So, what is it going to take?

I’m pretty happy these days. Not everything is perfect, there are still some stressful circumstances I have to deal with, My job could be a lot more enjoyable and fulfilling. But all in all, I am in a good place.

Why is that?

I’m not trying to second guess myself, or talk myself into thinking things are better than they are. I truly am happy. My job might be stressful and unfulfilling, but I have a job. In our current economic environment, any job is a good one. And if I really look at it, at this time in my life being an individual contributor is probably better for me than being the one in charge. My stress comes from having too much to do, not the excessive responsibility for the results of others. Not having health insurance is a problem, but by and large it hasn’t been too much of an issue. What I’ve paid out of pocket is still less than the premiums I would have to pay. I haven’t really gone without.

My new relationship is going well too. Actually, it’s been going on long enough that I don’t think I can call it new anymore. The way we interact, how we get along, the fun we’re having is exactly what I want, and more. Again, it’s not perfect, but it’s perfect for me.

Is that’s why I’m happy?

Even the negatives in my life can be positive. My relationship is important, but it’s not the only reason I’m in a good place. I really like where I’m living now, and the weather is getting warm.   All of these things factor into my happiness.

But I think it’s a lot more than that. And I think my success comes from a much deeper place.

One of the things that my Therapist and I have been working on is as she puts it, having my ‘inside’ match my ‘outside’.   To put it another way, both the illness and the learned personality traits can take over my actions, and I can behave in ways that really aren’t the way I feel. Getting so angry when I ‘m driving for example. In the grand scheme of things, is it really going to make a difference in the time it takes to get where I’m going? What’s another five minutes? Or the overwhelming drive to find affection that comes from my past. Can’t I just be happy by myself? And the truth is, not only can I, but I should. My true feelings understand this. If I’m able to strip off all the baggage and maintain my illness it’s what’s really me.

And I think that’s what I’ve finally been able to do. Or at least, I’ve made significant progress. Finding the right combination of medications has made a world of difference in the effects of my illness. True, honest therapy has helped me realize so many of the motivators, and with that understanding I’ve been able to overcome them. For the first time in a long time I feel like myself. And it’s someone I can like and be comfortable with.

I think that is the key. To be truly happy, you have to be happy with who you are.

I believe that there are people who think that they’re happy, but really have no clue. There are certain personality types and forms of mental illness that can distort what people can mistake for happiness. I can give you some examples.

In my opinion, my girlfriend’s ex husband is a total narcissist. He demands total obedience. His needs are completely self indulgent and insatiable. He is driven by success, and believes that he is much more successful than he really is. His arrogance knows no boundaries. Everything has to be about him, and he doesn’t care who gets hurt in the process. He seems to be satisfied and content when he’s successful with manipulating and controlling others to achieve his desires. And conversely, the less control he has, and the more he doesn’t get his way, the angrier he is. This has been very evident in the divorce proceedings they are going through. Throughout the whole process he’s tried to browbeat and control what she does, and constantly tries to engage her so he can exert his will. And she’s become strong enough, and is getting the right support and advice to be able to stand up and say no. And it’s totally pissing him off. His anger is not that he’s not getting his way; they are not far enough along to start negotiating who gets what. No, his anger is coming from the fact that he isn’t in control.

And he’s very unhappy about it.

But if he was able to successfully manage the situation, would that really make him happy? Maybe he would be satisfied, and the drive he has to feed his self indulgence fulfilled. But can he look in the mirror and like what he sees?

I believe that except in the most extreme cases, mankind is inherently good. Our environment, learned behaviors, personality traits and illness may override this goodness, but deep down I think it’s there. And if it’s not there, then there’s no capacity to be happy. The more ‘advanced’ we become, the bombardment of marketing that defines who we should be, the hectic lifestyles and the expectations that are set for us seem to be making it harder and harder to achieve true happiness. Simpler times simplify what makes you happy. But unfortunately it’s difficult to have that choice. It’s the way of the world, at least in my world.

Or is it?

Ultimately, I think that the base desires and emotional drivers are all the same. We want to feel cared for, and that we’re important to someone else. We want to feel like we’ve been successful, and have made a difference. There’s a basic satisfaction knowing that we’ve been heard, and that hearing what we have to say has had a positive effect. It’s important that our opinions and feelings matter. We want to be loved. And it doesn’t matter if we have personality disorders, physical ailments, difficult circumstances, or even bipolar; it can all be overcome. Not easily perhaps, but with the right amount of hard work, understanding and self acceptance it can be achieved. So what has made the difference: why am I happy now in spite of everything? It’s simple really.

It’s because I choose to be.  And you can too.

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