August 28, 2004
A change of heart
Yesterday I wrote about changing our beliefs about happiness, but I did not give any examples from my own experience. This is really a two part post, so if you did not read yesterdayís post, you can go back and read that first.
A long time ago I used to smoke cigarettes. I was really addicted to them. Part of that was a physical addiction, but most of it was mental. I know that because when I finally did quit, it only took about 5 days for the physical symptoms to subside. I know now that our lungs return to near normal capacity within a very short time.
When I was smoking my views about happiness were different than they are now. There was a whole culture surrounding smokers and the need to smoke. I was unhappy when I didnít get a chance to smoke. I was unhappy when I smoked too much. I was unhappy if a store didnít have the right brand. I was unhappy when people asked to borrow a cigarette when they werenít intending on buying their own. I was unhappy when the price of cigarettes increased. I was unhappy when I woke up in the morning after drinking beer and smoking half the night and felt like Iíd been hit by a truck. I was unhappy when I had to pick up cigarette butts that other people threw on the ground. I was unhappy when I started smoking again after quitting. I quit smoking about five times before my final attempt. I wasnít happy with the way smoking made me feel, except maybe at the very moment I was inhaling, at the point when my brain was being deprived of oxygen. That I didnít seem to mind. In fact, all during that time I thought I was happier as a smoker. But wow, reading back over that list, thatís a lot of unhappiness! I donít understand why it took me so long to quit smoking.
When I did quit, it was very liberating. It was nothing short of a miracle! What it really took was a change of heart. It took a viewpoint change. I used to view smoking as one thing necessary for the fulfillment of my happiness, but I shed the need for fulfillment from cigarettes. I then became healthier and saved a lot of money! All of the unhappiness associated with cigarette smoking vanished into thin air.
When I was 20 I got married and was really happy. But before that and even during much of my marriage I did not know the source of my happiness. I often thought of others as the source of my happiness. I mean that I thought they needed to give me something in order for me to be happy. I had expectations and demands on my partner and if she did not fulfill them I become unhappy. There was a point, well several points, when our relationship fell apart. There was a lot of unhappiness. In retrospect I realized that much of it was due to my faulty views about what a relationship should be like. I later discovered that true happiness does not come from trying to get something from others. If we are expecting that, we are going to be let down at some point. Reverse that idea: You know what itís like to constantly live up to otherís expectations of us right? It doesnít work too well. Especially if they have unrealistic expectations. We become exhausted and feel like a failure when canít do it. Thatís what I made my wife feel like. It was a difficult lesson for me to learn. It took a change of heart to save our marriage.
My views of relationships are much different now. I have learned that to get happiness we have to give it. In uplifting someone else, we are uplifting our self. When we are only taking we are actually taking from our self until we are bankrupt. My source of happiness is inside of me, which really makes it possible for me to have something to offer someone else in a relationship.
The August 10th edition of The Times of India had an article about an 18 year old girl who committed suicide because she could not get into the school of her choice. The government decreased the seats available and her College Entrance Test scores were too low. After seeing the news on TV about the lowered allotment of available seats, she went into her bedroom and hung herself from the ceiling fan. In her world she was facing an uncertain future in professional studies. To me it is very sad and tragic that her life ended in that way. Life for her was looking pretty bleak. Her happiness was dependent on that future and when it seemed out of reach, she could not be happy in her current life.
Our belief becomes an obstacle to our happiness. So if we are unhappy it makes sense that we can change that by changing our basic beliefs about happiness. This is really a change of heart because that is where our happiness resides.
Posted by carl1236 at August 28, 2004 11:40 PM | Attitude