If Happiness is a Decision WHY Couldn’t I Make It?

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the happiest place on earth“Happiness is a decision”.  Have you ever thought about what a guilt trip that statement is?

It dawned on me a while back that this statement implies that if I am unhappy, then I am deciding to be unhappy. When I was unhappy and depressed, I tried everything I ever heard about to get myself over it. I tried to “decide to be happy”.  Oh I had brief success with it, yes, but not the enduring happiness that I sought after for so long. I got a little relief but never a permanent result. I tried self help; I tried books, affirmations and seminars.  I took vitamins, changed my diet and exercise, bought new clothes and said “I love you” to myself in the mirror and did other affirmations.  I quit coffee, quit drinking alcohol and quit smoking and I improved my lifestyle.  I WANTED to be happy. I wanted to believe that life was worth living. It just didn’t seem to be that easy! If happiness is merely a decision… then no one ever told me how to make that decision.

I did a Google search for the phrase “happiness is a decision” and I came up with lots of articles about how we can just “decide to be happy”.  None of it was very helpful at all but I think that when we don’t have any solution we are willing to accept half a solution or anything that sounds like a solution.  Be mindful about where that acceptance might lead you though.

Other than for brief moments, such as when I got a new car, new haircut, new boyfriend, took a vacation, or read a fantastic inspiring self help book or attended an equally uplifting seminar, lasting happiness escaped me. I wanted MORE than a Band-Aid. I wanted the real deal.

But I believed that happiness was a decision that I could make. I believed that happiness was a choice. I even told other unhappy people that happiness is a decision and a choice.  And deep down I felt like a failure because I couldn’t MAKE that decision.  Because I believed that happiness is a decision, I also believed that I CHOSE not to make that decision.  And there is the guilt. That was the underlying disapproval of myself. That was where the little voice inside got to say, “you have a choice, you can be happy, but you don’t want to be or you would decide to be”

Those statements got to me, but I never realized it. I never looked at it the way that I do now. I didn’t know that happiness was NOT a decision. Not in my life it wasn’t. Not for me. I think those sayings are really meant for different circumstances.

My teenage children have had some unhappy times in their lives. I am SO glad that I didn’t tell them that happiness is a decision.  Looking at it through the grid of teaching that concept to children brings to mind so many ways that I was discounted and verbally discouraged.  There is a subconscious element to this whole thing.  If you tell an emotionally struggling person that happiness is a choice, the deeper reaction to that statement IS guilt and self blame.  I “heard” that the choice was in my own hands when in reality it wasn’t until I went through the process of facing the truth about why I was unhappy.

I found real and lasting happiness when I faced the things that had caused me to be so unhappy in the first place. And now I really can choose my attitude.  I found that being grateful, being able to sustain an attitude of gratitude came much easier after I faced the past and was allowed to have my resentments for the things that stole my happiness. When I gave myself permission to feel the anger and NOT judge myself for it, I didn’t have to fight it anymore.  When I put the guilt,shame and blame back where it belonged and to who it belonged to, I was able to let go of guilt, shame and self blame. When I validated my right to be angry, hurt and resentful over the things that happened to me in the past, finally I was able to rise above the past.  The anger, hurt and resentment were no longer a problem.

The biggest difference between today and back then is that I don’t have those dark days anymore now that I have faced my past and faced the pain. By owning my truth I have taken my life back. Emerging from broken is about HOW I did that.

Today I can decide to be happy but that was never possible with I lived with the black cloud of the past and all the lies that belonged to it. It was in facing the past that I let it go, found peace and regained my ability to choose.  Happiness can be a decision now but I rarely think about it, because I am so rarely UN-Happy.

Please share your thoughts and comments here

Exposing Truth, one snapshot at a time;

Darlene Ouimet

The Emerging from Broken book is ready for download! If you find that the subject matter I am writing about resonates with you, get this book today! This 197 page, downloadable, printable, live linked e-book will put you on the fast track to healing.  Get yours here through the upper right side bar or click this link~ Emerging from Broken The Beginning of Hope for Emotional Healing

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96 response to "If Happiness is a Decision WHY Couldn’t I Make It?"

