The Search for Happiness
As human beings, we have a strong instinct to seek pleasure and avoid pain. There is great value in this aspect of human nature, and because of this instinct humanity continues to thrive and exist. However, many of us have a strong expectation of consistent happiness and pursue it in a "manifest destiny” type of way. In doing this, one often fails to realize and accept that a part of living in the present is to allow oneself to experience each emotional state in its entirety. Just as ineffective as it would be to have an expectation to remain in constant sadness, the same applies with happiness. Experiencing a variety of emotions is truly a natural and genuine part of the human experience that should not to be suppressed or rejected.
At this point one might ask, "Then what is an effective goal if not achieving happiness?" The misconception that many have is the concept that happiness is synonymous with living a fulfilling life. The reality is that happiness is an emotion and fulfillment is a state of being.
I consider one of the greatest barriers in working toward achieving life fulfillment is a distressing, deep-rooted belief that one is not worthy or deserving of being fulfilled. Whether one is fully aware or unaware of this belief, it contributes to long-lasting depression and anxiety. Keep in mind that depression is not simply the emotional experience of being sad, and anxiety is not the emotional experience of having fear. While these emotional experiences are symptoms of depression and anxiety, they occur in all individuals.
In my approach to therapy, I find great benefit in emphasizing the exploration of central themes in content of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. In doing so, the client and I often begin to discover that there is a reoccurring belief and fear of unworthiness that radiates to all aspects of the self, which interferes with personal, work-related, and relationship dynamics. Through the identification of this theme, we can begin to work through the conflict and not around it. Evidence supports that this helps in creating lasting changes in ones quality of life and overall level of fulfilment. To reach this state is neither extremely easy, nor terribly difficult. I believe this is because fulfillment is realistic and is our right for the taking.