Do You NEED To Suffer?

So in February, I was starting to understand a fear of happiness when I wrote Why am I afraid to be happy? It was a thought process beginning to unravel more deeply what was going on for me. Since then, I have discovered that, due to my early life programming, unlike many, my baseline for life is suffering, pain, and struggle. I was rewarded when I was feeling bad as a child and rarely, if ever, rewarded when good things were happening or I was proud of myself. Instead, I was ignored, resented, and envied by my primary caregiver from an early age.

What this did was result in me subconsciously developing a pattern that made me afraid to feel happy, peaceful, joyful, and all those labelled ‘good’ feeling emotions. Why? Because I was taught that, as a survival measure, I received care, attention, or love when I was suffering and not when I was happy. So the basic healthy mechanism for our own lives to be happy, content, and satisfied was missing. To ironically keep me safe, I became automated to choose pain over pleasure. So to be happy, I was not happy. This is a hard idea to swallow.

“For most beings on earth joy is baseline and they experience temporary bouts of unhappiness and pain. But for some of us, especially those of us who find a way to self-help and spirituality, the tables are often turned. Suffering is our baseline and we experience temporary bouts of happiness and pleasure.”

~ Teal Swan

When I track through my life, I know this to be true. I can remember times when I felt happy, and I always felt on the edge of fear that it couldn’t last because it wasn’t good. I wasn’t a good person if I continued to feel happy, successful, or empowered. Imagine living your life like this. It’s heartbreaking to accept, yet many of us live like this.

How do we let a long term rooted pattern like this go?

We have to completely redefine who we are and have a complete identity shift. This is not for the faint of heart.

What happiness means to others has become a trigger for the post-traumatic stress response.

Thinking about this further, pain can become a safety cushion for us. In a strange way, it protects us from shock and loss. I know this in myself after learning to worry about things most of my life. You don’t get much of a shock when you expect ‘bad’ things to happen on a consistent basis. I don’t wish to live like this anymore, and losing Michael last year has meant I am now finally questioning some deep-seated core patterns.

Teal Swan said in her Blind Spot cards (I highly recommend these cards; they are tough love at its finest!) that those of us for whom suffering is our baseline need to ask the following two questions and be as brutally honest as we can be:

  1. What is my positive intention for being unhappy or suffering?
  2. What bad thing would happen if I were always happy and full of joy?

So on a surface level, my positive intention for being unhappy is that I am safe. I’m not a threat to other people. The emotions of unhappiness are known; I know them intrinsically. The emotions of happiness are unknown, and I’m not sure I can trust them. When I suffer, my mother is kinder and more caring towards me. When I am happy, there is little emotional connection between the two of us.

And what bad thing would happen if I was always happy and full of joy?

I might miss the people that I need to help. Who learns from happy people? If I were always happy and full of joy, what would I write about? What value would my work have? I might be manipulated more easily. My life might work, and I might be happy! (oh?!).

And simply writing these is blowing my mind: ‘Who would I be if I wasn’t suffering?’

It’s a deeply challenging question, especially when you feel your role in life is to help people through the ‘painful stuff’ of life. I know that in those rare moments of feeling genuinely happy, I didn’t want to really talk to people in pain so much, but I could still listen. I guess I am still able to tap into the inner wisdom when in a lighter-feeling place, but can I consider things deeply in a lighter-feeling place? We live in a world of contrasts where we don’t know one without the other.

These questions are really worthwhile to consider if you have a fear of feeling happy.

May they be life-changing for all of us in this place right now.

Good luck exploring.

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Kelly Martin
Kelly Martin

Kelly Martin, author of ‘When Everyone Shines But You’ is a dedicated writer and blogger who fearlessly explores life’s deepest questions. Faced with a decade of profound anxiety and grief following the loss of her father and her best friend Michael, Kelly embarked on a transformative journey guided by mindfulness, and she hasn’t looked back since. Through her insightful writing, engaging podcasts, and inspiring You Tube channel Kelly empowers others to unearth the hidden treasures within their pain, embracing the profound truth that they are ‘enough’ exactly as they are.

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