THE HAPPINESS ASSASSINS
Updated: Feb 10
Written By Nanci Sherman
We all have those nights when we are suddenly wide awake and thinking about a problem or something we fear may happen. Fear is the ringleader of the gang of three known as the Happiness Assassins: Doubt. Worry. Jumping to conclusions.
It is not just in our sleep we must watch out for this group of hoodlums. They lurk around corners waiting to pounce at all hours of the day. The only thing that dispels them is to understand that somewhere in our cerebrum, our mind plays games over and over like a broken record.
The “assassins” are simply a part of our thought process. Most of us go through life believing our thoughts are true. Once we wake up to the fact that our thoughts are not necessarily the truth, only then can we control our thoughts and behaviors. Beliefs are nothing more than firmly held opinions born out of thought — yours or someone else’s. Unsupervised, our mind is like a big foster home taking in anyone who knocks on the door. I’d like you to consider that not all thoughts deserve your full attention. We have every right to pass on the ones that don’t serve and uplift us. Too often, we invite them in way past their usefulness, if any. My rule of thumb is if you don’t play nice, go away.
We are rarely without thought. People who claim to have trouble meditating often blame it on having a “monkey mind” that swings from one limb (thought) to another in rapid and distracted succession. Meditation is not being entirely free from thought. Thoughts are as automatic as breathing or digestion. The one who wins the mind game is the one who can control them when they intrude. The same patterns of thinking are able to intrude because we have invited them in before.
Before we take those assassins out one by one, I ask you to consider that there is nothing that is not subject to individual interpretation. A tree means something else to a painter than it does to an expert on the rain forest, a bird, or even a firefighter. A squirrel has an entirely different take on the subject. And that’s just a tree. What about art, music, politics, and applying the law? Interpretation is rampant. To recognize it as such is to relax the need to be right on most subjects and consider another’s perspective as valid, or at least possible.
The Three Happiness Assassins
Worry is a future based version of interpretation. It is hope turned inside out. Worry takes us out of the present moment and plays on fear. It instructs us to be reactive, defensive and eventually makes us sick. It dresses us in the colors of doom and gloom.
The antidote to worry is imagination — you can reframe anything in your mind (other than your own stubbornness to do so). Imagination and worry are both thoughts. Which horse do you want to get on? If you can’t shake it, put your mind somewhere else entirely. That’s all meditation is. I notice I am thinking and upon noticing, I willfully return to the breath or the mantra.To paraphrase the good witch in the Wizard of ours, we always had the power. We just need to learn and then remember to use it.
A common question many of us have asked ourselves at one time or another is “Am I good enough?” That is a question that oozes doubt, brings up inadequate comparisons, and is so unspecific as to be unanswerable. We begin not trusting ourselves based on how we imagine and internalize other people’s opinions of us. To live the life you desire, at some point you must take control of your incessant internal chatter. Confidence isn’t a real thing. It’s a stand you take on like any personality trait.
It’s as easy to take a leap of faith as it is a leap of doubt. It’s just a thought away. Doubt makes us look toward the future not trusting our path or ourselves. You slay doubt with action. If you doubt something you want to happen will come to pass, do something to make it happen. If I think my boss is going to berate me because of this month’s metrics, I could proactively come up with a plan on how we will excel in the future. Confidence and pro-activity are what moves the needle. How do you become confident? Ask any actor who is freaking out before walking on stage. You move through it, anyway. Doubt and action can coexist, and doubt will eventually back off because it was only a shadow anyway.
3. Jumping to Conclusions
Often, we make snap judgments out of context and based upon partial information. This sort of reactivity and rush to judgment can be silly, but also hurtful, even harmful.
Silly: In an exercise class, I thought the man reflected in the mirror was flirting with me. It turned out he wasn’t smiling or winking at me. Apparently his weights were too heavy, and he was grimacing.
Hurtful: Seeing an overweight person enjoying a piece of cake and sending your judgment their way.
Harmful: A police officer shoots someone in a red jacket moving quickly away from the scene of a crime because the officer was told the suspect was in a bright color coat.
If You Are Going to Lie Awake
I hope what keeps you up at night is joyful anticipation. I hope what keeps you up at night is crafting solutions rather than reworking the problems. Peace and freedom are states of mind and can be yours when you show the assassins the way out before they squelch your life and the people in it.