A fragment of thought after pondering the resistance I’ve experienced to making positive s subject is huge and requires a whole book to cover it adequately!
If you grew up in a household where you were not surrounded by regular joy, laughter, encouragement, nurturing, or worse with a lot of anger or even aggression around, then wellbeing and happiness can seem elusive in adult life.
I seemed for much of my life to attract more of what I was used to, than the the happiness I wanted.
Difficulty and struggle and fear were the norm, and the impressionable growing mind becomes trained to expect those. Happiness, joy and laughter, wellbeing and success are not the norm, they can even seem alien, and unsafe.
These are not unusual circumstances for children to grow up in. I think it’s quite rare to come across people who grew up in happy supportive perfect families. It’s a scale We are all on somewhere. Some have many regular serious adverse childhood experiences and others have fewer, but for most of us it could ideally have been happier and we could be happier.
For almost the entire history of humanity we have had to struggle to survive, to keep warm, find food, avoid danger and death. It is only in the last few decades, a blink of an eye in our collective history, that life has become more comfortable, easy and safe. At least in the Western world.
So we are genetically predisposed to struggle and difficulty, geared up for looking out for danger and fear being always nearby. This is what we have inherited collectively and for many of us in our family of origin too.
When I ponder about the unexplained anxiety I feel some mornings, I remember that it’s not just the weight of my own history that helped create that – it’s millenniums of history too behind the easily triggered amygdala, which is always on alert for danger.
I go easy on myself and my compassion kicks in for all of us including myself. I thank my alertness to danger for all its help and talk kindly to myself when it is activated.
I’ve discovered that with a gentle consistent approach I can learn how to smooth myself. I don’t want to follow the script my family laid out for me, and my genetics of an expectation of life being difficult and happiness not to be trusted. Wellbeing has as a result gradually become less alien and has started to become normalised.
For me this has been a very slow process, and the healing of the fear has taken place in very small steps. I have tried out many tools and gathered some of these tools that have helped me to sooth and allow the beneficial side of life to enter into my life more and more.
Some of the tools have involved stopping taking some actions and others have been taking new actions that enhance wellbeing.
Letting go of destructive habits, unhealthy friendships (that was a big one for me and one of the hardest), and negative or critical self talk. This stage can often benefit from the help of a trained therapist or coach, because sometimes we need help to uncover the unconscious beliefs which keep us repeating unhelpful behaviour.
In my experience, much of the process has involved uncovering the unconscious drives which cause a commitment to keeping ourselves unhappy. This can be a painful part of the process as we realise that our hidden beliefs have allowed relationships and events that have not served our best interested to dominate our lives.
I had to realise that much of the time I don’t actually want to take the actions that would help me, or bring more of the longed for but unfamiliar happiness.
There are all sorts of beliefs that we can uncover that keep the breaks on our wellbeing from fully blossoming. Fear of success, not feeling worthy, and just the sheer unfamiliarity of life being better than we are used to can feel scary.
Once this is realised then we can accept our history more easily, and start to shift our habits and replace them with ones that are more helpful and useful to us. If we really want to, that is.
I’ve tried it out for years, taking small actions, and now I’m watching the results. Sometimes this has been a dramatic change of circumstances but in terms of my overall feeling of wellbeing the change has been gradual.
New actions for me included learning to like myself, then to love myself. That’s where it all changed for me.
I could then make other decisions more easily, like a commitment to eating healthy foods, thinking about what brings me joy and making time to do that which makes me happy, exercising regularly, being around nurturing people and practising mindfulness.