Despair is a long way from the happiness you were initially seeking. How did you get from mere happiness-seeking to a totally despairing life? How can you embrace the happiness that you set out to find?
It might not even be ‘happiness’ per se that you were initially seeking. You might have been looking for someone who was introspective, spiritual and existential. But you tell me…
Happiness is external. It’s based on situations, events, people, places, things, and thoughts. Happiness is connected to your hope for a relationship or your hope for a future with someone. Happiness is linked to that ‘some day when I meet the right guy’ or ‘when he starts changing and acting right’ or ‘when he goes to counseling.’
Happiness is future oriented and it puts all its eggs in someone elses basket. It is dependent on outside situations, people, or events to align with your expectations so that the end result is your happiness. These expectations can be seen especially during the holidays when whether or not you have a ‘merry christmas’ or a ‘happy holiday’ depends on whether or not he is with you, shows up, isn’t drunk, isn’t cheating,
or a list of other behaviors you expect for a ‘happy holiday’ experience. Unfortunately, pathology rarely obliges in that way. So when the relationship falls thru, or he isn’t wonderful at Christmas, or you kick him out, or he cheats again, or he runs off with your money, or he was a con artist…then your holidays were not ‘happy’ and your happiness
Unhappiness is the result. It’s a typical and inevitable result in pathological love relationships. Afterall, it’s the only way it CAN turn out. There are no happy endings to pathological relationships. After Christmas and New Years, he will still be pathological and you will still have the same problems you had in November. You notice that The Institute has not written a book called ‘How to Have a Happy Relationship With a Pathological.’
Chronic unhappiness leads to despair and depression. Remember the emotional roller coaster you rode with him? You were happy when he was good, and miserable when he was bad? You were hypnotically lulled into happy-land when you were with him and in intrusive thought-hell when you weren’t? Your happiness was hitched to his rear end. When he was around (and behaving) you were happy. When he wasn’t, your happiness followed his rear end right out the door and you were obsessing, wondering, and pacing.
Happiness is what you feel when he says the ‘right romantic’ stuff, buys you a ring or moves in. But happiness is not joy because joy is not external, it can’t be bought and it is not conditional on someone else’s behavior. In fact, joy is not contingent on anything in order to exist. You don’t have to have ‘him’ for the holidays to have joy. Likewise, you don’t have to get revenge, snoop out his short comings, tell the new girlfriend the truth or any thing else in order to have joy. You can lose in court with him, already have lost your life savings to him, watch him out with a new woman, or live out of the back of your car and still have joy.
You’re probably thinking,’Sure you can have joy in those circumstances if you are Mother Teresa!’ Joy is almost a mystery, isn’t it? It’s a spiritual quality that is internal. My mother had a lot of joy and I learned from watching her joy. Her pathological man ran off with her life savings forcing her to work well past retirement. It forced her to live simply so moved to a one room beach shack and drove a motorcycle. For cheap entertainment, she walked the beach and painted nudes. She drank cheap grocery store wine that came in a box, bought her clothes from thrift shops, and made beach totes from crocheting plastic grocery bags together. She recycled long before it was hip to do it. But what she recycled most and best was pain….into joy.
Instead of looking externally for yet another relationship to remove the sting of the last one, or to conquer the boredom she might feel at being alone…she cultivated internal and deep abiding joy. It was both an enigma and a privlege to watch this magnificent life emerge from the ashes of great betrayal.
I use her a lot as an example of someone who went ahead and got a great life and turned this rotten deal into an exquistie piece of art called her life. Anyone who spoke of my mother spoke MOST of her radiant joy. She had the ‘IT’ factor long before it was even called ‘IT.’ Women flocked to her to ask ‘How did you do it? How did you shed the despair and bitterness of what he did and grow into this? THIS bright shining joyful person? What is your secret?’
Somewhere along that rocky path of broken relationships with pathological men, she learned that happiness is fleeting if it’s tied to a man’s shirt tails. She watched too many of the shirt tails walk out the door with her happiness tied to his butt. In order to find the peacefulness that resides inside, she had to learn what was happiness and what was joy.
The transitory things of life are happiness-based. She had a big house and lost a big house when she divorced my father. She had a big career and lost a big career when she got ‘too old’ according to our culture to have the kind of job she had. She had diamonds and lost diamonds.
So she entered into voluntary simplicity where the fire of purging away ‘stuff’ left a clearer picture and path to the internal life. When stuff, people, and the problems they bring fall away there is a stillness. Only in that stillness can we ever find the joy that resides inside of us, dependent on nothing external in order to exist. During this holiday season, this is a great concept to contemplate.
Her joy came from deeply held spiritual beliefs but it also came from a place even beyond that. Joy comes when you make peace with who you are, where you are, why you are, and who you are not with. When you need nothing more than your truth and the love of a good God to bring peace, then you have settled into the abiding joy that is not rocked by relationships. It’s not rocked by anything.
It wasn’t rocked as she layed dying four years ago in the most peaceful arms of grace–a blissful state of quiet surrender and anticipation. Those who were witness to her death still tell me that her death brought new understanding to them about the issue of real joy. Joy in all things….death of a dream, death of relationship, death of a body. Joy from within, stripped down, naked and beautiful.
Untie your happiness from the ends of his shirt tales…
(Watch for Part II next month!)
Sandra L. Brown, M.A. is the Founder and CEO of The Institute for Relational Harm Reduction and Public Pathology Education. She is the author of several best selling books, including How to Spot a Dangerous Man and Why Women Love Psychopaths. www.saferelationshipsmagazine.