “treatment” is to change your emotional state through external means. Instead of resorting to prayer or substance abuse (external appeals for intervention or relief), you expect some hired professional to do the same thing, only without negative consequence.

It just doesn’t work that way.

When you’re in psychological conflict, you’re in emotional pain. Pain is not desirable. It’s rational to wish to rid oneself of, or otherwise alleviate, one’s pain.

But you cannot alleviate emotional pain unless you identify what it is about your own thinking and/or action that is leading to this result. Somehow, you have brought yourself to this state. By figuring out what you’ve been doing/thinking wrong, the way is paved for better emotional outcomes.

Others can help you. But others can only help you identify where you’re going wrong, and how you ought to change your current course of thinking/action, if your goal is to be happy.

Happiness is not effortless. It can’t be wished, prayed, cajoled, commanded or medicated into existence.

Happiness is not free and it’s not cheap, either. It’s the mental state resulting from efficacious, rational action throughout the course of your daily life. No shortcuts exist. The sooner you accept this, ironically enough, the sooner you’ll be free to starting building the happiness you want.

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