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Why Are So Many People Unhappy?

podcast self esteem Dec 17, 2019

Can't listen? Here's the transcript: 

Hey Dethroners!  Today I want to talk about why as a species, we are actually hard-wired for unhappiness and what we can do about it.  This is why I do the work that I do in the world--because I believe that now more than ever, we ALL need to learn to take charge and become the master of our minds. 

As human beings, we are wired for connection, generosity, and love. So if there is something that interferes with this, this is what creates unhappiness and dysfunction.  And right now, we are living in a culture that definitely interferes with this. A lot of messages we get in our culture, beginning at a young age, make us unhappy, sick, frustrated, unkind to ourselves and unkind to each other. 

Our culture promotes competition and comparison. Our culture promotes people feeling dissatisfied with what they have, always wanting more, and the idea that people are worth what they have or what they own or what they look like on the outside.  If this defines who you are, then that actually goes against human nature. We live in a culture that goes against what it really means to be a human being.  

We need to open our eyes and see the truth about ourselves.  My work and passion is that people see the truth about who they really are, instead of who society tells them they need to be. When we are able to see our authentic selves, we are able to see who we really are and express what we feel. When we are so focused on improving, fixing, changing who we are, we are suffering because we are afraid to be ourselves. We push down our own authenticity, our own feelings. We have an ideal image of ourselves in our minds. And we compare ourselves to that ideal and feel like we never measure up. Almost every client I work with, from my private clients to the business executives I coach, struggles with this.  

Examine your emotions--that is the key to recognizing your automatic thoughts.  There is a big difference between having thoughts and thinking.  We have about 50,000 thoughts a day, which is truly staggering. Thoughts happen to us, kind of like how our hair grows. It happens whether we have attention on it or not.

Thinking is entirely different.  Your emotional reactions all stem from thoughts. So when you are experiencing an emotion, instead of labeling it just notice the body sensation. The emotion is most likely connected to a thought that stems from your past. So once you label it, frustration, anger, loneliness, whatever it is, now you are reliving a thought from your past. 

Something in the present moment triggered a thought and you are now reacting from a past-based thought. Your body reacts the same way it always has, whenever you have had this thought. So if you practice settling into the present moment, and are able to recognize the thought that is creating the emotion, you can actually separate yourself from that automatic thought. 

You can spot your Inner Critic drumming up the same thought that it always has. (I am not good enough, he doesn’t care about me, I am being disrespected.) You don’t need to keep reliving your past. You can separate yourself from your Inner Critic mind and lower the volume of the emotion you are experiencing.

This is how you break the addiction to your emotional reactions. This is how you can actually change your experience of yourself and your life.

I have a client in one of my groups, which only started a month ago, and she came into the program with her marriage at the breaking point. In just a month, she has recognized that her repetitive emotional reaction towards her husband was stemming from her Inner Critic's thoughts that she is unworthy.

He would express an opinion, because that’s just how he is, and she would blow up. Once she saw her own automatic thought, she has been responding very differently to his opinions by saying, “Ok.  I hear your opinion and I feel differently so I am going to stick with my decision.”

And she told me the other day that their marriage is completely different...and that her husband actually apologized to her for expressing a negative opinion about a house project she had worked hard on. That is true magic!

And it is all from my client’s new awareness of her automatic thinking and practicing a new thought, which created a new emotion and had her intentionally respond in a different way--which has changed their entire relationship. This is why I do this work.

Your complaints in your life stem from your emotions that keep you stuck in the past. If you want to be free, you have to be willing to take ownership of YOUR thoughts and practice intentional thinking. I have witnessed hundreds of people create freedom from their attachment to their emotions and it is the most miraculous thing to witness.

I see it over and over that when you take this work on, you fundamentally change who you ARE. You create a life that is beyond what you dream it can be, because you are becoming someone else.  Your intentional thoughts create feelings that make you feel good.And when you feel good, you take actions that coincide with feeling good. And when you take those actions, your life goes in a different direction.

Many people are actually afraid to do this work. They are afraid to let go of their old emotions and get beyond their habitual emotional reaction. They are afraid of taking personal responsibility for their thoughts. The normal way to live life is to go through life with your experiences dictating how you feel, which dictates how you think. If you learn to flip this on its head, then your thoughts create your feelings which create your actions which create your life. 

You don’t need to relive your past to have this freedom. I never relive the past with my clients. I am interested in my clients recognizing that their old automatic thoughts that their inner critic created years ago is what is responsible for unhappiness.  

