Are You Afraid of Being Happy?

Downhill skiing is one of my favorite activities.  It’s a recent discovery and I’m still very much a beginner, but it’s quickly become my passion.  I can only go a few time a year, so each day of skiing is a much anticipated event.

The last time I went was an awesome day.  The weather was just about perfect — the temperature was right, the sun was shining but with some thin clouds in front of it, so it wasn’t super bright.  I was grinning ear to ear.

But as I tuned in to my own happiness, I also felt a conflicting emotion.  It felt like there was a clamp on my heart, like a box that kept it from expanding too much.

Now why would I put a limit on this delicious feeling?

I felt around inside (skiing gives you lots of time to reflect, on chair and carpet lifts) and realized that this limiter was trying to protect me.  What if I fall and get hurt?  You don’t want to be too happy because you could be in for a disappointment. 

So there is the reason to be afraid of being happy — the fear of disappointment.  Somehow my mind got conditioned to think that if I was very happy then falling from that plateau is going to hurt.  The greater the gap between the high and the low, the greater the pain.  If I didn’t climb so high the fall would hurt less.

Is that true?

I believe I got conditioned to mix up heightened expectations with real joy and happiness.  The stronger you are attached to a particular scenario producing a specific desirable experience, the stronger you feel let down when that exact formula doesn’t materialize.  If I am truly in cloud nine, I am less likely to be disappointed.  From that point of view not many things seem upsetting.  And if something awful was to happen and bring me down, I have plenty of good vibes in reserve to be able to deal with the undesirable.

Emotional conditioning is not logical, but even if it was, logic can get twisted every which way.  I’m learning that thinking and making sense of things have their limits.  Our hearts get set in certain ways and trying to reason with it doesn’t help very much.

This sort of conditioning comes from emotional backlog.  I wasn’t born to fear the difference between happiness and disappointments.  It’s something I learned along the way.  What will dissipate this charge is to pay attention to it.  I like to visualize it like a little child, and I’m telling him to go ahead and throw a tantrum.  Reassure him that it is safe to break down and cry.  It may feel uncomfortable for a while, but there is an end to it.  Once fully processed, that emotional charge will not hamper me any more.  My emotional muscle in that particular area will be strengthened, so the next time something similar comes up, I’ll be able to feel it without being overwhelmed.

So I’ve been working on removing this “happiness limiter” by paying attention to it.

How about you?  Do you have voices that come up saying stuff like”you don’t really deserve to feel good” or “who are you to feel this good when there is so much suffering in the world?”  I believe that many of us are afraid of experiencing joy and happiness, just as we are of pain and suffering.  But truly fulfilling life comes from being able to fully experience all emotions without holding back.  So wherever you encounter these “limiters” you’ll want to explore and see what stuck emotions are forming that blockage.  When you undo that barricade by feeling all the stored emotions, then you pave the way for experiencing life to the fullest extent.  Even if that means you feel sadness or anger, when you don’t have a limiter trying to stop you from feeling it fully, it will not register as an uncomfortable or undesirable experience.

We will truly be free then.