The most dramatic example I can think of how I stopped myself from being happy is my long marriage.
When I finally reached the point when I decided that the pain of staying was worse than the fear of the unknown, you’d have thought all I had to do was – to do it!
Instead, 37 years of habitual behaviours around the routine of living a joint life, conspired to keep me stuck for a long time.
Because I had left so many of the tasks of day-to-day living to Jim, I believed I was incapable of surviving without him.
My Gremlin (my negative inner critic) went into overdrive and I was overwhelmed with all kinds of scary thoughts that made me unable to take any positive action.
I couldn’t move, I couldn’t decide, I felt helpless and I was convinced I was destined to remain unhappy.
In this space, I lost sight of my dream of being free to become truly happy, and my fears and the whispers of my Gremlin felt real.
My biggest struggle was, after decades of putting on a cheerful front, to face my negative feelings – sadness, anger, resentment, pain.
How did I finally ‘unstick’ myself?
It was, I admit, a slow process and not as simple as “it’s my marriage wot did it!”, to paraphrase Ernie Wise.
The insights began to make themselves known to me when Alan asked me this question:
“Who is hurting you?”
The obvious one was my husband Jim, something I had denied many times in the past even though I was obviously in pain. It was also the easiest answer, the one at the top of my head because it meant there was someone to blame.
But another answer came to me later – that I was the one who’d been hurting myself. As startling as this insight was I had to accept that I had been hurting myself by accepting the unacceptable.
Of course, there is a difference between understanding and doing something about it. In other words, taking committed action but, without understanding, you don’t know what action to take so I was only able to do so when I finally allowed myself to feel the emptiness, sadness, pain and meaninglessness in my marriage.
It was only at that stage that I knew I would do whatever it took to make the changes in my life that would lead to my freedom to create something new, something different.
It was at that stage that I reclaimed control over my life.
Was I scared? You bet your boots I was!
Fear in its myriad of forms had been controlling me and all my choices for as long as I could remember – fear of the unknown, fear of being perceived as selfish, fear of being perceived as cruel, fear of being incapable to see it through and so many more!
What made the fear all the more real was linking the fear to a particular reason, for example, “I afraid because – I’ve never lived alone, because I will be lonely, because nobody will ever love me again (as if I were loved now), because I won’t be able to manage” and many more.
But there came the point when I realised that the fear will never go away and that the only way to get over the fear was to do the thing that scared me.
Once I came to that decision I started to notice how things conspired to support me – unexpected sources of information and people came to my attention that enabled me to make a start and build from there.
Talking with people, asking questions, looking for information on the internet were all ways that helped me move forward.
So this is what I learned:
- The first step is to understand the source of your pain and unhappiness because, without it, you won’t know what you need to change.
- Ask yourself what’s stopping you from making the changes you know you need to make to be happy. The answer is likely to be fear – even though you may pretend, as I did, that it’s something else such as the need to be responsible and realistic.
- Ask yourself what options you have. Get information about practical ways to move forward. Ignorance fuels fear.
- Talk to people, ask questions, look for information.
- Take action – any action, however small.
So, how are you stopping yourself from being happy?
With love and gratitude,
P.P.S. I enable women to build the confidence they need to develop strong and loving relationships – with themselves and with others.
P.S. My third book, ‘Open Your Heart: The 7 Secrets Of Strong And Loving Relationships’ is now on Amazon!