*Clear The Path To Happiness now a digital download at Amazon!
Attaining happiness seems to be the pursuit of so many people. Those who look outside of themselves seem to find temporary means, but those who go inside reveal happiness, where it was all along.
I talk about that in this deep episode of clearing the obstacles to revealing the happiness inside.
(The following is a transcript for episode 46)
If you’re new to The Overwhelmed Brain and you’re wondering what it’s all about, let’s put it this way:
There’s a ton of personal growth shows out there, whether you go to a live seminar and see people like Tony Robbins, or buy someone’s audio program designed to motivate you to happiness and success. Or maybe you listen to other personal growth shows online. Whatever the case, there’s a common thread I’ve seen and heard through a lot of them, and that’s repackaging.
Many, not all, but many speakers and authors repackage what you already know, and may have already applied in your life. So when I created this show, the one thing I wanted to avoid was repackaging what you probably already know.
Now there is a benefit to watching, reading or listening to repackaged personal development content, and that is that sometimes you don’t really absorb what’s being taught until it’s presented in a way that resonates with you. Whether that’s because you really connect with the speaker or author, or because it’s finally worded in a sequence and format that makes sense.
For example, for the longest time, when personal growth speakers used the term “energy” or “vibrations”, it bothered the heck out of me. In a way, it still does because it’s one of those all-encompassing terms that could mean anything.
“How did Mary get that raise?”
“Why, she just put out the vibration of abundance into the universe, and it came back in the form of cash”
“Oh, that makes perfect sense!”
Ha ha, now you’re starting to hear my cynical side. When I created this show, I wanted to stay away from abstract concepts like that, because it wasn’t a roadmap to learning and growing, it was a big picture where you had to fill in the details yourself. It’s like asking, “How’d that person find the love of her life?”
“Oh, she just walked into a bookstore, and the rest is history!”
Huh? Wait, back up. Who approached who? Who said what? Did they glance at each other? What were the circumstances? Were they both single and was there immediate chemistry? Details like this are often left out of many success stories, whether that’s success in health and wellness, finances, love, or any of a number of other life events.
It’s the details, the step by steps, that I sorely missed in a lot of personal growth teachings. It’s easy for someone to get on stage and say, “All you need to do is to think positively, and say the following affirmations a hundred times a day. Now buy my books and CDs to tell you the same thing, only in a different way.”
OK, I’m exaggerating a little bit. The point is, I created a personal growth show for critical thinkers. When you think critically, you question abstract concepts because you want to know the “how” of things. You want to know the “why” of things. And when it gets down to it, all you really want to know what it takes to get from point A to point B, without having to figure out what the speaker actually means when they throw out some highly interpretative words that, if you interpret them the right way, you win. But when you interpret them the wrong way, you lose, and you’re told you just didn’t believe enough, or think positively enough.
Alright, getting off my soapbox now. I just figured, after 46 regular episodes and another 35 or so mini episodes, it was about time to explain what this show was all about. Ha ha, I never have done things by the book anyway. I just wanted to share that I do try to avoid giving you abstract advice or highly interpretable information. I do believe there is a process to follow to become more happy and more at peace in your life. And every show, I do my best to give you those processes, step by step.
Sometimes it involves just asking yourself questions. Other times, you need to change what you’re doing to get a different result. Overall, and now I’ll throw in an abstract concept, overall you are amazing, and I’m here to help you realize that one episode at a time. So let’s get into the topic for today.
Now that you are thoroughly educated on what this show is all about, even though you probably didn’t need to know any of that, let’s talk about this particular episode. What I want to dive into today are steps you can take to start the process of happiness to seep into your life.
I’ve talked before on how happiness isn’t something you attain, it’s something that happens by default when your past has been processed and released. It also happens when you let go of your attachment to specific outcomes. Happiness is not something you strive for or create, it’s something that materializes on its own when you grow into a new space in yourself.
But what does that mean? Growing into a new space involves facing what is lingering in your life, and closing the book on those old events. Of course, there could be things happening right now that you are going through that bring you pain, causing you to leave the book open, and having you wait in limbo until things change for the better or worse. But as you know, you can wait for years, and things may not change. At least, until you intervene. So today’s episode goes over what you can change, what you can’t, and what’s simply best left to evolve on its own.
By the end of today’s episode, you will know some solid steps you can take in the direction of happiness. I promise, I won’t tell you that you have to think positively, but I will ask you that whatever reasons you come up with that make you believe that you can’t follow one or more of these suggestions, I just ask that you stay open to some of the ideas I’ll be offering in this show.
There is actually a quick path to happiness, but most people cannot walk that path. Most people are not in a situation where they can simply drop their ego and live a basic life, which would certainly free them of attachments. Because we are all tethered to many things in our daily lives, the possibility of letting go completely doesn’t exist for most of us.
