This is a new post in a series, so please check out the earlier posts on this topic.
Today’s thoughts and inspiration come from the book Unstuck by James S. Gordon. I’m going to share with you information and insights from his book, and expound from there.
Gordon starts off the preface of his book by writing “Depression is not a disease, the end point of a pathological process. It is a sign that our lives are out of balance, that we’re stuck. It’s a wake-up call and the start of a journey that can help us become whole and happy, a journey that can change and transofrm our lives.”
Do you think that this fits for you–that is, do you feel like your life is out of balance? In earlier posts I’ve talked about evaluating what things might be missing from your life, what “happiness needs” you have. Perhaps your life is out of balance because you have too much perceived negative things on your scale and not enough positive. Or perhaps there are things missing. Stop to think about the current balance in your life. If you’d like to do this visually, make a drawing of a scale and sketch or list it out. Here’s an example below:
Again, refer back to earlier posts. We’ve talked about what your personal obstacles are that are blocking your path to happiness. This is part of what Gordon is referring to about being stuck. If we can remove some of these obstacles, if we can make some changes, then we can begin to get ourselves unstuck.
Gordon presents a case study and talks about how his client had “…a sense that life would never measure up to her generous hopes for it.” This made me think of the quote “Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.” I think this is a huge obstacle for me. I am such an ambitious person that I often get frustrated (read: feel very stuck) because I am not meeting some exceedingly high goal that I’ve set for myself. I can’t be happy with all I’ve achieved in the past, or be happy that I am well in this moment. I am too uber-focused on all these goals I have. It even prevents me from relaxing. Instead of just sitting and “being,” I feel that I need to be doing something, anything but sitting and “wasting” time. What a strange paradox–one would typically imagine “stuck” as something rigid, fixed, like a root or a rock. But for me, being stuck is evidenced in restlessness!
Gordon talks a lot about the body’s response to stress, particularly chronic stress. He writes: “These beautifully intricate and indiviudally variable but still imperfectly understood biological responses to stress and loss do not, however, constitute a disease. Nor do they exist in isolation. They are intimately connected to and can be profoundly influenced by: the way we think and feel; how we act and express ourselves; what we eat and whether or not we meditate or exercise; how we relate to others, and how close we are to them; what work we do and where we do it; as well as our income and our gender.” Everyone copes differently, and has a different arsenal of available coping skills. It is also important to know that there are positive coping skills and inappropriate methods of coping. Using alcohol as a method of coping is an example of inappropriate coping skill; a person is attempting to cope with a problem, but not in an adaptive or helpful manner.
Gordon helps his therapy clients to come up with their own prescription for happiness. He asks them about what things make them feel good, things they are already doing in their life that they enjoy or that bring them happiness, and encourages them to do it more. This information, along with skills and techniques taught by Gordon, are then formed in a person’s personal prescription. I like the term that he uses: sweet spots. He writes “Just about all of you–no matter how troubled or confused–have these occasions of relief, these ‘sweet spots’…” A few that he lists are talking a walk in the park, eating comfort food, or watching a favorite show on TV. He suggests taking a few moments to become aware of what these ‘sweet spots’ are for you, and to “consciously choose to use or experience them.”
Gordon offers a 7-stage journey to happiness and goes into detail in his book about each stage or step. As I read through this book myself, I’ll keep posting more information for you. At the moment, I will end with a final quote from Gordon: We need to know that we are stuck–depressed, unhappy, troubled–before we can do something about it; we need to acknolwedge our pain, so we can hear its Call to change. This is actually discussed in the first step of his journey, and it’s also something that I pointed out in my post “Help! I’m stuck in the fog!” If you are here reading all of these posts, then you likely already have an awareness that you aren’t happy, and are beginning the essential process to change that. Congrats! Keep going!
I’ll be back soon with more posts on Finding Happiness……