NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Are You Waiting For Happiness?

Are you telling yourself that you're waiting for something to happen in your life in order for you to be happy? (see my articles: Redefining Happiness and SuccessHow to Stop Pretending to Feel Happy When You Don'tAre You Afraid to Allow Yourself to be Happy?

Whether this "something" is winning the lottery, accomplishing a long-term goal, meeting your soul mate or having a child, it's usually a mistake to place your happiness in the hands of someone else or in some external event (see my article: Living in the State of "If Only".

Are You Waiting For Happiness?

The problem is that whatever you've told yourself that you need in order to feel that you've finally "arrived" or that you'll finally be happy usually only brings the kind of happiness you're imagining for a short time while it's still a novelty, and then the usual dissatisfaction sinks in again.

Why is Happiness Fleeting?
When you fix your sights on some person or event in the future to make you happy, you're placing your happiness at some point in the future (see my article: What is Happiness and Where Do You Find It?).

Are You Waiting For Happiness?

Not only are you giving away your power, but you're also overlooking so many things that are happening right now that you're not appreciating (see my article: Keeping a Gratitude Journal).

The more you convince yourself that someone or something in the future will make you happy, the more likely it will be that you'll go around with blinders for the great things that are in the present.

It's not that you wouldn't be happy if you entered into a new relationship or accomplished a long-term goal or got a great job.  It's just that these things are external, and you're telling yourself that you're not enough.

It's like you're constantly waiting and, meanwhile, life is passing you by.

Having the mindset that you're waiting for something outside yourself for you to be happy sets up a pattern where you can keep thinking that you're waiting for the next thing and the next thing, and so on.

Also, you can be happy in the moment and still feel that your life lacks meaning, direction and purpose, which can lead to a shallow life.

A Fictionalized Vignette 

Mary lived her life as a very goal oriented person.

She worked a full time job and went to college at night.  Because of her busy schedule, she didn't have a lot of time to socialize with friends.  Although this was lonely for her, she told herself that once she graduated college, she would be happy.

When she graduated college at the top of her class, Mary felt proud of herself for her accomplishment.  But, after a while, she realized that she didn't really feel happy, and the pride she felt wore off after a short time.

Are You Waiting for Happiness?
This was disappointing to her, but then she told herself that she would be happy once she got a good job, so she put all her time and effort into the job search.  Once again, she postponed being social and seeing friends because she thought that her happiness hinged on finding a great job.

After searching for a few months, Mary landed exactly the kind of job that she always dreamed about.  Once again, she was proud of herself for working so hard to get this job.

But after a few months, whatever positive feelings she felt wore off.  She realized that her job, although allowing her to be creative and being a good paying job, didn't really bring her happiness.  In fact, she felt a little empty inside after a while, which was disappointing.

Then, she decided that in order for her to be happy, she needed to be in a relationship with a man that she really loved, so she spent a lot of time on dating sites and she went out more on dates.

Dating was a little discouraging at first, but then she met a man that she really liked.  They dated for several months, realized that they were in love and made a commitment to be monogamous.

Mary was thrilled with her new boyfriend and looked forward to seeing him.  But a couple of years later, when she asked herself if she was really happy, she realized that some of the initial excitement that she felt had worn off.

Although she loved him and she knew that he loved her, she wasn't as happy as she thought she would be, and this was very disappointing to her.  She couldn't understand it--she had all the things that she thought she would need to make her happy, but she still wasn't truly happy. Something was missing.

Mary's awareness that she wasn't feeling as happy as she had anticipated threw her into a tailspin.  She felt that something must really be wrong with her if she didn't feel happy now.

It wasn't that she was unhappy--she just didn't have that feeling that she thought she would have that she "arrived" in her life.

 Soon after that, Mary started therapy to deal with the emotional crisis she was struggling with.

After a few months in therapy where she explore her feelings, Mary realized that she had a narrow definition of happiness and that in most people's lives happiness is fleeting.  She also realized that there isn't any one thing or person that will create the feeling of happiness in her.

"So," she told her therapist, "if happiness is fleeting, what is it that I really want?  What makes a good life?"

Over time, as Mary continued to explore and reflect on her feelings, she realized that what she really wanted was to have a meaningful life, but she wasn't sure what that meant (see my article: A Search For a Meaningful Life).

Mary and her therapist continued to explore what that meant for Mary.  It wasn't a quick or smooth process, but Mary felt like she was finally focusing on what really mattered to her.

Are You Waiting For Happiness?

Gradually, Mary began to define her core values and what she considered to be meaningful.  She also started to see the difference between having a "happy life" and having a "meaningful life."

She realized that it wasn't realistic to expect to feel happy all the time, but she could strive to live a meaningful life by being true to her core values.

She also learned to develop an appreciation for the here-and-now rather than always focusing on the future.  In doing so, she realized that she had a lot to be grateful for and this was a lot more meaningful to her than waiting for an illusive sense of happiness at some point in the future.

In my next article, I'll discuss the difference between happiness and meaningfulness and why it's important to understand the difference for your sense of well-being.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you've lived your whole life waiting to be happy, you can find it challenging to understand why the things you thought would bring you lasting happiness don't.  It can also be difficult to change your way of thinking.

Getting Help in Therapy
Working with a skilled psychotherapist can help you to explore your way of thinking, the patterns you have developed over time, and how to make changes to lead a more fulfilling life (see my article: How Talking to a Psychotherapist is Different From Talking to a Friend and How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

This is a common problem that many people have, which is reinforced by our culture, so it is often deeply ingrained.

Stepping outside your normal way of thinking can be difficult, but with the help of an experienced mental health professional, you can develop a more meaningful life.

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

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

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.