What if I told you that you could be happy right now?
You might laugh. You might look at me sideways. You might even make a quip that I should teach you a spell to win the lottery. Thing is, [and of course this is assuming you are mentally sound(ish) and not in impending danger] you can actually have all the happiness you want right away without changing your external environment at all.
Some folks define happiness as the feeling of accomplishing a goal or checking the last task off a list. For others, happiness is a feeling that arises when they smell baked goods or buy something shiny. Perhaps for you, happiness is the act of creating something wonderful and new. For a long time, I defined happiness as the refreshing feeling of freedom without any pressing responsibilities. If you’re well acquainted with life, then you’ve realized, as I have – That’s just not happening. Time away from responsibility is fleeting and short… Assuming we find it at all. And happiness is always just over the horizon. That’s the trouble with circumstantial joy – It requires precise, often unpredictable circumstances to occur.
Just as circumstances are hard to predict, the thoughts we experience when different circumstances occur can be hard to predict – Those thoughts create feelings and those feelings are hard to change.
Talk about clusterfuck. The complexity of the unknown, our minds, our emotions, and the twisted game they play together, quickly make lasting change a hell of a hurdle. But what if I put to you that thoughts can change before we even have them. And by directing our thoughts in that way, we can direct our feelings to the kind of feelings we want – very nearly unhindered by circumstance.
Oh good! So this means I’ll never be unhappy again?
Of course not. Frankly, at any given moment throughout the day, the universe may throw a situation at you that results in an unhappy response. Unhappiness exists to help you approach situations with grace. To help you stay grounded and get out of damaging situations. Hell, unhappiness may have brought you to this blog.
The more you study manifestation, magic, mindfulness, among other metaphysical concepts, the sooner you will realize, as I did, that what you spend your mental energy on tends to be what you bring about in your life. When life is full of stressors and traumas, pressing needs and unfulfilled desires, it’s very easy to start focusing on that unhappiness and inadvertently bring more of it into your life. In other words, your perception of reality often dictates reality.
So, what if I told you that you can create a natural state of happiness upon which everything else exists? That when unhappiness hits, it doesn’t throw you for a loop and ruin your week? That happiness could be your new natural state?
Mechanics of the Mind
Let’s step back for a sec. In our minds exist both our conscious and subconscious. The conscious mind is the cute grad student sitting in front of you in lecture hall, making it very hard to concentrate on your monotone English professor. That is, everything that we are aware of in the moment, like a thought as it is occurring, or speech as it is happening.
The subconscious (sometimes called the unconscious) is the big dog that scared the crap out of you as a two year old and and while you don’t remember the incident, you just don’t like dogs as an adult. The subconscious is responsible for learning from experiences, for social and familial programming, for keeping all the data we need to make a quick decision or a wise assumption. It is our cultural programming, hidden memories, old experiences, and unidentified feelings, all of which influence our present thoughts and actions. It’s here, in the hidden recesses of the mind – the subconscious – that our thoughts are born and rise to the surface of our conscious mind.
Sometimes things get… Lost in translation
Problem is, the subconscious and the conscious don’t really speak the same language. Your subconscious can take credit for every epiphany you’ve ever had and your gut feeling to not walk into that dark alley behind your apartment building…. But it doesn’t really get context. Your awesome, powerful subconscious is home to good, valuable information that helps you to live a full and successful life and avoid danger… But don’t even try to get your subconscious to connect the dots in any kind of logical manner, because your subconscious doesn’t think linearly. *A* doesn’t necessarily lead to *B* (at least at first glance) and past, present, or future context is, frankly, completely foreign.
Your conscious mind, on the other hand, totally does. In fact, it is a BOSS at linear thinking. It helps you interact and connect with people, animals, and objects, decipher what your eyes are seeing, connect two concepts to one another, solve a technical problem, and pretty much anything else that deals with presence of mind. Your conscious loves context and will, in fact, straight up invent its own context if it doesn’t have enough information or doesn’t like said information (more on this some other time). Without your conscious, you would be a fucking vegetable and you would not understand…. well, anything.
The interesting thing is, these parts of the mind are constantly communicating, interpreting… and miscommunicating with themselves. Your conscious sends important concepts to your subconscious for future reference. Problem is, when 12 year old you exclaimed, “OMG, yo. That dog in that yard scared me so badly just then,” your subconscious was like, “All doge, much unhappy.” And you were left with residual uneasiness about dogs for the rest of your life even if you don’t remember that specific incident years later. Imagine the kind of impact a constantly critical parent might have had. Imagine if your subconscious believed them. In turn, the deepest parts of your subconscious are, right this second, communicating with your conscious mind, influencing your feelings about the very words you are reading on this screen.