Do I recommend a complete surrender of everything? Well, partially. When you can let go of everything but the basics, happiness will come from the most simple things. But I like to be practical. We can’t all simply let everything go and climb the spiritual mountain to find ourselves, but we can learn to adapt and evolve in a very demanding world.
But we have to eliminate some of the mental roadblocks we’ve setup in up in our brains. By the time we’re done today, if you really can follow through with at least one of these ideas, you will be able to clear at least one path to happiness.
Back when I was 24, I had a job as a service dispatcher for an alarm company. I was pulled from another department, given a raise, and got to answer the phone all day from angry customers who demanded immediate service on their alarm systems. Because alarm systems tend to make a lot of noise, every customer believed their call was the most important call, and they’d want a technician out right away. After all, you can’t have the alarm system beeping at you every 10 seconds, or worse, blaring loudly through the neighborhood.
So the job I had was very demanding. It was the first time in my working life that my job actual created physical pain. I was getting headaches, and the stress of the work was wearing me down fast. I went from a simple customer service person who talked with people and helped them with simple problems, to the end of the line person who had to handle everything that came through. I’d get it from all sides too. Not only were customers calling in, but I was also getting calls transferred to me from other departments.
It was the absolute worst job I’ve ever had. I never had enough technicians to send to screaming customers, and over half the callers were already angry by the time they got a hold of me. Some so much, that they would yell and curse at me, and continually call me back, until a technician arrived at their home or business.
I did this 5 days a week, 8 hours a day. I was dying inside. I realize it’s not as bad as some jobs out there. Like, I wouldn’t want to lay tar on a roof on a hot summer day in Florida. But it was the only reality I knew, because I was living it. Just like the only reality you knew when you think of the worst thing you’ve ever been through. Whatever you’ve experienced, when measured against what everyone else in the world has experienced, you could probably admit that it wasn’t as bad as what some people have gone through. And I bet you’ve gone through some pretty challenging situations!
But when you are in the experience, and only you know what you are now going through and can’t even compare your situation with anyone else’s, you really feel like you are suffering. And, you really are suffering.
I was suffering. I was going to a job I hated, out of obligation. I was obliged to make a paycheck, obliged to the commitment I made to the company to do the job, obliged to the customers that needed someone there to help them, and obliged to my co-workers that I wouldn’t quit and leave them with all these problems. I was obliged to everything and everyone, except myself.
You know what happens when you put the oxygen mask on the person sitting next to you before you put it on yourself right? By the time you put yours on, you’re passing out. You forego your own health and well-being because you believe the best course of action is to save someone else first. You might save one other person, but what if you had more to save?
That’s how I felt in this job. I was giving everyone else oxygen, as my reserves were being depleted. High stress, and high demand, with no breaks were wearing me down fast. I even remember going to the bathroom once, and one of the executives coming in there and asking, “Paul, are you in here?”
I said, “Yeah?…”
He said, “Oh, uh there’s no one answering the phones. We’re just making sure you’re here.”
I said, “Well, I do have to go to the bathroom on occasion.”
He’s like, “Yeah, of course. Just wanted to make sure you were in the building”
Seriously? Did they seriously just hunt me down in the bathroom just a couple minutes after I left my desk? Now you can tell what the expectations of the job were. Like I said, I was getting it from all sides.
So after about six months of doing what I believed I “should” be doing, I got called into the General Manager’s office. His exact words were, “Well basically, I’m replacing you.”
I felt a sudden glimmer of hope and fear at the same time.
“Yeah, we’re going to stick John in there. You’re welcome to take your old job back on the other side of the building, but you’ll be getting a dollar less an hour.”
At this point, a dollar less sounded like the biggest raise I’ve ever gotten in my life. It was like paying for my freedom. Still in sort of a shock, because my life was changing before my eyes, I said, “Yeah, I’m definitely interested.”
He said, “Well alright. Thanks for understanding.” Then he dismissed me. When I left the office, I think my headache went away immediately. I felt a relief come over me, and I sat at my desk for the last time, to clean it out and get back to a job I really enjoyed.
So the path to happiness is not about figuring out what makes you happy, although it does help to know that too. It’s about clearing out the mental blocks that prevent your intrinsic state of happiness from being.
Happiness is intrinsic. It is hardwired into us from birth. It exists inside. It doesn’t have to be created, it just has to be revealed. And when you clear the path of mental roadblocks, you are clearing the path for happiness to shine through, and out of you. Our default state is balance and happiness. “Being” is happiness.
“Being” is that state you can be in when whatever plagues your thoughts is released. If past fears and hurt keep rising, they prevent happiness from happening. If future fears and anxiety show themselves, they also prevent happiness.
Whatever plagues your mind is what prevents you from ‘being’
What I call plaguing your mind is an emotion that continually reminds you that it exists. If you went through a traumatic experience when you were younger, you have either processed it and let it go in some way, or not and are still plagued by the thoughts and emotions.