When you break the automatic addiction to those thoughts and the automatic reactions that those thoughts produce, what is on the other side of that is the possibility for joy and freedom.  Our complaints about ourselves, our lives, and the people in our lives are just the thoughts that keep us connected to our past. If you want to be free, you have to learn how to think instead of just having thoughts.  

Competition is a perfect example of what happens when we are just having thoughts.  There are two types of competition: competition with ourselves and competition with other people. We don’t even realize that we have an ideal image in our minds of who we are supposed to be, how our significant relationship is supposed to be, how our children are supposed to be, how our business is supposed to be, how our bodies are supposed to be, how our finances are supposed to be. The list goes on and on.

Our Inner Critic convinces us that this ideal is actually what life is supposed to look like, and that other people are actually living this life. We see a tiny sliver of someone’s life and make all sorts of assumptions about their life, which strengthens the idea that this ideal is a reality.

When we compare ourselves against this impossible ideal, we create a false sense of self in which we either fulfill these impossible conditions or we fail. So we create this turmoil boiling on the inside, when we compare ourselves to this ideal and assume that other people are fulfilling that ideal. 

We can’t create a new future if we are dragging our old emotional reactions along with us into our future. We all have memories from our past. And believe it or not, our most vivid memories are often from the most painful moments.  This is because we have a part of our brain called the reticular activating system, that we needed when we were cavemen and women that alerted us to danger. It's the same mechanism that you see when a deer in the forest senses danger and suddenly jerks its head up from grazing on grass.

But in our modern world, this part of our brain gets triggered by emotional danger.  This is why we can remember vividly the time we were bullied on the playground, but we can’t remember the details of our day yesterday. But here’s the thing that is so cool about this work. When you clearly see the meaning your Inner Critic assigned to those memories, you actually get beyond your emotional reactivity. You can see that even the most painful events don’t mean what we make it mean about us. And a memory without an emotional charge can then be viewed as wisdom.

If you are able to stop blaming other people or circumstances from the past because you have let go of the emotion associated with the event, this is what true freedom is.  

I hear the question from a lot of my clients, “If I am feeling really bad about myself, I can’t just now start thinking all of a sudden, 'I like myself' because I don’t believe that thought."

And I agree. This is not about positive thinking or trying to sugarcoat a pickle. Intentional thoughts are like a ladder. So if you are having the thought, “I feel like a failure,” what is the very next thought on the ladder wrung that might lessen the intensity? Is it recognizing one area of your life where you are not a failure? 

Ok, try that on for a while. Focus your thought there. Just recognizing one area where you aren’t a failure might over time lead to the very next thought, which could be, “I actually am not as much of a failure as I thought”. That is the next rung on the ladder. And that thought over time leads to the next rung on the ladder and so on and so on. Before you know it, when you are practicing intentionally finding thoughts associated with gratitude, appreciation, self-compassion, this is what eventually changes how you think, and then feel about yourself. 

I want to talk about motivation.  A lot of people say they lack the motivation to take the actions that will change the direction of their life.  So they look for motivation to lose the weight, tell their spouse what they appreciate about them, get on the dating site, apply for the jobs, or go back to school.  If you are fueled by an inner purpose, you don’t need motivation. If you need to be pushed to get to your goal, you are following the goal for the wrong reasons. And those reasons are invented by your Inner Critic.  That’s the goal that our culture has fed to you, or your upbringing, or what you always believed would be the key to your happiness.   

If you are pulled by a different vision, then you don’t need motivation. You will take action with your vision that is from within YOU--It’s not external. If you already ARE enough, if there is nothing to prove and nothing to fix because you aren’t broken in the first place. 

What would it be like to set your goals from a place of feeling you have nothing to prove?

Where failure or rejection is just an opportunity to learn about what worked and what didn’t? 

Where your actions are not governed by a fear of what others will think?

Or where life is more like it’s a game?

And if you don’t make your goal, you can have fun on the journey to get there.  Like Elon Musk, the guy who invented Tesla says, “Reach for the moon. If you miss, at least you dance among the stars.”  

So here’s the bottom line friends: Your unhappiness is because of the automatic, conditioned thoughts of your Inner Critic. That is your old mind. When you rewire a brand new mind, you design a brand new life. 

If you want to reach out to me and discuss how I might help you or your organization think from a new perspective, go to my website and schedule a clarity conversation.  I would love to talk with you! And if you are finding this podcast valuable, please subscribe to my email list, also on my website, and consider sharing my podcast on your social media channels so that other people can also learn how to master their minds. 

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