Audio: The Big Picture
Transcript: The Big Picture
Everything we humans do has the ultimate aim of us feeling good, of relieving our distress and moving towards happiness. This usually includes wanting others to feel good too. Unfortunately, where we usually direct our effort pretty much guarantees that our distress will continue and that we won’t actually become much happier in our lives. I think this is the ultimate tragedy of being human, because unquestionably, we can reduce our suffering, and the suffering of others, and we can become genuinely happier. We simply have to focus our attention on doing the things that will actually work to bring relief and happiness.
Most crucially, it’s our capacity for presence that will lead to real happiness; our presence with our own experience, and with the experience of others. It is the most valuable ingredient for promoting happy relationships, and happy, healthy children. While genuinely listening to ourselves is simple in principle, as you now know, there are some hurdles. The main challenge is that we will inevitably be faced with intrusive feelings of fear, shame, and pain, and rather than being present with these feelings we will be inclined to avoid them. Coming to realize that these feelings are intrusive ghosts from past trauma, and not about now, is necessary if we’re to overcome this hurdle. Next, we can’t become happier if we continue to react to intrusive feelings by scaring, punishing, or otherwise tormenting ourselves. We’ll need to replace these ways we mistreat ourselves with wise, compassionate presence with our feelings. Finally, our happiness will depend on us refraining from the myriad ways we have developed to avoid our feelings. Each of these avoidance strategies have high costs for our well-being, and the well-being of others.
Whenever we are suffering, it serves as a sign that we are mistreating ourselves in some way, and lasting relief will only come from our compassionate presence. While we may feel sad, sadness itself is not suffering, and indeed with presence we can even be happy in our sadness. We can similarly feel excited in our fear, and in the depth of our shame experience our profound connection to all of humanity. You’ll never find happiness through avoiding your feelings, only by making friends with them.
In the end, I’m simply encouraging you to follow your heart, not to turn from it. I am also telling you that this path requires that you be willing to tolerate temporary distress in order to be relieved of needless suffering, and to become genuinely happier. The scientific research is abundantly clear.
I hope that it’s now clear that you won’t simply find happiness; It is an active process of making happiness that requires courage and discipline. My wish is that you cultivate these, and come to experience a more fulfilling life than you ever thought possible.