Convincing Contentment

“Your attitude toward life is a direct reflection of your opinion of your self.” I don’t know who said this, I saw it somewhere today. I believe that it is absolutely a true statement. Most of us would hopefully agree that the chronic complainer or consummate martyr is a miserable person at heart. Such negativity cannot arise from a core of joy. Interestingly, another place I notice this very often is in people who are extremely dedicated and energetic about repeating positive mantras. Check out Facebook sometime for the number of people stridently proclaiming that life is beautiful and their gratitude for the gift of life knows no bounds and how magical was the most recent sunset or the last tree they noticed, etc., etc. I have come to realize that such proclamations are often desperate cover ups.

As I work with clients and observe their journey from shame and fear to acceptance and peace I hardly ever see anyone loudly announcing their accomplishment. In fact I have become a little doubtful when someone arrives in my office all excited about having achieved contentment. All of my experience tells me that arriving at true contentment is a personal, self contained, affair.

We know from scientific studies that certain things are calming. If we pet a dog our blood pressure goes down (and so does the dog’s). If we believe we are being listened to, and understood, our entire system calms. When we are in the company of someone who accepts and does not judge us, we relax. All of the studies I am aware of, and my own experience of contentment, points to it as a soothing experience. The first impulse is to simply sink into and savor the sense of connection and serenity, not to run out and announce the experience to the world. In fact such announcements can actually be problematic.

It is almost impossible to adequately communicate these experiences. Sometimes with my partner I can share something of it. This is of course based on our already established level of connection and even then there is the probability that in attempting to communicate the experience I will lose my focus and the experience may be jumbled. A habit of contentment is even more difficult to communicate because it arises from a foundation of automatic thinking, so there is not much to talk about. I cannot be accepting of the world unless I first accept my self and the experience of that kind of acceptance is not exciting, it is gentle and peaceful. This is why loud proclamations of connection and contentment seem to me discordant.

If in my secret self I believe I am in fact a piece of shit and then I try to convince myself and others that I am ok with declarations of joy, the artificiality shows through. Unfortunately no amount of vociferous declarations to the contrary will change my inner reality. In fact on occasion, when I have found myself describing my serenity to others in great detail or with effusive enthusiasm, there is usually a quick realization that I am attempting to compensate for something inside. Now when I find myself with a desire to convince a friend how happy I am I have learned to shut up and ask myself why? What is this need to convince and who am I convincing? Trying to convince myself or others that I am content may be more difficult than just being content. I am pretty sure contentment is something better experienced than communicated.

One thought on “Convincing Contentment

  1. I think, too, that it is no good to proclaim your well-being all the time. In my experience, it is usually found in people who want others to reassure them that they really ARE happy or whatever it is they are proclaiming.

    And I am not really a believer in constantly repeated mantras if they don’t emerge from within but are just “put on” like a new, shiny piece of clothing that is supposed to make you happy. This is a rather superficial approach. And it is very likely that you will get dissapointed and still feel unchanged within.

    Of course you have to change your thoughts in order to get happier, or content. And saying positive things to yourself cannot hurt sometimes. But it doesn’t work in a “Fast Fix” kinda way, t doesn’t work like lunch-break Botox-to-go.
    You can’t fool your inner self just by saying how great you are if you aren’t really feeling it. Others can help little here. It is a way that you have to walk on and to get lost on and to find back to yourself.
    Sometimes, guides emerge in the form of people or animals or other parts of nature but it is a quiet, unspectacular process all in all. It is about your inner self after all. Just you.

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