The five stages of happiness

Anyone who has experienced grief of any kind is probably aware of the five stages of grief, first outlined by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in 1969. I’m certain everyone who is everyone experienced grief in the same way long before that.

I also know that these five stages of grief, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance, don’t happen in order, they happen in a circle, sometimes circling you all at the same time.

No one that I’m aware of ever explains the opposite though.

You get your big break, your dream job, your book sells, you meet the love of your life, buy a dream home, make ends meet, you do it. You wrestle through life and in some moment, you’re happy. Or maybe, you just get what you want. Finally.

People tell you how to get through grief. How to push through, get through, batten down, suffer it out, but no one ever says: here’s happiness and how you get through it, because once you are happy you can just be happy? Right? When you’re happy you don’t need instructions?  What now?

What now? 

THE FIVE STAGES OF HAPPINESS – which are quite similar to grief, but without all the angry parts:

1. Infatuation (approval)- YES, YES, YES, more of this please. I need more now, I want it all, all, all. I will marry you today. yes. I will do this forever. yes.

2. Elationover the moon, I can’t believe this is true, true, true. I love this feeling. WOW!

3. Insecurity – will it happen or won’t it happen? or continue to happen? This is a fluke, cling to what you know, you know how to struggle, but you don’t know how to be happy, someone will take this away from me. This can’t be possible! Save some of this for another day, don’t use it all now.

4. Reality – you begin to realize maybe this is real, it’s not over the top, over the moon anymore, it is real. Things calm down, you sink in, you’re good. It’s good. This can send you right back to insecurity.

5. Depression or Clarity – this can go either way – on the one hand, you’ve got what you want, but on the other you aren’t striving for more, better, faster anymore. That’s what you wanted – right? You might start to sink down into depression. It’s disappointing to let go of an old way of thinking. It’s disappointing to have failed all of your old ways by breaking through and believing in what you want and going after it. If you go the depression route, you’ll end up back at the top after you fight your way through it – again. Or you might realize all you’ve left behind was for good reason. This new reality is good, you’ve changed and maybe you can sit with it and be okay without striving for anything more. That can come another day. I’m clear this is real – and good – and I’m okay. Clarity.

After sitting with this piece of writing for a bit, I realize these five stages of happiness apply to lots of things, new babies, new jobs, new loves, new houses, life in general. Most of us are looking out at the world screaming I’m not happy yet! What happened!? Meanwhile we’re looking for something, someone, some experience to MAKE US HAPPY NOW.

And the point is – happiness isn’t out there waiting for you – it’s right here. We’re all circling all of these things all the time. Right now. It’s all the same process.

*After writing this I searched and found other people are talking about the five stages of happiness. Different from my view, but it’s out there.

Resistance Training for the Mind

The greater the tension, the greater is the potential. Great energy springs from a correspondingly great tension of opposites ~ Carl Jung

When you want to get your body in shape, you run, you do resistance and strength training and you get better, faster, smaller, firmer, more fit. Feel the burn, it’s good for you.

What I call resistance training for the mind is what Carl Jung calls Holding the TENSION of the Opposites.

When I first started trying to figure out who I am and what I want to do in this life, someone suggested I hold the tension of the opposites.

I didn’t quite get the meaning, until I got the meaning.

If you are constantly doing, seeing, going, deciding, choosing  without pausing –
you likely aren’t doing much of anything.

If you aren’t aware of what your unconscious (shadow) is doing – you may be sabotaging yourself when you jump to a decision without spending some time with yourself before you jump. Sometimes, you may not have that luxury – burning building, jump out window – but many other times we do have the luxury and we don’t pause, we decide based on our patterns – our history. If we become aware of what is underneath our decision (shadow) we can see things through a clear lens – what our choices are and why we are making them – this sometimes leads to creating a new pattern for yourself, which is more meaningful.

If you choose too soon, you may make a decision out of desperation and not out of consciousness.

A few weeks ago, I had two potential career opportunities on the table, both beckoning and calling me, for different reasons. I had to decide which one to take and soon. Pausing and thinking was maddening, make the choice already! I pulled out my manifesto and my values to think about what’s important to me for the future.  Holding the tension of the opposites, this and that, the yes and the no – I got to a point just sitting, not doing, not thinking – my legs began tingle, tears fell for no reason, and soon the reason became clear – all my life, most times unconsciously – I’ve made choices that drop me into chaos and craziness – because it’s what feels comfortable.

That’s not right for me anymore and not the choice I want to consciously make.

It was instant and clear what was inline with my values and what wasn’t – and saying no to what isn’t inline with my values is clearly what I want to do. But – why was I resisting it?  Because change is hard and what feels comfortable is easy.

I paused some more and reminded myself that re-imagining and reinventing myself takes something different happening, choosing a new pattern.

If you keep ending up in the same place, with the same issues, with the same thoughts, holding the tension of the opposites when you make your next decision, might be a way to move past those things and choose something in a new way.

This is resistance training for the brain. Feel the burn.

I still find it challenging, but the more I do it, the better I get at it and the better choices I make.

Where can you hold the tension of the opposites and resistance train your mind?