The one about…feeling happy?

This term at our tots group we’re following an “I feel…” theme and the first week was “I feel happy!”

Now, I’ve no idea what your relationship with happiness is like. Do you feel most of the time! Is happiness something you pursue? Or is it a state you think just isn’t obtainable? Ot maybe you swing seamlessly from one emotion to another constantly?!?

I read some work by Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan monk, who made an interesting observation about emotions,

“Emotions in and of themselves have no moral value; they are neither good nor bad. They are just sirens alerting us of something we should pay attention to. If we learn to listen to them instead of always obeying them, they can be very good teachers.”

It’s an interesting thought that emotions are neither good nor bad but merely an indicator of what’s going on in our lives. The challenge is to take time to understand our emotions and let them teach us and use them rather than react to them! Simple?! Maybe???

The thing is, we build a lot of our lives on the assumption that we should be happy; that happiness is something we’re entitled to. There are a number of psychological theories to back this up. Richard Rohr describes “programs of survival” such as security, affection, esteem, control and power. The suggestion is that we need varying degrees of these “programs” to survive, to be happy!

“We build our lives around our programs for survival, which we falsely assume will give us happiness. The problem is, these programs will not work in the long haul. They are almost entirely dependent on outside events and other people conforming to our needs. They are inherently unstable because your happiness moment by moment is based outside of yourself.”

So if someone doesn’t acknowledge your work or if you don’t get the promotion or if the person you find attractive doesn’t reciprocate etc etc we don’t feel “happy”. We’re dependent on others and events for our wellbeing!

Thing is we can’t always control and manipulate people or systems so they work for us instead what we can do is make time to connect with something outside of ourselves, a higher power, the divine, God?! This activity we call prayer or meditation or contemplation allows us to actually reconnect with ourselves, to look at life and to understand what and who is affecting how we feel. Some things we can’t change but there are often lessons we can learn. Sometimes there are things we can change and time out of the busy, chaos or mundane might give us the courage to find a way to do so. Through it all we often find there is good to be celebrated, even in the darkest moments!

We won’t always be happy. Jesus didn’t say “I have come that you might be happy.” He did say “I have come that you might have life in all its fullness.”*

Maybe a full life is one that embraces the whole range of emotions and has the courage to acknowledge that perhaps they do all belong!

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