Although many of us are indeed modern day superheroes because of the sheer amount of things we do each day, we get into trouble when we think everything that occurs within and around us is personal… ie. that we are fully responsible in some way.
I mean, even Superman couldn't control if Lex Luther attacked him with kryptonite.
The truth is that the human experience is comprised of both personal and impersonal factors. Although at first you may seem skeptical because we so infrequently think of our experience in this way (remember the superhero complex?)...let's reflect on this notion for just a moment.
We all have a sense that there are certain things that we have control over, right? For instance, we can control, more or less, what we eat for lunch, if we decide to go to the gym, or if we take time to write down at least one thing we are grateful for today. There is no questions that we all do have a certain degree of choice in our lives.
There are also many things in life we can not control such as what mood our boss is in today, the weather, or any kind of difficult external circumstances. Nor can we control every thought that comes into our head or every sensation that occurs in our body.
Here is a real-world example of both the impersonal and personal elements of the human experience.
I do not consciously choose to experience a racing heart, the sensation of being unable to breath, and the feeling as if my body was on fire with heat. I do not purposefully invoke what is often referred to as a panic attack, yet I sometimes experience this. This is an impersonal (and relatively common) human experience.
An example of the personal is when, in a moment of awareness, I pause and assess the situation noted above. I then consciously slow down my breathing. In and out. I recognize how uncomfortable, even frightened, I am with these sensations and how much I wish they would just stop. I then consciously choose to drop those judgements, to stop resisting my experience, and to allow the uncomfortable sensations to be there as they are, without adding my personal story to what is happening.
Whether we feel like we are in our control or not, the fact of the matter is that our internal moods and sensations are changing all the time.
We can't experience only one state of mind, one mood, one thought, or one sensation forever. Thus, just as my feelings of anxiety arise spontaneously from the energetic stream of life, so do feelings of happiness. Happiness can just happen. This is the nature of the human experience...and this is great news!
Play around with this idea that happiness can sometimes, just happen. Is it possible to be sitting on your couch, staring out the window, and feel happy for no apparent reason? Do you remember walking through the woods with your dog once when you felt so blissful even though there were some crazy things going on at work?
Take a moment right now to think of an example from your own life...when you couldn't really explain why you were feeling so good?
Happiness is an energy, a feeling-state, and curiously, for this reason, it can be spontaneous and contagious!
It isn't always something we have to do or force.
Sometimes people raise their arms in protest to this notion. They proclaim, "Not me. I don't experience any moments of peace, relief, or joy during my day!"
However, upon closer reflection and with greater awareness, those same people begin to note subtle and then not-so-subtle changes in their mood and the bodily sensations they experience throughout the day.
What Do You Think?
Do you think happiness is something you have to work at all the time? Do you believe your happiness or unhappiness is in your direct, absolute conscious control 100% of the time?
I invite you to explore the impersonal nature of life. One way to do this is through reflectio