Friday, May 12, 2006

Friday, May 12: Chapter 11: Happiness as Choice

This sounds impossible, doesn’t it? I mean, what the hell, if all we had to do was chose to be happy, why wouldn’t we?

Perhaps this is a question worth asking.

One of the wonderful tools of the Feldenkrais work, and in most work that involves real change, is the process of differentiation. What’s that mean? Not glomping everything together. All rich people are mean. All rainy days suck. All immigrants are stealing jobs from blah, blah. These are example of undifferentiated thinking.

Feeling, too, can be seen as something we throw into one big pot and therein wallow, or as something we do that we can separate out Actually, feelings, the emotional sort and the physical sort, are often seen as mysterious forces that assail us, maybe from our past, maybe from outer space, maybe from other people (You know the riff: “You make me so mad/angry/sad/whatever.”)

But what if we were unhappy and we started to separate out various components. Say, we didn’t have a mate, and we wished we had one. Now, the undifferentiated way to respond to this would be, as I’ve just mentioned, wallow away. “Poor me. No mate. Life is tough.” And so on.

Or, the bitter approach, “I’ve tried so hard, but there are no good …. (men, women) out there. Recall the message from our sweet/sexy heroine in Sex and the City. She tries so hard, poor dear, and the guys just leave, or get weird, or have an emotional problem. What’s a girl to do?

Anyway: undifferentiated, and life is all good, “Yeah, I’ve got my man/woman.” (This lasts for what? Five months?). Or, all bad: “How terrible. I can’t find a good woman/man.”

How would differentiated thinking help with this feeling? Or, how would differentiated feeling help with this thinking? Which do we want to tackle first?

Differentiated thinking: I’ve got no mate. What’s good about that? What’s not so good about that? What am I doing to contribute to the not getting? What am I doing to keep up possibilities of finding someone?

And then, the important questions: Do I really need a mate to be happy? Did the last mate “make” me happy? Is it the job of a mate to “make” me happy? Is it any one else’s job in the universe to “make” me happy?

Damn, where does all that point? If it’s not anyone else’s job to “make” me happy, then it must be my job.

Which is very close to saying that happiness is my choice.

Okay: how about differentiated feeling? How do I feel this with the “I need a mate story?” Okay. If I drop the “I need a mate story,” how do I feel? Now, for the tricky one: “How can I want and try to get a mate and still be happy even if I don’t succeed yet? Or right away? Or ever?”

This is no small potatoes. This is the essence of Buddhism, really, all the non-attachment stuff. I mean, if you snuff out desires, sure, then you aren’t ever going to be disappointed. But what about, going ahead and wanting things and being able to separate out getting what you want and happiness.

What am I saying?

I’m saying that this is one of the Big Enchiladas in life: How to be happy when you don’t get what you want. We are, most of us, trained to be happy when we get what we want. And the sour grapes/ no desire approach of “I never wanted a mate, anyway,” approach can seemingly solve the unhappiness from that perspective.

But what about this: “I really want a mate, and I’m really happy, right now, without one.” Is that possible?

Sounds like it’s going to take a bit of work, doesn’t it? There is always the smart thinking of, “If I’m happy, I’m going to be in better shape to find and attract a mate,” but beyond that, this is the Biggie: How to want and even deeply want, and be sweetly happy as the wanting does not seem to be fulfilled?

How the hell can we do that?


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