Perhaps “plagued” is a bit dramatic, especially if you have done work to release a lot of it, but you get the point. It’s these reminders that are always sneaking up to let us know what happened, or that what’s going to happen hasn’t been resolved yet, so here’s your chance to figure it all out.
That’s what our mind does. Whatever isn’t resolved or hasn’t been fully expressed, comes back as a reminder to give us a chance to resolve it. When we aren’t able, or willing, to resolve it at that time, it goes back into the depths, repressed, but waiting to return another time.
But that’s no fun. We don’t want it to go back there. We want to resolve these things as they come up, so we don’t have to deal with them again. I have several episodes on expressing your emotions, so that’s a great place to go from here. But let’s talk about some real steps we can take to start clearing these mental roadblocks. The more we clear, the more clear we become.
Thoughts and emotions come and go, but repetitive thoughts and emotions are opportunities to grow. But I’m not going to directly address what comes up for you, I’m going to walk you through a few processes that will allow those thoughts and emotions to rise up, and also out of you. Wouldn’t that be a treat?
Let’s begin with the first item on clearing a path to happiness, which is:
Stop living in denial
If you are plagued with negative thoughts, then don’t pretend as if they don’t exist, or that by ignoring them, you’ll be fine once they go away. A thought and emotion that rises is an opportunity to do some inner growth. Denying that you feel bad, or that it’s a problem for you, isn’t healthy. It delays the inevitable, which is that these emotions, these feelings, will never go away on their own. You must face them head on and figure them out.
I know several people that, when those plaguing thoughts arise, they stuff them back down with food. “Oh, here’s something I don’t want to feel… where’s the cheesecake?” This is a form of denial, in the sense that you are denying yourself the opportunity to experience the emotions.
Of course, stuffing emotions with food can be a serious problem for some people. The emotions are unwanted, and the drug of food makes them go away. But we all know where this leads us. Stuffing emotions back down can be unhealthy on its own, but to use food or drugs or alcohol to help it along, creates an addiction.
You feel bad, you eat, you feel better. You feel bad, you drink, you feel better. It’s like an addiction to pain pills. Staying in denial helps you avoid dealing with pain. And every time you stuff it back, you create more pain in the long run.
Now I’m going to tell you something that you may not want to hear: Allow the emotions to rise and feel them than harder than you’ve ever felt. If you are already in denial and stuffing them back down, then you already know you have the ability to control these emotions if they simply get too intense. But that’s where the original problems lies anyway. We think they’re already too intense, so we don’t want to feel them.
Now of course, you want to do this in a place you feel safe. So make sure you feel safe before starting this process. This is some deep level stuff, and it’s not incredibly comfortable, but if and when they get intense, I want you to have a safe place to return to.
Feeling these emotions stronger than you have before allows them to get closer to the surface to be released.
The stronger your emotions are, the closer they are to being released
Remember that, because when things seem painful, emotionally speaking, the pain is an indicator that you’re that much closer to releasing them.
I used to be a real judgmental person, as I’ve shared in previous episodes. When I started a relationship in 2006 with a girl that eventually became my wife, I had very few relationships previous to that. The number of partners I had were few. However, my girlfriend had more than a few. This bothered me so much, I actually thought I wasn’t going to be able to have a relationship with her. Now I don’t even care too much about someone’s past, because it doesn’t exist. But then, for me, the past was happening right now, in front of my eyes. And I was in emotional pain because of it.
My pain was, “How can this girl I’m in love with have had more partners than me?” It was really damaging to my then fragile masculinity. Plus, I was taking it on as if her sexual history was happening now, as if it was a threat to our relationship. I actually felt inferior.
This caused pain inside of me – real debilitating pain. That may sound odd to you, but I really hated the fact that my partner had more partners than I did. I felt less worthy and maybe even a little holier than thou, because as a judger, few people could live up to my standards.
But, if I was going to have this relationship, I needed to figure out how to get past this pain inside of me. At first, I was in denial. I chose to ignore the pain, and know that eventually it would go away. Again, when I say pain, I mean the emotional hurt I felt. By ignoring this pain, I was able to make forward progress in the relationship, but it kept sneaking up on me. I’d be triggered by something and the pain would return. And those same thoughts would return. I’d say things to myself like, “I wish she didn’t have so many partners, and that she was more of a long-termer like me all her life.” Everything I was thinking was my ego wanting what it wanted, and not accepting that everyone has a past that is different than mine.
But I knew that these thoughts and feelings were unhealthy. They were making me unhappy, and they were definitely interfering with our intimacy. So I chose to stop living in denial. I chose that instead of trying to suppress these thoughts I was having and repress these emotions that were coming up, that I would do the reverse. I decided that when a thought came up, I would intensify it, make it bigger, add more of what I didn’t like to it, and make the scene as rich and painful as I could possibly make it.