  1. By: Beth Posted: 7th August 2018

    I am glad that you have made it through to a truly happy life. And, thank you for sharing your story. You inspire me.

  2. By: Michelle Posted: 9th August 2016

    Excellent article and very powerful. I’m not sure how many times I was told to ‘smile’ ‘be happy’, ‘cheer up’ among other unhelpful directives whilst growing up, but thankyou for exposing the lies taught to us. The information you post is so validating and healing.

  3. By: Kylie Posted: 27th September 2012

    Wow, firstly l can understand why this topic is so popular!. Happiness, after all, is what everybody strives for. Even the richest people with everything they can possibly want, can be the most unhappiest/loneliest people on earth. How many famous people have died of drug overdoses and then its reported they were depressed? Or perhaps they take their own life. Shouldn’t they have been happy? They had everything they could possibly want, which may include a wife, children, and a large group of friends. Even the prestige. We all know, that happiness comes from within our soul. Although, not having to struggle financially would make life a lot easier.

    Secondly, like some, l do wonder if it is a choice? Well it definitely requires a conscious effort. Also a determination to not let life’s little hurdles bring us down.

    John Gray from his book ‘What you feel you can heal’ talks about recovering buried emotions. Emotions such as anger, hurt and sadness, fear and insecurity and GUILT. This he says, is essential for feeling motivated and purposeful. He talks about how repressing our feelings is actually a safety mechanism that we develop over the years. As a result of this repression, we stop feeling and start figuring out how we should feel. I like how he likens about repression to that of an emotional graveyard. Feelings never die, they come back to haunt us. How many of us can relate to this?

    I think, if l really take a good hard look at where l am at the moment, can see that some of my repression of the negative emotions repressed and l have become numb. John talks about this. He says ‘repressing your feelings gradually numbs your ability to feel’. To me, being stuck in this rut makes trying to be happy and positive, quite impossible. Even sadness eludes me, although l feel anger (for some reason). Which going by the iceberg effect model, is just under the surface of how l promote myself.

    I think to decide to be happy is achievable (I’ve yet to get there and keep it!) and l think l have a lot of work to do uncovering all those hidden feelings and working on that. The ‘How’ to part still eludes me. It’s like looking for something in the dark and then not knowing what it is you are looking for.

    I should be happy. I have 3 healthy daughters, a roof over my head and food on the table. When l’m having one of my down moments (and there are plenty of those), l try and be grateful for what l have. I think of others who are not so fortunate in this world. There are lots of external factors which are out of my hands, it the ones within that l have the power to change.. and change for the better.. To happy 🙂

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 27th September 2012

      Hi Kylie
      Gratitude is a great way to balance emotions, but I had to actually feel some of the feelings that I had neglected to feel or not been permitted to feel so that I could actually live in gratitude. That was a huge part of the recovery process for me. I thought I could decide to be happy but until I found the reasons that I was so unhappy, happiness of any lasting kind, was not somehting I had the power to choose. So yes it is achievable as you say, when you uncover all those hidden feelings and stick points. I had to take a close look at where the unhappy began or the origin of broken. It was there that I found the false beliefs about myself that were in my way.
      Hugs, Darlene

  4. By: Kylie Posted: 27th September 2012

    Wow, firstly l can understand why this topic is so popular!. Happiness, after all, is what everybody strives for. Even the richest people with everything they can possibly want, can be the most unhappiest/loneliest people on earth. How many famous people have died of drug overdoses and then its reported they were depressed? Or perhaps they take their own life. Shouldn’t they have been happy? They had everything they could possibly want, which may include a wife, children, and a large group of friends. Even the prestige. We all know, that happiness comes from within our soul. Although, not having to struggle financially would make life a lot easier.

    Secondly, like some, l do wonder if it is a choice? Well it definitely requires a conscious effort. Also a determination to not let life’s little hurdles bring us down.

