If I Can Be Happy Stuck in a Middle Seat, I Can Be Happy Anywhere!
By Jewel Safren, LCSW
Can you remember something you thought would make you happy, and shortly after you got it you felt…the same?
Our society tells us that things will make us happy. “When I just get this raise, or this house, or this relationship, or this job, or this marriage, or this divorce (etc.), then I will be happy.” It’s always something we have to attain or accomplish, and it’s always in the future. It’s like a dog race where a mechanical rabbit is always just ahead of the dogs—they run faster and faster, but they can never catch the rabbit.
One of my mentors works with professional athletes. He told me about a client who won the green jacket on the golf circuit and said that the day afterward was the worst day of his life. He had accomplished what he thought would make him happy. He achieved the pinnacle of his professional life! But after the euphoria wore off, he felt exactly the same.
I remember thinking that when I got my articles published, then I would feel like I had arrived, that I was Officially Not a Loser. So I gathered up my courage and submitted my first article. I was so excited to read it in print! I even kept copies of the paper. As time went by and I published more and more articles, I found I didn't even read them in print, let alone keep copies. After the first excitement of getting my articles published, I still felt like a “loser.” Actually, I was kind of depressed. What? After all this, I don’t feel any different?
I’m not saying that accomplishments that are aligned with your personal goals will not give you some temporary pleasure. But as we have all experienced, that pleasure is fleeting.
Pure happiness is a totally inside job. It is experienced by getting in touch with a place inside of you where you can feel your connection to the Divine, and experience that you are part of the whole, that you are okay. Your circumstances cannot touch this place.
Let me give you a personal, lighthearted example of my experience with this. I was flying back from visiting my daughter in California. I was stuck in a middle seat, which I hate. As soon as we boarded the flight, we were told that the entertainment system wasn’t working—on a five-hour flight. AAGGG. I didn't even bring a book. (Of course, the only time I don’t bring a book, there’s no entertainment.) We are delayed about an hour while on the plane as they try to fix the entertainment system. I decided I would eat the meal I’d bought from a fancy restaurant so I could enjoy a nice treat on the plane. I took one bite and had to throw it away, it was awful. By this point I was working myself up into a frenzy of upset. “There’s no entertainment, no yummy food, we’re crammed in and stuck for an hour—ugh!”
But then I realized that I was working myself up into a big upset. Just knowing that I was doing this, I was able to allow my thoughts to calm down and I actually relaxed. Believe it or not, I was absolutely fine for the rest of the trip. I was still stuck on the plane, but I was able to connect to that place inside of me where happiness resides as a natural state. If I could experience happiness on that full flight, in a middle seat, with no distractions and no yummy food, then I was a changed person.
Let me tell you, I can go to the happy place inside much more easily now.
If you are sitting there thinking, “Hey, easy for her to say. She doesn't have real problems,” I promise you that happiness is beyond your circumstances. Have you ever been in a situation where from all outside appearances you should not have been happy—but you were? You could feel that the happiness was within you, not in your circumstances (like my flight). I’m sure you can also remember times when from the circumstances you should have been happy but you weren’t. That’s because—surprise!—it’s not about your circumstances.
It’s way beyond your personal experience. It’s way beyond that voice in your head. It’s not about your accomplishments, and it’s not in the future. It is always inside of you—right now—just like your heart beating. You do not have to do anything to attain it; it is your birthright. You just have to understand that you can rest and go there. That it is always available underneath all your fussing and fretting. You can be happy in this very moment…even in a middle seat.
Jewel Safren is an LCSW with decades of experience helping her clients get to the root cause of their emotional struggles while maintaining stability in their personal lives. Jewel lives in Fairlawn, NJ, with her husband, and uses her frequent flyer miles to visit her four kids and four grandkids. You can contact Jewel at (973) 464-8556 or email@example.com.