“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
– Albert Camus
There is a reliable path to happiness, but I warn you: it’s a path for warriors. It requires casting away the fog that prevents you from dwelling in reality, and feeling the pain you’ve been avoiding.
What follows are instructions for your heart, not your head.
Walk down the street at rush hour and look into the eyes of the people you pass. You’ll notice that where there should be fire and light, there is vacancy. These people are living with muted feelings and clouded minds. They are dazed by a quiet sense of being disconnected from themselves.
I know this feeling of being disconnected; I’ve been there many times before. It’s a side effect of living in a society that expects people to behave more like cogs in a machine, than the vital forces of nature they truly are.
Being human means dealing with suffering. Even if your life is better than average, you will still experience an abundance of loss, heartbreak, anxiety, and despair. To cope, most people rely on numbing agents to dull the pain. The most common numbing agents:
- Getting caught up in stress and busyness
- Regularly using alcohol, weed, and other drugs
- Surrounding yourself with drama, fear, and anxiety
- Filling your day with the white noise of background music, podcasts, and perpetual small talk
- Staying in bad relationships – romantic or otherwise – in order to avoid being alone
- Pretending that you’re less capable than you truly are
- Depriving yourself of sleep, nutrition, exercise, connection, play, and nature
- Staring at televisions, computers, smartphones, tablets, and other tools that induce trances
- Lying, either overtly or subtly
These forces keep you away from yourself by dulling your emotions. In moderation, they are harmless. In excess – which is more common – they are deadening.
One thing I can promise you is that bouts of slap-me-in-the-face-this-is-too-fucking-good levels of happiness are available to you. Even as you read this, they are resting within you, waiting to come out.
To access them you must begin by clearing out all of the pain you’ve been holding on to.
Temporarily remove whatever you rely on to avoid feeling the full force of life. For a few days, keep your electronics off, get plenty of sleep, eat healthy foods, don’t touch intoxicants, and be alone with yourself, undistracted. Spend time journaling and reflecting in nature.
You may notice that you are bored.
Do not fall into the trap of distracting yourself. In this context, boredom is your mind’s last line of defense. Lean into the boredom. Ask yourself: what is my mind trying to prevent me from seeing or feeling right now?
This is the beginning of dwelling in reality. You’ll be surprised by what you uncover.
You’ll start to notice the pain you’ve been avoiding. The failures you’ve tried to forget. The wounds that never quite healed. The friends who betrayed you. The embarrassments from your past.
Your job is to feel it all.
It may feel like you’re breaking. That’s good. Lean into that feeling. Instead of choking back the tears, surrender to them. Allow yourself to break.
Do what you must. Scream, smash plates, punch the wall, destroy the pillows. Do it all while blasting heavy metal and cursing at the top of your lungs if you would like.
Release the pain that has been building in you. It’s been holding you back from becoming the force of nature you truly are.
You’ll notice that behind the wall of pain rests a stable sense of happiness and power.
That happiness is always there for you. You may return to it as you wish.
Once you have found your core of happiness, here is how to maintain it:
- Let go of the need to be happy all the time. You are a force of nature, not a Disney character.
- Align your life with your true desires. If you want to be a writer but you’ve been working as an accountant, start writing more. You don’t have to quit your job, but denying what you truly want is a step in the wrong direction.
- Fill your life with the people and activities you love. Strip away those you hate.
- Reduce the numbing agents in your life and allow yourself to feel the full pain of existence more often. This makes accessing the happiness within easier.
- Remember: beauty is found by embracing the rough edges, not in the frightened attempts to be perfect.
When you allow yourself to feel the full force of existence, you will be able to dissolve the pain that has been holding you back from truth, power, and, ultimately, happiness.