    John Gray from his book ‘What you feel you can heal’ talks about recovering buried emotions. Emotions such as anger, hurt and sadness, fear and insecurity and GUILT. This he says, is essential for feeling motivated and purposeful. He talks about how repressing our feelings is actually a safety mechanism that we develop over the years. As a result of this repression, we stop feeling and start figuring out how we should feel. I like how he likens about repression to that of an emotional graveyard. Feelings never die, they come back to haunt us. How many of us can relate to this?

    I think, if l really take a good hard look at where l am at the moment, can see that some of my repression of the negative emotions repressed and l have become numb. John talks about this. He says ‘repressing your feelings gradually numbs your ability to feel’. To me, being stuck in this rut makes trying to be happy and positive, quite impossible. Even sadness eludes me, although l feel anger (for some reason). Which going by the iceberg effect model, is just under the surface of how l promote myself.

    I think to decide to be happy is achievable (I’ve yet to get there and keep it!) and l think l have a lot of work to do uncovering all those hidden feelings and working on that. The ‘How’ to part still eludes me. It’s like looking for something in the dark and then not knowing what it is you are looking for.

  5. By: Tina Posted: 12th August 2012

    I totally identify with your letter. I have been a lot happier a lot more often these days. I hadn’t really realized before I read this how much impact it has had on my life…. not being able to choose to be happy. I think my own family was my biggest stumbling block too! My mother and sisters have always encouraged each other to be happy and not say negative things, and would scold me for being too negative, when I was unhappy. To this day, I’m afraid to say anything negative on Facebook because I’m afraid everyone will think badly of me if I do. So, I subscribe to all the positive writers and share their quotes and only share the positive Bible scriptures. I have done a lot of healing and really am happy most of the time, these days, but there’s always that underlying sadness that rears it’s ugly head when ever I hear of anyone else being abused the way I have been. I am the only one in my family who was abused sexually, physically and verbally. I was the proverbial whipping boy for my step-father. And then, of course, I went on to choose abusive men. But I’ve never been able to talk about it out loud, except for in a counseling situation. So thank you, all of you, for making me feel comfortable enough to tell you about it.

    Blessings,
    Tina

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 13th August 2012

      Hi Tina
      Welcome to Emerging from Broken
      It has been key for me to talk about my childhood in order to validate that what happened to me was wrong and was the cause of my depressions etc. I am so happy that you are feeling comfortable enough here to tell me about yours. Please feel free to share whatever you like.
      Hugs, Darlene

  6. By: Sam Posted: 5th August 2012

    Hi Darlene I’d forgotten all about the “you look better/are pretty when you smile” and the being cajoled to smile when I did not feel like it, to get the response when I grudgingly complied, “that’s better!”. I felt so self-conscious and embarrassed when they did that; I think I know now why I still feel like that and awkward in company, and find eye contact so difficult. I was also told I was ‘sullen’. I found I couldn’t choose to be happy either. It’s only now with some healing behind me that I can feel a bit of happiness sometimes and it does seem to be spontaneous.

  7. By: Bipolar Bear Posted: 5th August 2012

    Happiness is not a decision when you have a illness like Depression or Bipolar Disorder. You don’t get to decide what you feel when your brain is overcome with chemicals that influence your synapses to misfire.
    Tell someone that has PTSD that they have the choice to be happy when they are suffering symptoms like flashbacks, nightmares or anxiety. Better yet tell a woman with PMS that they get to decide to be happy when they’re dealing with hormonal changes.
    Don’t get me wrong. I am really very glad that you posted this and I know this is suppose to be about abuse and those kind of situations. The fact of the matter is that many different people experience abuse even while other things are going on in their lives. There is more that I could write on this. The fact is that you can make as many decisions as you like in life. Some decisions are not under our control.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 5th August 2012

      Hi Biploar Bear
      Yes, it is very damaging to tell someone that they can choose to be happy or not when they are struggling with abuse or the effects of abuse.
      Hugs, Darlene

  8. By: Kelli Posted: 4th August 2012

    Darlene,

    I believe I do have a choice in whether or not I WILL BECOME happy. I can choose whether or not I faced the pain, the past, the abuse. When I realized I could make that CHOICE, I wasn’t guilt ridden…I was EMPOWERED and DETERMINED to do it. I was because I KNEW happiness was on the other side of that pain.

