We all think we want to feel good, but sometimes feeling good leads to feeling bad. Why does this happen?
- Something bad happened in the past when we were feeling good. Sometimes we know what that was (e.g. we were feeling on top of the world when a tragic accident occurred), and sometimes we don’t. We just know that we start to get nervous, feel edgy, or avoid things that would lead to feeling good. This is simple classical conditioning – learning by association. We might also call it superstitious feeling.If we continue to avoid things that might lead to feeling good (usually this tendency is unconscious), we never extinguish the conditioned response. We never get to feel good! So it is very important to not believe the feeling, but rather give yourself the chance to have a new experience. It will take many times of pushing past the nervous feeling and getting to happy before the nervous feeling finally lets go.
- Other people didn’t like it when we felt good. It may be then we were “full of ourselves” or more lively it made Mother angry or we were ignored. Maybe there was someone ill at home and we had to be quiet. And maybe we got more attention when we were down, so this was reinforced.
- We avoid happy to preserve our relationships.
When others around us are unhappy, we may not want to “rub salt in the wound” by our being happy. Or perhaps we started a relationship in a low state and are afraid to risk upsetting it by changing. Look for ways you may be trying to protect a relationship by muting yourself.
- We live in a state of numbing and shut down, and feeling good takes us out of that.
If you’ve protected yourself from overwhelming or negative feelings by numbing, you will want to preserve that. Good feelings will shake up a habitual pattern, and there is inherent resistance against changing a safety mechanism like this. (Changing this is delicate business, so I recommend working with a therapist if you’re in this situation.)
- We don’t think we deserve to be happy, so don’t let ourselves enjoy anything. So where did that idea come from? This is rotten programming worth deconstructing! The more firmly you believe it, the more you’ll need skilled help getting out from under it.
These are not easy patterns to change, yet essential to change if we’re to have a chance at a happier life. The happiness strategies may be of help, yet you may need the guidance of a skilled therapist to get past these obstacles.