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Monday, July 13, 2015

Psychotherapy Blog: Are You Afraid to Allow Yourself to Be Happy?

Even though it might sound counter intuitive at first, there are many people who are afraid to allow themselves to be happy.

Are You Afraid to Allow Yourself to Be Happy?

Why Would People Be Afraid to Be Happy?
Doesn't everyone want to be happy?  You might think so but, psychologically speaking, many people experience a sense of fear or dread when good things happen to them.

The reasons for this vary.  I've listed below some of the most common reasons why people are afraid to allow themselves to be happy.  As you read them, you might be surprised to discover that you identify with some of things on the list or you know someone who might:
  • Feeling Undeserving of Being Happy:  There are many people that feel they don't deserve to be happy.  Often, this is the result of traumatic experiences where the person feels that s/he is unlovable in some way.  Whatever the reason, whenever something positive happens that would normally make someone else feel happy, the person who feels undeserving can't allow him or herself to take in the good feelings.
  • Fearing Getting Caught "Off Guard":   There are people who are too afraid to allow themselves to be happy because they're afraid that if they let down their guard to let in positive feelings, they're going to be caught "off guard" when something bad happens.  There is a fear that at any moment, while they're enjoying the positive feelings, misfortune is just around the corner and when they least expect it, they'll feel caught unaware and unprepared.  Usually people who experience this have had one or more unresolved traumatic experiences that have created this fear, and they never want to be unprepared again.  So, they would rather sacrifice positive feelings than be shocked again by misfortune.
Fear of Being Caught Off Guard
  • Feeling Good is Uncomfortable:  People who are uncomfortable with happy or positive feelings have a hard time allowing themselves to take in those feelings.  If they get a compliment or positive recognition, they squirm and can't allow themselves to enjoy it.  Often, these feelings are unfamiliar and uncomfortable to them because they never learned at an early age to accept feeling good.  But "negative" feelings  are a different story because those are more familiar.
  • Fearing that If Something Good Happens, It Will Be Followed By Something Bad:  People who are afraid to allow themselves to feel happy often fear that misfortune will follow good fortune.  Sometimes this is because they've grew up in a chaotic and dysfunctional household where there were lots of ups and downs.  For other people it's a sense that if they don't want to "tempt the fates."
Fear That Something Bad Will Happen
  • Feeling Good Brings Up Feelings About Unmet Emotional Needs:  People who have experienced abuse and/or neglect as children will often say that when they allow themselves to be happy, it brings up memories of times when they were younger and their emotional needs weren't met.  It's as if they have a sense of emptiness, which they're normally unaware of, arises to remind them that the happiness that they feel now is only a drop in the ocean as compared to the emotional deprivation that they experienced.
  • Fearing That Happiness or Good Fortune Can't Be Trusted:  People who have this fear feel they can't really trust positive emotions because the rug could be pulled out from under them at any time.  Usually, this is based on earlier experiences in a chaotic and unpredictable home environment that leaves them wary of allowing themselves to feel happy.

In my next article, I'll elaborate on this topic with a vignette.

Getting Help in Therapy
Living your life with fear of allowing yourself to be happy is an emotionally depriving and unsatisfying way of life.

Whether you numb yourself emotionally or you live with debilitating anxiety, you're not allowing yourself to experience life to its fullest.

Rather than continuing to live in fear, you could be helped by a licensed mental health professional who knows how to work with people who are afraid to allow themselves to be happy.

Being able to let go of this fear will feel like a tremendous weight has been lifted from you and you'll be free to live a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many clients to overcome their fear of allowing themselves to be happy.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me.







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