You’ve got it all. Almost. And yet, you’re still unhappy.
A partner. A career. A home.
From the outside looking in, things aren’t so bad. In fact, they look pretty damn good.
Inside, it’s a different story. You’re miserable.
Your partner? Well, he’s not exactly “the one”. Sure, he’s loving, kind, and caring. He just doesn’t make your insides tingle like they did before.
Your career? Not exactly what you thought it would be. You’ve spent a lot of time, money, and effort to get an advanced degree, do the work, and get to where you are today. Now, you’re wondering if all that was worth it.
The home? At this point in your life, you thought you’d have more than just a two bedroom apartment that you’re renting. In fact you thought you’d have a lot more by now.
You thought you’d be over the moon in love with your partner. Maybe you’d even be expecting your first child. You’d own your home, with a yard, and a dog. You’d be happy with your career and making enough money to support your financial goals.
So, what’s wrong? Is it you? Is it your husband?
It all goes back to your ex.
When you were with them, it’s the last time you remember being truly happy. You imagined what your life would be like together. And then one day, it all just ended.
And you were left trying to make sense of it all. Wondering what you could’ve done to make it work. Wondering why they wanted to end it. Constantly wondering, “What if?”
Here’s the truth
- It wasn’t something you did. Or didn’t I do? Or something you could’ve done differently
- It wasn’t your ex’s fault, or your fault for that matter.
- It’s time to get happy. Now.
You’ve probably heard about the stages of grief and how when faced with a particular tragedy we can move through the feelings of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression until finally, we reach acceptance.
You’re still stuck on bargaining.
You keep thinking to yourself, over and over again: “If we just hadn’t done the long-distance thing, it would’ve worked out.” “If I had just had a better, higher-paying job, he would have been happier. If I…”
The hard truth is – this is no if.
Nothing you could’ve done would’ve worked. It’s hard to hear. Because you want to believe that if you’d done something, anything, you’d still be with them today. And you’d feel happy.
Happiness comes from YOU
The good, and sometimes bad, news in all of this is that your happiness is NOT depending on your ex. Or your current partner. Or even your financial situation. It comes from you.
“But Hayley,” you say, “I’ve TRIED. I’ve tried it ALL. The meditation, the yoga, the St. John’s Wort, the Prozac, the exercise, joining a spiritual group, the gratitude journaling, AND therapy. Nothing’s worked.”
And I hear you. You’re exhausted. You’ve tried everything you can think of and then some and it’s just not working. So, I want to challenge you now to really ask yourself:
“What do I believe about myself?”
Take a minute to really sit and reflect on this question. Even better, look at the situation, the break up with you ex, and ask yourself,
“What does this mean about me that this happened?”
As humans, we try to make sense of our world by giving it meaning, or assigning meaning to certain situations.
When we do well in school, we think, “I’m a good student.” “I’m smart.” When we do poorly, we think, “I’m a terrible student.” “I’m dumb.”
Our minds vacillate between negative and positive self talk about ourselves, others, even the world.
To figure out what we believe about ourselves, others, and the world, all we have to do is answer the following questions (which are famously attributed to psychologist Alfred Adler)
“I am __________________________.”
“Others are ___________________.”
“The world is _________________.”
When we answer these questions, we can really see how our thinking might be impacting our current situation; including our happiness.
You might notice yourself thinking, “I am unlovable. Others leave me. The world is an unloving place.”
When we really get to the root of what we’re feeling, we can begin to “unpack” that feeling so to speak. Unpack is a term often used in therapy (it’s one of my favorites!) because it gives me a mental image of unpacking a suitcase. First, you open the suitcase, then you remove the top layer of clothes, then the next, and the next, until finally, the suitcase is empty.
In therapy, we can think of the layers of clothes as events in our lives that contributed to our way of thinking, and at each level, what belief we created about ourselves because that happened.
So, you’re telling me to unpack my suitcase, and then I’ll be happy?
Yes! It’s the first step. In order to really find happiness, you need to take a good hard look at what you believe about yourself and your unhappiness.
Maybe you believe, “I’ll never be happy.” Or maybe there’s a caveat to your happiness, like “I’ll be happy when…”
It can be helpful, although isn’t always necessary, to take it a step further and figure out how you came to believe these things about yourself. This can be hard for some people, especially if they feel like they had a nice childhood and a loving family, with no real issues growing up.
And that’s fine. Look deeper at other situations or areas of your life. Maybe you started feeling like you were unlovable at school when you were the last one picked for your kickball time.
Or maybe you started feeling like you’d never be happy when your high school teacher made a comment about how you should be happy you got an A-minus when you really wanted an A+.
Now that we’ve looked at what you believe about yourself (and why), we can begin the next step of asking “How would you prefer to feel?” and “What would you prefer to believe about yourself?”
Here is where we can identify the positive belief that might better serve you in those moments when you find yourself automatically going to these negative beliefs.
Like the last time you checked your ex’s social media account and saw his new girlfriend. Or when your sister-in-law tells you she’s pregnant. All of these are moments that can trigger those negative beliefs to pop up and influence your feelings at that moment.
It might feel a little strange at first, to start telling yourself the opposite of what you’ve believed for so long. It may feel like these thoughts aren’t true and you might even actively fight against them.
For example, if you want to feel “I am loved.” yet it doesn’t feel true, you might look for all sorts of evidence to prove yourself wrong. Like, “Well, if I was loved, he wouldn’t have left me.” or “If I was loved, I wouldn’t feel this way.”
And that’s okay. It takes time to really change the messages we’ve been telling ourselves, about ourselves, for the majority of our lives. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is also helpful in really getting to the core of our negative beliefs and shifting them to be more positive.
Well, if you found this explanation of why you’re still unhappy, when it seems like you have it all, and want to start unpacking that suitcase of yours, I’d love to work with you. I can be reached at [email protected] or 561-331-1715.