When most of us think of being happy, we automatically, in our minds, add in that happiness is balanced by unhappiness. After all, this makes perfect sense in the ‘world as we usually know it’. Light is balanced by dark, good by evil, health by disease.
But this dualistic method of looking at the world is just a model – and as models go, it’s a pretty lousy one. Built into its workings is the premise that if I’m happy today, I must be unhappy tomorrow. If I’m having a lucky streak this month, it surely will end next month. It may sound silly, but this is how most of the world’s people live their lives. Assuming that this is so makes it so, because we unconsciously structure our actions to manifest our deepest expectations.
This is not how the world works. We can actually be extremely happy all the time. Think of it like this — a bit of observation (of other people and yourself) will show you that people seem to have a ‘midline’ happiness level. Every individual has a different midline or normal level, and they deviate from that level only so far in either direction. If a person has a rather low happiness midline, they’ll usually be pretty down. They might win the lottery and jump around for a bit in excitement, but a few days later they’ll quickly return to their normal level as they learn about all the inconveniences of being a lottery winner. On the other side of the scale, we can have a ‘midline’ set so high that nothing really destroys our happiness. We see the positive side in every situation.
This might be called Joy – a word not really in vogue these days. But it’s an underlying feeling that permeates every aspect of our lives.
The key is that you decide what level of happiness you want in your life. You have complete control over it. Any situation – I don’t care what it is – can be viewed in a positive or a negative light, if we think long enough about it. Many of us are experts in finding the negative side of even wonderful situations, but we have a really difficult time finding the good in ‘terrible’ situations.
Let’s illustrate with the example of our lost dog.
At the time of this writing, our dog is lost. His name is Gryphon, though he’s often referred to as ‘Buddha-dog’, since he seems to be perfectly at bliss in pretty much any situation. He disappeared on a Friday, and has been gone for five days. Now, we live in the country, and both of our dogs have free rein – the neighboring farmers don’t mind, so they have hundreds of acres to roam through.
We know there are risks to so much freedom. Sometimes the cars drive too fast on the country roads, and there are hunters and porcupines and other assorted dangers they might encounter. But they seem to enjoy the freedom, and keeping them kenneled or tied would merely be for our own comfort.
But now Gryphon is missing.
What happens when a beloved pet is missing? It’s horrible, of course! Our minds race to all the terrible possibilities. We imagine them dead, or injured, or sick, or lost. We scan the sides of the road with dread, knowing at any moment we could see their familiar body, lifeless, in the ditch.
You know what, though? That’s not happening in my mind. After all, as my wife Rebecca pointed out, there is just as much chance that something wonderful has happened to him. The fact is, he adores all humans and other animals (for instance, he loves skunks so incredibly much that he manages to get sprayed at least three times a year), and if he was picked up by a family, he’s probably fitting right in. In fact, he might be more happy if he found a family with young children and a few other playful dogs (since our other dog only plays with him on occasion). Even if he died, we certainly aren’t in a position to judge whether the death was traumatic for him or not!
The point is that a ‘terrible’ situation isn’t necessarily terrible. In this case, the negative aspects of the situation can only exist in the form of worry and speculation. If we’re going to speculate, we might as well speculate that he’s found a loving family!
Instead of spending even the least amount of energy worrying, then, we’re spending energy making flyers, calling shelters, and otherwise putting out our ‘feelers’ to see if we can find him.
There are many ‘terrible’ things that can happen to us in our lives, but in a world where negative thinking breeds negative results, there is no use in speculating on the ‘dark side’ of things. Instead, try thinking positively and see what happens. Here’s our prediction for what will happen with Gryphon. He’ll come back, in his own time and in his own way. If he doesn’t, we’ll see him in a couple of years in someone else’s yard, as perfectly content there as he ever was here.
Update: Six days missing, and Gryphon has returned home. One of our flyers in a small-town gas station about 15 miles away prompted a call from a young woman who had picked him up off the side of the road. He’s spent the last five to six days in a trailer park, playing with a two-year old child. Now he’s off in the fields and the woods again, looking for his old friend the skunk . . .