What can we do to make happy happen?
While deciding to become a hermit and live off the land for the rest of your life is certainly an option, most of us are going to have to deal with this regular, necessary recycling of past experiences and programming if we want to have healthy, happy lives. Over the course of life, both helpful and unhelpful suggestions will try to seep in and take root in a person’s subconscious… Often served up by their own damn self! And when someone dumps a bunch of toxic thoughts and observations into their subconscious, their subconscious will give them back toxic thoughts and observations. That can be a seemingly difficult hole to dig out of.
Sometimes all you need to do is recognize a pollutant, the leftover remnants of a suggestion or experience from long ago, and decide it’s no longer true or helpful for you. Then the issue dissipates on its own merely because you became consciously aware of it. Sometimes, it takes removing or distancing yourself from the source of the poison altogether (in the case of a critical friend, for example). You may even need the help of an expert, like a therapist or hypnotist. But for most people, the easiest solution, the magical miracle pill, is actually to counter unhelpful messages going back and forth between your subconscious and conscious by planting the seeds of positive programming that will grow and populate your mind such that you don’t have to consciously fend off every harmful suggestion or experience you run into.
The gist is:
The subconscious and the conscious communicate together constantly but don’t actually speak the same language. As a result, messages sent to your subconscious sometimes lose important context and get distorted. Then your subconscious applies it and then sends it back up to your conscious mind as “gut feelings” and emotions, all jumbled and applied sometimes unhelpfully to situations that would be better dealt with differently. This effectively, creates a negative feedback loop.
Four tried and true habits to break free of the negative feedback loop that work like magic (wink, wink):
1. Be a builder, not a demolisher.
Start actively building yourself and others up. Recognize your own accomplishments as well as that of others. Be verbal about it. Tell people what you like about them. Tell yourself what you like about you. Your success doesn’t hinge on someone else’s downfall. Nor is their success a reflection of your perceived failure. These are just perspectives, which are arguably incomplete at best. Even what you honestly meant as constructive criticism, may just be a negative perception in disguise. Always stay alert when someone says, “Wouldn’t it better if you knew?” Would it really? What does better look like to you? What does better feel like? Is the criticism in line with that? Build yourself and others up so that your defenses aren’t weak and a crumbly.
2. Leven Your Language with NLP
Embedded commands are powerful little ideas that your subconscious internalizes when you speak them aloud, and even sometimes, just when you think them! For example, if you tell me, “Don’t be negative!”, both your subconscious and mine will actually hear “be negative!” because “don’t” is ambiguous to the subconscious language. Instead, you could say, “Be positive!” Replacing negative commands with positive, active ones sends little direct messages to your subconscious that, with repetition, will filter how you interpret experiences in the moment in a much more positive light. This is a tactic common in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) if you’re interested in falling down the rabbit hole of internet searches.
3. Transcribe Your Subconscious
Your dreams are a form of communication between your conscious and your subconscious, relaying important information about themes, people, events… that are impacting your conscious choices, thoughts, and feelings. However, our conscious and unconscious don’t really speak the same language. Because of this barrier, our subconscious relays these messages by way of iconography that it thinks is most easily understood by your conscious. The subconscious uses repeated iconography for certain ideas. Even the most ridiculous dreams can hold clues to what your subconscious thinks you need to tackle consciously. This exercise in dream interpretation can be a useful tool for finding out what’s really driving your experience of life. The more consistent you are about jotting down your dreams, the better you will be at deciphering even the most seemingly redonkulous ones.
4. No Thought Left Behind – Pseudo Gratitude Journal
If you aren’t used to editing your language on your toes or remembering your dreams, there’s one very simple way to filter out the muck traveling between your conscious and subconscious, and you’ll find that after a few weeks your language and even your dreams, will begin to change on their own.
So here’s the trick (or treat?): Every time you catch yourself having a negative or worrisome thought or emotion, think of at least two positive aspects to whatever is bothering you instead. One to counter the negative thought, and one to set your mind on the right track.
A fantastic way to keep these good thoughts present in the beginning, is to write them down in a little notebook. If you have a negative thought about someone, write down two things you like about them. If you have a negative thought about an experience, write down two things you learned from it that make you a better person. If you have a negative thought about the family taking up the entire aisle in front of you at the grocery store, write down two good things about your own family. Because fuck those assholes. Point is, it doesn’t really matter what you write. As long as it is positive, it’ll do the trick. By the way, this gratitude app makes it stupid easy.
Remember, what we put into our minds reflects what comes out. Eventually, you’ll find that countering negativity becomes habit, and you won’t need to be mindful of the strategies as frequently. Your thoughts will support you, rather than vice versa. And when you get to that point, you’ll know it.