Penny intended to feel on top of the world but ended up getting in her own way. She aced it when she’d showcased her work to respected people within her industry but enjoyed that feeling for all of a hot minute because she ended up ‘celebrating’ with Mr Miserable, her sometimes charming Mr Unavailable who from the moment that he knew he’d won her over, he started up with the sniping, criticism and other such passive aggression before his pants had hit the floor. Penny’s achievements were quickly forgotten and barely acknowledged.
Sonya raves about her boyfriend who for the first time ever, and that includes a couple of marriages, she is enjoying a relationship with love, care, trust, and respect after a period of self work. Despite this, Sonya’s taken to flipping out periodically, whether it’s in her own head, with him, her parents or at work. The first time it happened, I thought, Hmm…Does Sonya have a problem with being happy? A few times in, I knew she did. I’ve worked out that the longest that she can go without her own episode of Dynasty is about 2-3 weeks tops.
What you’re seeing here is two people who don’t allow themselves to feel happy.
You will also recognise this if you’ve ever been in an unavailable relationship and had a great weekend / birthday / night out / been introduced to their parents or friends / planned a holiday / said the L word or whatever, only to then be unceremoniously dumped from a height (or disappeared on) with claims of not being ready for a relationship (if you even manage to get an explanation.
Some of us don’t feel comfortable feeling good. We feel afraid to feel good and even feel suspicious, waiting for the other shoe to drop. We sabotage good feelings as well as good things that are happening to us because these take us out of our uncomfortable comfort zone.
When we don’t allow ourselves to feel happy and to internalise our achievements, accomplishments, our good fortune, and basically don’t appreciate the good things for what they are, we undo our good work. We throw it back as if to suggest to the universe or whoever else is involved made a mistake.
There are all sorts of reasons why we don’t allow ourselves to feel happy but here are the most consistent reasons I’ve come across through BR:
Not wanting to outshine so we dim our light. We may be so used to doing this that we don’t even recognise that we’re doing it. It’s as if we want to protect people from having to deal with us.
Managing down people’s expectations. We take things down a few (or many) notches to protect ourselves from what we imagine will be a bigger disappointment if we allow ourselves to enjoy it for what it is. E.g. With work and education we might feel that if we allow ourselves to enjoy the good feelings from whatever we’ve done and we internalise it, people might expect more from us and the perfectionist and/or the pleaser in us, may be afraid of disappointing.
We have Imposter Syndrome. We feel like a fraud. We convince ourselves that we must just be very good at interviews or the people who liked our work must have been desperate due to not seeing better people. We’re afraid that if we allow ourselves to internalise our achievements and accomplishments, the rug will be ripped from under our feet.
We can’t see the future. E.g. Unavailable relationships – the person may be having a great time right now but their mind strays ahead and thinks, But what if we’re not having a good time in 2016, 2021, and the year 3000? What if I allow myself to enjoy this and then I get hurt? What if they find out that I’m not good enough? What if they decide that they’re having such a good time that they expect me to be around forever? Note, the other person if they were able to hear the last one might think, Um, yeah, I’ve only been on three effing dates with you! Get off your high horse!
We don’t feel that we deserve it. Sometimes we act as if we have a debt that we’ve got to pay off before we’re allowed to be happy. In some instances, we’re serving out a self-imposed sentence for what we feel was a major eff-up in the past. We may feel that we’re not good enough so things that make us feel good and represent the opposite of what we think of ourselves is confusing to us. It’s not what we associate ourselves with and if we accept it, if we appreciate it, then we have to challenge what we have been saying about ourselves and sometimes, we prefer to stick with the story. I should add here – we’ve all made mistakes in our past that don’t reflect who we truly are, otherwise, we’d still be at them right now and intending to do them for the rest of our lives. We wouldn’t feel bad about it because we’d accept it as an expression of our character. Yes we do have to recognise where we’ve erred and learn from the experience so that we can transcend it but we also have to give ourselves permission to learn as well as permission to move on (forgiveness).
We feel guilty. Tied in with this sense of ‘deserving’ happiness, some of us feel that it’s wrong for us to feel happy. In fact, this is is also closely linked with dimming our light. Sometimes we feel guilty because we don’t feel as if we can be happy because of someone who gets left behind. It might be that we learned to feel guilty in childhood and so there’s this kid inside of us who worries about displeasing parent(s), siblings etc. We might have an association with doing well or gaining something, where we believe that “money is the root of all evil” or that we’ll lose people out of our lives. Sometimes we actually feel bad about finally starting to get over a relationship. It’s as if we believe that we’re cheating on the image of the relationship. We then question the authenticity of our original feelings and so we go back. This is why so many people break No Contact right at the point where they’re actually making the largest amount of progress.
Here’s the thing: Yes, the feeling that we have right now at this moment in time isn’t going to last (not in a dodgy way but more in the way that feelings ebb and flow and we have to deal with life’s bumps and experience lots of different emotions) but feelings aren’t finite resources, plus if we don’t allow ourselves to experience happiness and other good emotions, we’re cutting ourselves off and accentuating sadness, fear, and anger.
We’re halting vulnerability and in turn, intimacy.
What kind of enjoyment can we possibly experience if each time we feel good, our minds start working overtime and we’re on high alert for the catch? We’ll just put up walls because we’re afraid of the consequences of allowing ourselves to feel ‘too much’.
We’re carrying on as if we can only allow ourselves to enjoy the feeling if we can be guaranteed that it will be around forever or for a very long time. That’s not realistic not least because we experience a myriad of emotions. The funny thing is that we would actually experience longer periods of contentment and be better equipped to deal with life’s inevitable bumps including disappointments, if we allowed ourselves to feel and we allowed ourselves to be.
If you recognise yourself in this post, try to recall some of your recent stresses and whether there was something good happening at the same time or just before it. Learn to recognise your trigger as well as your typical thoughts and feelings when you’re going through this. The more you’re conscious of it, the more you’ll recognise these instances of signs of you being on the up.
If you don’t tend to acknowledge your accomplishments and achievements, it’s time to learn how to soak it up. Learn to recognise when How often do you high five yourself or say, “Well done!”? I highly recommend that you keep a What I Did Today list and just note three accomplishments or achievements from your day or something that made you feel good.
You are allowed to experience happiness.