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Fear of Happiness: What holds us back from living in the moment?

It occurred to me that I had spent most of this glorious life that was gifted to me living in fear. Sometimes it was actual fear, like the fear of what people may say about me or the fear of some unknown or known disaster that was surely going to befall me (and usually didn’t).  Sometimes it was fear in disguise. For example, I lived in fear of not being able to provide for myself and my kids and not doing enough for them  – but presented it as being a hard worker, proud of my long hours, a noble feeling and worthy pursuit. There was a fear of not living up to my own image of me. A fear of making the wrong decision. But the worst of them all, the one fear that had consumed me and permeated MY WHOLE LIFE was the fear of allowing myself to feel happy.

Even in moments of complete and total happiness, I was afraid – sometimes openly and sometimes deep in the back of my mind.  Afraid to completely let go and enjoy my happiness. Afraid I’d have to pay for this feeling somehow. Afraid this is not “real” happiness. Afraid it won’t last – afraid it would be taken away from me.  And because of that fear, I would tell myself that those moments didn’t matter, sometimes that they didn’t even exist. How dare I fully enjoy and live in those moments, how dare I even call them happiness – happiness is something far greater,  something that has yet to happen,  something I still need to work for. Something I didn’t feel I fully deserved at times.  

Then something happened on a lovely early morning that was both life-changing and eye opening (which is ironic because my eyes were actually still partially closed). As all of my loved ones are painfully aware, I’m not a baker. (Another fear I’ve lived with -the fear of failing yet another delicious project). But I really wanted to make scones for breakfast.  The crumbly, buttery kind that begs to be dipped into the strongest coffee or tea imaginable.  And so I set off to do it.  And I did.  And they smelled like pure heaven. And even kinda looked like those ones that the one coffee shop with the round green logo sells, true story.  And as I pulled them out of the oven,  an overwhelming sense of happiness came over me.

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But this time instead of dismissing it as stupid, shallow, insignificant,  small,  basic, ordinary,  boring,  or whatever other lies I would normally tell myself in order to nourish my fear, I allowed myself that total immersion into the here and the now, and the complete experience.  It was nothing other than happiness and I felt it fully and allowed this joy of being alive to wash over me.  I thought back to the countless other moments like that, and how carelessly I would discard them because I was waiting for “the real happiness” to hurry up and get here.  And how my fears ate those moments up – and how many of them I can’t even remember.  While that made me indescribably sad, I knew that this new awareness won’t let me go back to doing that to myself.   It’s kind of like when you finally see that hidden 3D image. You know it’s there and it can’t be unseen. And yes, my happiness may come from simple things, and it’s still ok to feel it. And yes,  problems  (and fears) will still be there after I’m done swimming in my happiness, and it’s still ok to feel it and feel it now and feel it deeply.  And yes, it may be fleeting, but I will know it’s real because, at that moment,  my life seems complete – whatever may come next in it.

As we watch horrific events unfold around the country and the world, we are reminded how fragile all of our constructs are, from physical to mental; how one act of nature can completely un-plan our plans, un-work our work, unravel our lives. Banish your fear of being happy.  Feel grateful for every thing there is to be grateful for – gratitude is the first step to that complete feeling of happiness.  And the first step in stopping the fears from owning you and your life. The more your practice this acceptance, the more happiness you will attract to your life – not some day, but right now.

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Julia Hewitt, M.S. Psychology
Julia Hewitt, M.S. Psychology

Julia is passionate about helping others on their self-discovery path, be it with relationships, life's purpose, personal goals or simply coping skills. She believes in the power of words, thoughts and in the beauty of language. She holds a Masters in Psychology and a Masters in Organizational Leadership from the University of Phoenix as well as a Bachelors from Arizona State University, and volunteers on a teen crisis hotline.

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