    I have found that to be exactly true for me.

    And I’m glad I made that choice.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 5th August 2012

      Hi Kelli
      I LOVE what you said! YES I made the decision that I would become happy too! The first time I got a glimmer of hope that it was possible I made the decision to do what ever it took to do it! and I did!
      Thanks for sharing! I am glad that you made that coice too!
      Hugs, Darlene

  9. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 4th August 2012

    It has been a year since I wrote this post and it still gets traffic. This was one of the most shared posts of the year when I wrote it. I am re-opening comments on it.
    Hugs, Darlene

  10. By: Kim Posted: 13th October 2011

    Wow! Each of your posts (at least the ones I’ve read so far) could be lifted from my own journal entries. I was honestly beginning to believe that I was the only one who felt this way and had these thoughts and that I was completely crazy. I’ve only recently given up on the idea of choosing to be happy. The guilt was just more than I could handle & I finaly realized it wasn’t doing me any good at all.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 13th October 2011

      Hi Kim
      Welcome to Emerging from Broken! The reason that I write is because I found out how many of us really feel this way… it is like the worlds best kept secret! Turns out that the key to happiness is not about choice but rather about facing the WHY I was unhappy ~ the truth of it.. not the doctored version that I had been fed my whole life. The best part is that today I AM happy because I don’t live in the lie anymore.
      Great to have you here.
      Hugs, Darlene

  11. By: Kate Posted: 9th August 2011

    Veronica,
    Thanks for your response to my comments. I totally agree with you 🙂

    Darlene,
    Thanks for taking the time to explain. I respect your perspective. And I’m thrilled that you have found what works for you, and that you are in turn helping so many thousands of others! What you’re doing is powerfully impacting so many people!
    Since we’re all different, perhaps we can find help in different ways, at times. All I can say is that I came across some things which Dr. Meier wrote that helped me, and my thought was to share that help with others, to pass along the blessing. I didn’t realize that his ways conflict with yours, or that some things he says could actually get in the way of someone’s progression of healing! That is the last thing I would want. I apologize for posting something you felt inappropriate and possibly with a unhelpful effect on your readers.

    Since I am still not totally clear on the specifics of how your way differs from someone like Dr Meier et al. I want to check into the differences. Perhaps you have an article about the specifics of how your approach differs? (I am not really familiar with his approach, either, so it is hard for me to compare!) Obviously, you have a good thing going that more people need to hear about! Perhaps if you shared your story and your methods with him, Dr. Meier’s could learn some things that would increase the impact of his ministry tremendously if he implemented the necessary changes. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?! Maybe I am too naive to think that way, but hopefully he and other professionals like him are open to examining the effectiveness of different approaches?

    Thank you for providing a place where it is safe to express one’s faith without fear of being bashed. I agree, and I think Dr Meier would agree(?), that we have to put ALL definitions of what other people say about who we are aside. When I began to do that, it created a quietness in which I was able to “hear” God’s voice that brought hope and healing.

    As a child and as a teenager, I wasn’t able to “find my own value” as you say, because my definitions of what constituted value, which I’d absorbed from the world around me, were skewed. Since I deemed myself not popular enough, not pretty enough, not athletic enough, not artistic enough, not rich enough, not (fill-in-the-blank) enough, I could not see much value in myself, and so I concurred with what seemed to be everyone else’s opinion. That’s why I needed to become aware of God’s valuation of me. Since that time, I’ve become less concerned with who I am, and have learned that its far more exciting and meaningful to learn who my Daddy is. Because He loves me. He’s good and He’s great, and I’m a part of His family;the knowledge of those things is what has formed a foundation for me that allows me to be less self-consumed than I used to be and focus more on Him and on the needs of others.

