What Makes You Unhappy?
Really. Think about it for a moment. Don’t just float over the question
like any other words on a page. Are you happy?
Since I have started asking the question in my seminars,
people have started asking me the question. At first I would always
say yes, either because that was what they wanted to hear or because
I felt I had to be. But I noticed that sometimes it felt inau-
thentic. Sometimes I wasn’t happy. So I started to pause when people
asked me and really take my temperature, so to speak, and answer
For most people the answer is “Yes and no” or “Yes, but I could
be happier.” There are very few people, perhaps none, who have no
happiness in their lives. But there are also very few people, perhaps
none, who have no unhappiness in their lives.
Some people are unhappy because they don’t like their job or
their spouse. Others are unhappy because they don’t know how to
relax or appreciate who they are and all they have. Some people are
desperately unhappy because of a chemical imbalance in their
brains. I have seen it. It is real and tragic. But most of us experience
unhappiness when we wander away from ourselves.
Unhappiness is the fruit of doing and saying things that contradict
who we are and what we are here for. Unhappiness is not
something that happens to us as if we are poor little victims. Unhappiness
is something we do to ourselves. You can choose to be
People have chosen to be happy in worse circumstances than
you or I will ever likely find ourselves in. No one has demonstrated
that more than Viktor Frankl did in Man’s Search for Meaning as
he recalled his experiences in Nazi concentration camps during
World War II. Over and over, he encountered people who even
though they were starving would share their inadequate rations
with others. Frankl explains that while some were killing themselves
or wallowing in self-pity, others were filled with an inexplicable
happiness, a real joy that was independent of substance or
circumstances. Their happiness did not depend on favorable external
circumstances but had its source within.
What causes your unhappiness?
From Perfectly Yourself
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