Strange, right? But I had to do it. I had to get past the point I could never get past before in order to blow it right out of my system. I chose to intensify everything in the thoughts I was having. I increased the emotions I was feeling too. If I felt anger, I made sure to get even angrier. If I felt sad, I got sadder.
The more I amplified everything, including the images that came to my mind, the sounds, the feelings, everything, the close I got to releasing everything. And that’s what happened: I intensified it so much, it finally blew up and out of my system.
I’m not sure how else to explain it. But after a few times doing that, not necessarily in the same day, soon when I thought about her past, it didn’t bother me anymore. It was like the thoughts I used to have had no effect whatsoever. I finally released it.
But what happened? How did it happen? Here are a couple thoughts on that:
1. I thought and felt so intensely, that my normal, everyday thoughts after that were so tame compared to the intense ones, that they didn’t bother me anymore. I became desensitized, you could say.
2. All pressure has to released eventually. In other words, think of blowing up a balloon. If you blow it up, then release some air, then blow it up, and release some air again, you are keeping around the same pressure in the balloon at all times. It will never fully deflate, and it will never get larger and pop.
That’s what I think of lingering negative thoughts and emotions: They are a balloon you keep inflating, and letting the air out of. You never blow it up too much, because it feels worse when you do. However, I chose to blow mine up until it popped. Then, there was no more balloon.
No balloon, no more negative thoughts and emotions.
Does that make sense?
Be careful when using this process, because you may have some pretty deep stuff in you. But I guarantee if you do have some deep stuff going on, you’ve probably never chosen to feel it get worse and worse. You’ve probably chosen to repress the emotions and suppress the memories, because who wants to feel worse?
Find a safe place and blow up the balloon just a little more than you’ve done before. I say safe because not only do I want you to feel safe doing this, but I also want others to be safe if they are the triggers for your negative emotions! So find a safe place, blow up the balloon a little more each time. If it takes days or weeks, or even months, go at the pace you’re comfortable with. Then maybe you’ll get to the point where it pops, and those old thoughts and emotions no longer have control over you.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
That was one way to clear a path to happiness, let’s get into another one.
The second item we can talk about is to:
Do whatever it takes to resolve ongoing challenges
What about problems that exist here and now? What about something going on right now, that is causing you strife and turmoil? Maybe it’s a relationship you have, or a financial problem or a problem at your job. Maybe someone owes you money. Maybe you care for someone that requires a lot of your attention. Whatever the case, if there’s an ongoing problem or challenge that you have, it’s time to do whatever it takes to resolve it.
Now it’s possible you can’t resolve it. Maybe you have a special needs child or an outstanding bill that will take years to pay off. Maybe it’s a situation that cannot go away for whatever reason. Here’s the first thing to ask yourself:
Is there a solution to this challenge?
Here’s what to consider if you answered ‘No’:
Have you actually sat down and thought of every possible solution? Or, have you “given in” knowing that there is nothing else you can do?
Also, have you reached out to others experiencing the same problem as you to find out how they handled it?
Almost always, there is a solution you haven’t thought of, even though you may believe you’ve thought of every angle. And reaching out to others, weather through meetup groups, support groups (both online and locally), or whatever, will help you get more than your own perspective on a problem.
I’ll admit, some challenges are simply unavoidable. My sister has a child who will require constant attention and care for the rest of his life. As much of a blessing this child is to them, he is also a challenge. It can be tiring to continually monitor and care for someone. But they are truly dedicated to doing so. In fact, I’ve never once heard my sister and her husband complain about their son, or the challenges involved in raising him. However, I know it’s a challenge for them. He does require special attention and will require it always.
This is something that they have learned to accept. They don’t fight it. They don’t complain about it. You’ve heard the term, “It is what it is”. When you give in and accept that no matter what happens, you will always be in this situation, you accept the challenges. And by doing so, they become easier to cope with. It doesn’t mean the situation is any easier, but your coping abilities strengthen and your conflict with what “is” decreases.
Now, that doesn’t mean you give in in every situation, but some scenarios can be changed, and you just haven’t found the solution to change them yet. If you’re in an abusive relationship, there are steps you can take to change your situation. This isn’t something that you simply give in to. You are certainly worthy and deserving of more. But for my sister and her husband, they could certainly look into getting a nanny to take care of their son. It may mean one of them has to work more hours to pay for it, but it is an option. But they decided to work with him and raise him themselves. There is no right or wrong step to take in this case. What you do when you are in a situation that cannot change is accept the solution that you come up with.
Acceptance is a powerful step to take, and can change your life for sure. But some people can’t come to terms with it. For some people, actually, for a lot of people, accepting circumstances means agreeing with those circumstances.
Acceptance doesn’t mean agreement. Acceptance means you stop resisting what is
My sister and her husband may have had a hard time in the beginning with their child. They may still have a hard time with certain aspects of it, but from what it appears, they have accepted it. They do not resist what they cannot change. They have decided that they are going to raise him the best way they know how, no matter what.
