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Dear Dr Matt:
My name is Sabra. I'm a 23 years old college student living in New York state. I am currently enrolled in an undergraduate psychology class, and I have a question about what I'm being taught about happiness.
For many years of my life, and now in this psychology class, I have been learning that my personal happiness is something I can make happen by thinking myself into this emotional state. In a book entitled "Think and Grow Rich," that's exactly the what Napoleon Hill asserts, and I've recently watched a presentation called "The Secret" and the same message that I can "think" myself happy is repeated—"that which you think about . . . you bring about."
Most people I associate with agree with this statement by Dale Carnegie:
"Remember, happiness doesn't depend upon who you are or what you have.
Even though people put forth this claim—that I can "think" myself into happiness—I've tried to do it many times and it doesn't seem to work for me. What am I doing wrong?
Thanks so much,
What you are doing wrong is this: You are trying to climb a ladder that is leaning against a wrong wall. So, no matter how high you climb—because the ladder leans against a wrong wall—you cannot ever reach a "right" destination.
To say it straight: The idea that you can directly "think" yourself happy, is a false assumption.
I listened to Dr Laura pitch her new book entitled "Quit Whining and Start Living" on the Hannity Show. On this national TV broadcast, Dr Laura was singing the same old stale song: You can CHOOSE to be happy, . . . you can CHOOSE your emotions.
(Note: You can't actually "choose" your emotions in the moment, anymore than you can suddenly stop rushing waters from flowing. E-motion is "Energy-in-Motion." But that's a topic for another day. For now, chew on this: You can't choose your emotions today, but you can determine your emotions for tomorrow.)
The idea that you can directly "think" yourself into happiness, is what I call a Flat-Earth Assumption. It's an assumption that most everyone believes, just as most people believed the earth was flat about 600 years ago—YET, the earth was NOT flat.
Consider the swift current of popular opinion I'm swimming against as I try to declare this conclusion: You Can't directly Think Yourself into Being Happy! Please realize, if Dr Laura doesn't understand this truth, then you can imagine how many millions of Americans are even more clueless.
Because the issue is so critically important to Life's meaning, this question deserves thorough study and investigation. Be patient, for there is much to say on this subject. The most fundamental reason why you can't directly choose happiness, is this:
Happiness is the natural consequence that comes as we live in harmony with our own intuitions of truth. The Creator has designed mortal life in such a way, that when we live true . . . we know that we are living true . . . because the reinforcing result called "happiness" is our possession. Likewise, when we are not happy, the Creator has intentionally designed this consequence, that we might know that we are not living in harmony with His Truth. Thus, the state of un-happiness will cause us to take personally inventory: "what am I doing that is leading this undesirable condition?"
When we betray our own intuitions of truth, we cannot be happy—no matter how much we visualize happy scenarios, no matter how many positive thoughts we think, no matter how hard we try! You see, if we actually could directly "think" ourselves into happiness, at any time, upon mental demand, THEN we would be under-cutting the Creator's design for mortal life.
Being happy requires living in harmony with our intuitions of truth—there is no other way.
Happiness, a.k.a., "joy" is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22). We are spontaneously filled with joy when the Spirit of God draws near to us—which occurs in direct consequence to our drawing near to God:
"God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God.
Note, that the previous passage states: "He shall lift you up" and this lifting consequence occurs as we "draw nigh" unto God, with faith and humility. An intriguing passage from the Old Testament sheds more light on this subject:
"Who is among you that fears the Lord, that obeys the voice of his servant, that
The Lord has established the laws by which mortal life shall be governed. According to Isaiah, as we walk by the light of our own fire, in sparks that we have kindled, the Lord promises this consequence: "ye shall lie down in sorrow." Isaiah's message: Fear the Lord and walk in His Light. The Creator of heaven and earth is sending a clear message by way of consistent correlations to our personal sense of Happiness.
The striking difference between relying upon His Light, in contrast to walking by the sparks and fire that we ourselves kindle, is illustrated by two poems: Invictus versus The Soul's Captain.
Following the wildly popular craze called "The Secret," millions are trying to make themselves happy by the "sparks" of their own thinking—by the dim light of their own fire. Differently, the scriptures establish that it is exclusively through the Lord's Light that we live, draw daily breath, and experience joy. Christ is the Light of the World (John 8: 12) and without His Light, we are hopelessly left to the darkness of despair and unhappiness.
Again, it is a false teaching that YOU alone can create happiness through your "thinking" (your own sparks, and by your individual fire) apart from His Light. Remember, even when we bring Christ into the happiness equation, it is NOT primary because of our "thinking" that happiness appears. Remember, it is His Light lifts you to the heights of happiness.
Matt Moody, Ph.D.
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