(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)
Dr. Kenner: Think about how you would answer this question. It has to do with happiness. “Hi. I was browsing the internet and the thing that struck in my mind is happiness. Everyone wants happiness. But I don’t want it. I’m a little bit confused. Whenever I had a time to be happy, I tried to ignore that moment. Why is that so? I hope you suggest me something for making my life normal. My kind regards, Raf.”
Raf, I love that you inspire to making your life better. To making your life normal. And the fact that you are missing happiness and you’re aware that you’re pushing it out of awareness is a really, really good step. So the question to ask is, why are you pushing the opportunity for joy and happiness out of your mind, out of your life? Why are you throwing it in the dump when that’s what part of you wants? Otherwise you wouldn’t be emailing me. So let’s look at what happiness is, first.
Happiness is the achievement of your personal, rational goals. That rules out gambling. I mean, gambling can give you a feeling of momentary joy or a feeling that you’re getting ahead or a pseudo feeling that you’ve set goals and you’re achieving them because you won at the slots, you won a dollar. Who cares how much you win? Then you’re going to lose it the next day anyway. If you set rational goals. Doable goals. Like I cannot set a goal to be a brain surgeon because I don’t have the ambition or knowledge to achieve that in my lifetime. But if you set rational goals for yourself, and figure out a path to get there, figure out the steps you need to take down that path to achieve your goals, then that is what will bring you much closer to what you’re looking for, happiness, and you feel it along the way when you achieve each step you can feel happy.
Ask yourself, “What do I want to do with my life?” Do you want to become, let’s say, an engineer or maybe open up a restaurant? Maybe you want to become a travel agent. Maybe you want to learn new languages and do some translating. Maybe you want to learn carpentry. That’s always been your passion. Or you want to own a home. Or you want a romantic partner more than anything. Maybe your parents divorced and you don’t want to repeat that pattern but my, that is your top goal to be successful in a long-term romance. Maybe you want kids. So, you would pick your own goals. Nobody else can pick those goals for you. And then you want to build them into your life.
Now, there is another area of goals that you want to build and that is your character. You want to make yourself into a person that you like sleeping with, that you can admire. You want to be able to go to bed at night, not swimming in guilt, anxiety and feeling depressed and anxious. You want to be able to go to bed feeling a sense of maybe not a bunch of loose ends, but basically that you like the person you’re making yourself into. You’re honest, you’re productive, you’ve got those goals we just talked about. And you will make yourself much happier.
I’m going to recommend a book and if you stay tuned I’ll tell you that when I finish, to help you toward that goal. Build your own character. Go after your values in four areas – your career, romantic partner, with friends and family and in hobbies.
Now, I’m going to turn to the ugly side of the question you’re asking me. Why, whenever you had a time to be happy, Raf, did you ignore that moment and push it away? Why do people push away happy moments? Well, sometimes you don’t feel worthy of them. I don’t feel good enough to dance. I don’t feel good enough to go to school. I’m a loser, a failure, my parents always told me I was a failure. The kids at school picked on me. I’m no good. I’m unlovable. When you have core ideas that eat at you, and if you are basically a decent person, get some cognitive therapy if that’s available for you. Because you want – and you can get some self-help too, with cognitive therapy. If you can’t get it directly, you can get some of the books even out of the library. But if you don’t feel worthy, but you really are a good person, you want to challenge those negative beliefs so that you can say, “I am lovable. And maybe my parents didn’t love me. Maybe they had too many kids and didn’t love me or whatnot, I was one too many, or they didn’t want to be married and they had me and had to stay married.” But you need to be able to disentangle that. If you have built not such a good character, can you repair yourself? If you’re a habitual liar, can you repair that and become more honest? People can change you know. You may also feel that it’s not moral to value yourself. And that’s tragic too. There’s the whole standard of selflessness against yourself and you’re supposed to feel good if you give up stuff. That’s not good. Look for good role models.
The book that I’m going to recommend is Loving Life by Craig Biddle. You can Google that or go to my website, DrKenner.com. I’m Dr. Kenner on The Rational Basis of Happiness.