And I realize I’m talking as if he is a problem. But really, I’m just projecting. If he were my son, I’ll admit, I would have a lot of difficulty raising him. I simply cannot know all the struggles, so I make up stories in my head about all the challenges I’d have. But in reality, he’s a kid that requires more attention than other kids. That’s it. He’s not a problem.
Anything can be a challenge to someone not equipped or resourceful enough to handle it
So even though he may require more than the average person his age, as long as his loving parents have equipped themselves with the resources and energy required to raise him, he’s actually no problem at all.
Do you see how this fits into doing whatever it takes to resolve ongoing challenges? They’ve got two children to raise, and one requires more attention than the other one. They’ve done whatever they need to do in their lives to make the situation manageable. And, especially, they’ve accepted this as an unchanging thing in their life. They’ve chosen not to play the victim by using their child as an excuse for their woes.
Ongoing challenges are tough, I realize. Sometimes you don’t have the money, or the leverage to get out of certain situations. And sometimes you gotta wait for something to happen so that you can move forward with life. But when you’re in a situation where all it requires is action to change your circumstances, take action.
You can stay where you are, and accept what’s happening. Or you can take action, and change what’s happening. And when you can’t accept what’s happening, but also can’t change what’s happening, that’s when you become the victim. And being a victim is a place of no power. Even if you accept what’s happening, it doesn’t mean you still can’t change it. But being the victim means staying in a rut.
I could have complained that I was standing in line at the soup kitchen for months, but I chose to accept that’s where I ended up. I accepted it. I didn’t like it, but it was real, and I chose not to resist it. But, because I didn’t like it, I got myself out of it.
Don’t confuse acceptance with agreement. You may not like the situation, but once you accept it, it no longer has power over you. And once you gain your power by fully accepting what is, you can then change it if you want… or not.
The third item when it comes to clearing the path to happiness is to:
Consider all lingering debts paid in full
When you’re able to forgive a debt, you clear a path. That doesn’t mean that you should forgive a debt that is being repaid, or you know will be repaid. I’m talking about debts that have been lingering. You know the type: You paid for lunch for someone because they were going to pay for yours next time. But then next time came, they didn’t pay, and it was never mentioned again. But ever since that day, you still remember that they owe you lunch, and it gnaws at you every time you see them. You can’t form a sentence with them without thinking that they owe you lunch.
Whether it’s lunch, gas money, or just a simple loan, when you can go beyond whatever is obligated to you, you will be freed from the self-imposed prison of expectation.
Let me reword that, because I got a little tricky there:
Liberate yourself from whatever you feel is obliged to you
When you can forgive a lingering debt or obligation, you are free from it forever. You are free of the negative emotions surrounding it, and you can enjoy being around the person or people indebted to you again.
I don’t know how many hundreds, or even thousands of dollars I’ve lent to people over the years where I knew I’d never see it again. That is how I treat people that I lend anything to, whether it’s money, or stuff, or my time. When they promise to pay me back, I let it go at that moment. I “know”, whether it’s true or not, I know they won’t pay me back, and I forgive the debt immediately.
Well, I shouldn’t say every time. I don’t know if I’m actually that enlightened, ha ha! But, I will say that for the most part, I come to a place in myself where when I get a promise that someone will pay me back, I simply don’t believe them. I don’t say that of course. And if time has passed, I’ll certainly ask for the money back at some point, but if they never pay me back, I come to an acceptance (ouch, there’s that word again), I come to an acceptance that they will not be paying me back.
At that point, I can choose to continue to be friends with them, or not. Or, if they’re family, I’ll usually just forgive and forget, because I want family in my life.
But most people, again, including myself, will lend someone their time or money, with the expectation that the person will return it in some form or fashion. Especially if they say, “I’ll pay you back, thank you so much.” They set up an expectation, and we wait a certain amount of time. And soon, if the favor or money is never returned, even after talking to them about it, most of the time we’ll never forget that they owe us. Our relationship will even change with that person because we’ll think of that time they never paid us back.
Then we get a bad feeling being around them. Our friendship could blossom if it wasn’t for that one thing getting in the way. Or, maybe our friendship needs to end because of a betrayal of trust. But, it really should go one way or the other.
If possible, I tend to favor forgiving the debt and moving on. I remember a long time ago I needed a ride to the auto store to get a part for my car. Without this part, my car wouldn’t run. So I asked a coworker if they could give me a ride. She was like, “Sure, no problem!”
Well, her boyfriend came to pick her up, and I went with them to the auto parts store. I remember that ride specifically because he drove like a maniac, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about. They drove me to the auto parts store. I picked up my part, then they dropped me off at my car. I was certainly grateful, and I was certainly open to helping her whenever she needed it. That’s what happens typically. Someone helps us, we feel good about that, and would be happy to help them back anytime.