    I may be mistaken, but I believe our Creator embeds within each of us before we are birthed, the knowledge that we have value simply because we “are” and He created us. However, that “still, small voice” is all too easily drowned out amidst the din of the world around us– the accusing, angry, and mocking voices of influential people in our lives who inform us that we have no or little value. So we question, discount and ignore that quiet voice, and tend to believe the louder, painfully negative voices that dominate our lives day after day. For some of us, instead of the Creator’s affirming voice being reinforced by others, it is constantly contradicted and negated.
    I believe that although our inner ears were made to hear the affirming voice of our Creator, when they suffer a daily onslaught of violent and deafening assault, they are damaged so that we become deaf to Higher frequency sound waves(so to speak)– and we lose the ability to hear His words of love and affirmation. Its as if He had never, ever, spoken into us. All we hear is the value-robbing negative messages of violent earth-dwellers saying we are no good, and will never amount to anything; that we’re mistakes, irreparably flawed, worthless and hopeless, undeserving of love, time or favorable attention; we’re second-rate losers that will never measure up, etc. etc. and so we we come to believe them.
    I, too, love what Patricia said! ~~Thanks for that, Patricia!~~ Once I realized I was giving far too much credence to others’ (disapproving) voices, and stopped transferring parental-figure and others disapproval to my heavenly Daddy, as if their voices were His–things began to change, and I began to heal.

    Hope its okay if I share the following analogy? When he walked this earth, Jesus/Yeshua healed the blind and the deaf, but there is no one so blind and deaf as someone like me, who was blind to His love and deaf to His voice. That is the greatest sort of blindness and deafness, and makes for the greatest sort of healing! I pray for healing for each and every wounded, hurting person who reads your blog, Darlene. Children don’t choose to be blind and deaf; its done to them. But as we grow, we can begin to learn to distinguish between the good and the bad, the human,skewed, and the divine, true. I got angry when I realized I had wasted so many years living out of a false paradigm and allowing others to define me! Sometimes I still find myself falling back into that rut– but I am getting quicker at realizing it and getting back up again. Thanks for your help, Darlene! Hugs to you! I love reading everyone’s comments– as someone else has previously mentioned, they’re all so helpful, in various ways! … Okay, since you said so, I won’t apologize for the length of this, but I do sincerely thank anyone who took the time to read it!

  12. By: Lynn Posted: 8th August 2011

    Thanks for your response Darlene.

  13. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 8th August 2011

    Hi Lynn
    I can relate to these thoughts. I have had a similar conversation with a few people. I don’t think we go to funeral or memorial services to support the dead anyway. I agree with your thoughts here. My mother tried to convince me that I should have a relationship with my brother. The whole “family thing” and “oh you were just kids”… it still makes me cringe. I am true to myself today. I don’t bow to the requests of others when they are hurtful to me. I also no longer worry about the way that others think OR react to my decisions.
    Thanks for sharing this. Hugs and love, I know this can’t be easy.
    Hugs, Darlene

  14. By: Lynn Posted: 8th August 2011

    My mother is dying of Alzheimer’s and metastatic breast cancer, which ever gets her first. She’s 79 and lives with my step-father of 50 years in Arizona. He is her care-taker, along with hospice, in the home. I never loved him, but we have tried to get along. As of 10 years ago, he knows about the abuse by my father and brother. My father killed himself long ago. My brother lives in PA. Last October, when I was visiting my mother to get hospice in place, I told my step-father that if he plans a memorial for my mother, don’t plan on me being there IF my older brother comes from PA to AZ. My step-father got so mad I was afraid he’d have a stroke. “What do you mean you won’t come? I think that’s rotten that you won’t come for your mother.” I said, “I’m here now, while she is alive, doing what I can.” Then I asked him, if my rapist was someone who was walking the street, and came to the memorial service, would he, my step-father, expect me, the victim, to be in the same place at the same time for the sake of my dead mother? Not on your life. I may not be happy all the time, but I am NOT going to do something that brings me to despair. I don’t care if he thinks it’s rotten. The less I listen to him, the more I can listen to my own intuition, which is telling me not to go. This is a major shift in doing something for the love of my spirit, rather than deconstructing myself to make others happy. Which I never could, so why continue with him (step-father.)