Well, I got my car fixed, and the next day, I was driving again. So, a few months passed, and one day I helped this same coworker out with something. I think I might have given her a ride, or gave her a few dollars for something. I don’t remember, but I learned something I didn’t know. After I did her this favor, she said, “That pays us back for the ride we gave you. Good.”
In my mind, I went, “Huh? All this time you’ve been thinking about that ride you gave me?” I suddenly realized that for the last several months, she’d been expecting me to return the favor she did for me so long ago. It had been on her mind, and I finally repaid that debt, a debt I didn’t even realize existed. I was so used to friends doing things for each other, I didn’t know they actually kept score!
So when she said that we’re now even, I learned a valuable lesson on being indebted to someone. Having an obligation of someone else to return to you time, money or energy, having it hanging over your head, keeps you in an emotional prison.
If she gave me a ride, and she mentioned to me a day or two later that I owed her, that would have been a different story. But the fact that it was in the forefront of her mind all this time just tells me that she held onto it.
It reminds me of a child who gets slightly more juice than another child: “Hey, Billy got more than me. I want just as much as Billy!” There’s a sense that the person feels he is being cheated of what he’s owed.
She felt like I got something for nothing, and perhaps was taking advantage of her generosity. When in reality, I was wide open anytime to helping her with anything. I was always helping her at work and with anything she needed. But a true tit-for-tat was what she was looking for. It needed to be an even trade, not unbalanced. So in a sense, I got more juice than her all this time, and she was finally getting the remaining juice she was owed.
After that incident, I made sure to be extra vigilant in finding out if people were okay with the outcome of situations like loans and favors. I didn’t want people to have those lingering thoughts picking away at their mood. I wanted to know, “What do I owe you?” just to make sure that I knew if there was any outstanding debt I needed to fulfill.
If you know people that owe you something, and it’s gone beyond the point of them actually returning it or repaying you in any way, maybe it’s time to forgive the debt. Maybe it’s time to move on from that place, and clear the path. That is clutter in your brain. It only prevents you from being happy and at peace anyway.
If you think about it, what’s more freeing, someone that owes you something, or someone that owes you nothing? If you really want the money back, ask them. If they can’t pay you back, either forget about it, or take them to court. But end the pursuit either way.
Don’t let the feelings that you are owed something drown you in misery
Misery is negativity that lingers. Misery keeps you in a bad space. By holding on to the debts of others, you debit your emotional savings account. Your lose a piece of yourself by waiting for the return of something that may never come. You get stuck, and stay in a rut, until you feel the balance is restored.
If you have these lingering feelings of negativity because someone owes you something, take action or move on.
When you start treating most loans of your time and money as a gift, you will be a much happier person most of the time. And if people really promise to pay you back, and they don’t, then you set up a personal boundary to never give them anything again. You can still be friends, but you know where to draw the line with your friendship.
I don’t recommend just giving everything to everyone. I just mean that when you do give, and you accept the possibility that you will not receive in return, you will keep your power. You will also keep your friends, if you want to.
Not everyone has learned the lessons of reciprocation and giving and receiving, and sometimes we need to let those people be, or let those people go. And when and if they learn those important lessons in life, maybe they can be close once again. But no matter what, don’t give up your power by giving in to the urge to get what’s “owed” to you. If enough time has passed, and it’s obvious they will not be reciprocating, it’s time to take action now for closure, or simply move on. Either way, you end the lingering.
The fourth and final item I’d like to discuss to clear a path to happiness is to:
Talk about your past
I get quite a few letters from people who tell me things they don’t share with other people. Things that are bottled up for years that, until now, they haven’t shared.
Do you have something that you’ve never shared with anyone that, when you think about it now, bothers you? Meaning, did something happen in your past that still bothers you today? And, have you talked about it, I mean, really shared your thoughts and emotions about it, with anyone?
Bottled up emotions are the largest obstacles to happiness. I don’t care if you’re a multi-millionaire with freedom to travel the world anytime you want; If you have bottled-up emotions, all that money and freedom does nothing to make you happier. Sipping a Pina Colada while lying on a sandy tropical beach means so little when your happiness is hiding behind a giant wall of bottled emotions.
When you’re able to find a trusted ear and tell them everything that bothers you about what happened to you, whether in the distant past or recent, you allow your thoughts and emotions to flow through you. If you hold back, and keep those secrets to yourself, you build a dam in the river of emotions inside you. The flow of who you are is blocked. The flow of happiness gets blocked. You may have happy moments, but the negative undercurrent of how you always feel flows beneath the surface.
When you start sharing your story, and sharing all the emotions that you felt and feeling now, you start the flow again. You break through the dam, and pour the bottled emotions out into the world to be expressed.
I realize I’m talking real metaphorically here, but I want to reach the deepest parts of you. Those are the bottled up, dammed up, and stuffed down thoughts and emotions you’ve never shared, or haven’t shared enough of, with someone you trust.
And if you have shared your story, but still feel a lot of bad feelings, then you haven’t shared enough. Of course, if there’s trauma, you may need something more involved like professional help. I know firsthand that trauma can be released by allowing all truth to flow out of you, but sometimes you need one on one guidance through the process.
Don’t deny yourself what you need if it’s keeping you from a happy life
If you find someone you can pour your heart and soul out to, without fear, then maybe it’s time to do that. If you can’t, then write a letter. I talked about this in one of the Minutes to Momentum segments: Write a letter to help you gain access to your deepest thoughts and emotions.
When you write, it slows your thinking down. The thoughts that come to you right away are those right on the surface. When you say, “I’m mad”, that’s a surface thought. When you say, “I’m mad about…” then explain what makes you mad, that’s just under the surface. But when you say, “I’m mad about this, because…”, you are digging even deeper. And, typically the first answer is not the deep-rooted answer. It can take time to get down into the roots, which is why writing can be so powerful.
I did this. I wrote a letter to my ex-wife because I was still distraught over our marriage ending. The first version of my letter was full of anger towards her. Then I rewrote it. The second version of the letter was a mixture of anger, and how I was still suffering inside. The third version wiped most of that away, and just came down to what I really needed to do to heal.
The reason I wrote three versions was because after I wrote the first one, telling her my deepest emotions and what I really felt, I noticed those emotions flowing out of me as I wrote them. So when I reread what I wrote, most of it suddenly wasn’t true anymore. I wasn’t as angry or hurt for some reason. Well, the reason was because I actually just expressed myself as if I was talking directly to her.
The second version of my letter had within it still some hurt and anger, but not nearly as much as the first. My pointing the finger at her telling her what she should have done and how our marriage may not have ended had she done this or that. But when I reread that, I again realized that’s no longer how I feel anymore. I was literally flowing the emotions out of my body and onto the virtual paper. I was “writing” on my computer. Paper or computer doesn’t matter, you’re still accessing the deeper parts of you when you write.
Then the third version of the letter was all about what I was going to do to help with my own healing. I didn’t feel the anger and hurt I used to feel. I’m serious, in a matter of an hour or two, the hurt I’d been holding onto for months disappeared. My anger and blaming disappeared. I was clear about my role in the end of our relationship now. I wrote this letter with the sole purpose of letting her go and moving on with my life. The first two versions weren’t written that way, but after the emotions were released, the third version was the one that drove home what I really needed to do to heal.
And since then, I’ve been recovering faster and faster every day. It doesn’t mean I wanted the end to happen, it just means I’ve accepted it.
I always encourage expression of your emotions, and talking and telling your truth, no matter how hard or embarrassing it may be, because it so healing in so many ways.
Find someone you can trust, and express your truth. If you’re holding onto something, talk with them. And if there is no one you can trust, tell me your truth. Send me an email.
I won’t respond unless you ask me to. But what I really want you to do is heal. I want you to let this stuff out, everything that bothers you about what happened in the past. All the emotions you can’t seem to break through to get to that happiness just bubbling inside you. Whatever you believe is the obstacle to your happiness. Talk or tell someone you trust to clear the path to happiness.
I want this for you, because you are so deserving of happiness. And if you’re already happy, and know someone that isn’t, maybe this is the show for them. Or, be that trusted person for them. Be that non-judgmental, listening ear they need to heal. I’m not saying to turn into a therapist, I’m just saying allow them to speak their truth so that they feel safe doing so.
I want that for you too.
So here’s a quick summary of what we talked about today.
Happiness is intrinsic. It is hardwired into us from birth. It exists inside of us, and doesn’t have to be sought or chased. It just has to be revealed. Clearing the mental roadblocks helps reveal the happiness waiting to come out.
The first item we discussed is to stop living in denial. Don’t deny you feel bad, acknowledge that you do. Face your negative emotions head on, and even intensify them. The stronger they are, the closer they are to being released.
All pressure has to be released, unless you are keeping it at a level in which it never blows up, or decreases. Remember, like a balloon, our negative emotions inflate and intensify the more we blow it up. However, there’s always a point where the balloon pops, and the emotions disappear.
The second item is to do whatever it takes to resolve ongoing challenges. For the problems that exist here and now, take action to resolve them, or forgive and forget. Getting away from lingering problems gets you closer to happiness.
Ask yourself if there’s a solution to this challenge. If not, then find the best solution you can, and accept that that solution will be the way it is. Reach out to others in the same situation to find out if there are angles that you haven’t considered.
Remember, accepting things as they are does not mean you agree with them. But it helps you clear the path and let go of resistance to what is. It also strengthens your coping and creativity skills. Some of the most challenging situations create some of the most creative people.
The third item we talked about is considering all debts paid in full.
If you’re still steaming over the fact that someone still owes you something, this is only making you feel bad, and blocking your path to happiness. If you can’t collect the debt, move on. Or, take the final action to collect. If there’s still no resolution, count your losses as learnings, and create new personal boundaries around those learnings so that you are protected in the future.