  15. By: joy Posted: 8th August 2011

    Patricia

    you are right am just at the beginning stage of “Feeling” the grief and its so intense.. Sometimes I resolve to be so strong and then I am flattened out face to the ground with emotions running all over me. I keep questioning ..second guessing . .am I doing the right thing. I come to a conclusion that “yes I am dong the right thing’ and celebrate the victory of believing this then the thoughts come back again..

    I had been a very spiritual person all my life. and questioning my doing right is a very big thing. I don’t want to do wrong; to do evil.

    I will have to go read your blog . .I am in a class for college that is so so very triggering . it asks us to evaluate ourselves.. past work experiences ..relationships and recalling past work is all so hurtful..

    Evaluating myself as part of this class assignment ended up re affirming that I need therapy.. I had to take a 20 question test as part of week one assignment and in the end i scored 10/20 which indicated i was very badly needing some therapy and my self esteem was very low..

    Sigh. I didnt need my college class to point this out but being I was going to major in psychology before all the 2009 nonsense started .. i have to deal with lots of psych classes and many really reopen the wounds ..

    i do meditate twice daily. that is how I come to write my poems. T taught me of going to the safe place which really is just going into a meditation

    sometimes when I am triggered i go to my safe place more than twice .. the other night i was there 3 times.

    Thank you for point out the steps you are taking and assuring me what I am going through is normal

    Joy

  16. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 8th August 2011

    Joy, you walking away from them, even when they are abusers and especially when they are family, means that you have the job of grieving their loss. That may be where you are right now.

    With my abusers, I have reached the point of being glad that they are out of my life. I wasn’t glad when I was going through the loss and the grief of that loss. Grief is healthy and it comes with every loss no matter how small. I believe that once we start to heal, for most of us, the first thing that we feel is the loss and the grief of that loss. That is why in the beginning everything can feel so overwhelming. The enormity of the grief can almost be too much to handle. Sometimes I would shut down or try to go back into the denial of earlier stages but I couldn’t. Once the denial is striped away, there is no going back. Grief is the most tiring emotion that I have ever felt. Some days it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other and stay on the path in front of me. At some point, I realized that as tiring as it was to feel the grief and work my way through it, I was better off than I had ever been. Finally the grief started to lesson and I could still see clouds in the sky but I could also see the sun breaking through into my awareness.

    I have revisited grief again and I even wrote about being in grief twice over the past month on my blog Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker. The grief was different this time, or I should say, more accurately, I was different in letting myself fully feel the grief. Each time the grief came and stayed for about 3 days before it began to lift. The grief happened because of the ending of a friendship. The letting go was painful. The ah-ha moment that I got yesterday was that I was allowing what another person thought of me to be more important than my own feelings and thoughts. This was really big for me. I didn’t realize that I was doing that. I can appreciate your thoughts and approval of me and of what I think or say, but your approval shouldn’t direct how I feel about me and it was.

    In the past month, I have joined a meditation group which I haven’t been a part of a spiritual group in a very long time. The meditations that I have been doing each day helped me to stay relatively grounded through out the past month. They have also heightened my intuition so that I will start having more ah-ha moments because I am centered and grounded.

  17. By: joy Posted: 8th August 2011

    Patricia

    I agree them walking away from me doesn’t make them bad .. makes them blind to how they have hurt me

    I have been told there is a family reunion ni myy family by a relative who also told me that my name was on the “Do not contact list” really makes one feel warm in side knowing that? Not!

    I cannot be glad.. although i can at the moment “accept” that some are out of my life. I think it takes time to come to a point of feeling glad about losing people..even bad people..especially if they are suppose to be family.

    I hope your “reunion” goes well i will pray hard that you are not hurt or saddened in any way.

    THank you for responding.

    Joy

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