Sometimes, lessons aren’t free. But, the ones that cost the most, usually teach the most.
The last item we discussed is to talk about your past. This can be the hardest part for a lot of people, mainly due to shame or embarrassment. But, how many times have you heard me tell the world some of the embarrassing things that happened to me? Well, if you’re new, maybe not many, but listen to enough of my shows, and I pretty much tell it like it is.
It’s not easy sometimes. Some of the stuff I share is pretty private, but it’s been a healing journey for me. Sometimes I’ll talk about stuff that I’ve never shared with people, not only as a way to help you through your stuff, but to also help me through any old negative emotions that may be lingering.
I recorded a show once where I had to stop the recording, because I ended up crying about what I was talking about. That is kind of hard to say because I feel vulnerable when I tell you this, but I also realize that by telling you, it helps me release what I’m hanging onto.
And, I’ve never once had someone write to me and tell me that there were ashamed of me, or embarrassed for me, because we’ve all experienced the range of emotions I talk about. If I tell you about the abuse I got from my stepfather, you are going to relate to it in some way. Whether you got abused, or know others that got abused.
Talk to someone you trust and tell them what’s holding you back from happiness. When I tell a story of my past, I let a part of the emotions go. It’s healing and nurturing, and clears a new path to happiness every time.
You deserve a happy life. Don’t deny yourself what you need to create that happy life. Don’t lock up and not share what’s going on inside you with others. Sure, some people may be shocked by what you have to say. Some people will love you and listen with an open heart. Others will go into denial and think what you’re saying is not true. Find that trusted person and share with them. This isn’t about what they say or do because of what you share, it’s about you releasing it to move into that positive place inside of you, to start feeling better now.
Remember, if you can’t find someone to talk to, then put all your thoughts on paper. Slowing down your mental processes while writing is a phenomenal way to get to the root of your emotions. Write as if you were going to send the letter to someone, if you really want it to be effective. You can even write it to your future, fantastic feeling self, just to let that future you know how you feel now. Who knows… maybe you’ll get a response!
Remember, happiness isn’t something you attain, it’s something that happens by default when your past has been processed and released. Clear the path, and allow the happiness to shine.
When sat at and cleaned my desk out for the last time, I can’t describe to you the freedom I felt. I felt like my punishment was over and I was being released from prison. I brought my box over, and talked with the manager where I used to work to talk about my old position. He was extremely happy to have me back. Not only was I generally happy over there, but because I was happy, my work was phenomenal. We always do better work when we are happier.
Everyone I knew was still there, and I was welcome with open arms. I became a different person. I never got anymore headaches, and the stress all but disappeared. This was where everything aligned and felt right. This was where I belonged.
I remember the installation manager from the service side would come over to ask questions about certain accounts. He always looked miserable. He made considerably more than I did, but he was just extremely miserable. He finally asked me one day, “Why are you always so happy?”
Ha ha, I never thought about it, but I really was always happy at the time. I think I told him ‘because I remember what it was like to be so miserable, and I am now free from all those self-imposed obligations.’ Of course, when I was in my 20s, I didn’t say it exactly that way. But when I think about it now, that’s why I was happy. Someone had to fire me so that I could figure out that I was creating my own misery. Someone had to put the oxygen mask on me.
That moment in my life made me realize two important lessons:
1. It’s not how much you earn, it’s how you earn what you earn that fulfills you
2. Almost every job that pays you is a self-imposed obligation. In other words, it is absolutely your choice to continue along the path you are on.
My beliefs back then were that I needed to stay in that job, to make that amount of money, and I better not back down from all the commitments I made. Especially if I wanted to look good in front of other people.
“Look good in front of other people.” I chose that over my own health and happiness. What’s wrong with that picture? What are you choosing? Where are your challenges?
This isn’t only about a job. It’s about taking care of yourself, and realizing that sometimes you absolutely need to come first. Otherwise, you will have nothing left to give. You will be depleted. And when you have nothing left, everyone loses. So to continue the analogy, put that oxygen mask on first, and give yourself the vitality you need so that you have so much left over that you want to give the excess of who you are to others. When you are full of this vitality, believe me, you’ll be so abundant that giving will be easy and enjoyable.
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This episode is over, but your journey never ends. Happiness is one of those abstract words that has so many meanings. However you define happiness, remember that it is inside of you all the time. I remember a time when I wasn’t happy, but I spotted a glimmer of it, and knew there was more where that came from.
There’s so much more in you, and it may take some work to discover it. But know that it’s there. All you have to do is clear the path, and show it the way through. You can even visualize happiness behind all these obstacles in your mind. When you do this, you’ll see what’s blocking that happiness from coming out.
I believe in you. You are worthy, and a unique fingerprint in the universe. There’s nothing like you anywhere, and there never will be. I want you to know that there is a light of happiness in you, and when it shines, it’s as bright as the sun, because you are amazing.