by Shane Fookes, MA LPC Intern
In the first session or two of a counseling relationship, a primary topic of conversation involves goals. The counselor asks a client something like, “What outcome do you want from our work together?” Inevitably, clients express some variation of one particular goal: “I want to be happy.”
The yearning for happiness comes in myriad different forms. Some seek a successful romantic relationship, while others want satisfying (and well-paying) work. Some are focused on certain pleasurable experiences or the freedom to choose a particular course of action. A few simply want to make some kind of sense of their life.
But what if in our search for happiness we’re chasing a ghost?
Goal or Result?
I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade. I’m simply convinced the pursuit of happiness is a fool’s errand. Happiness is a by-product of a good life rather than central to a good life. Happiness is not something tangible we can manufacture and sustain. If it was something we could manufacture, surely we live in the time and place it would be most possible! In the United States, we currently have the highest overall standard of living in human history. We have better food, housing, sanitation, medical treatment, and education. We have more money, welfare services, justice, entertainment, and career opportunities. Every day ordinary people enjoy luxuries only royalty possessed not that long ago. With all this, one would think we are the happiest people as well. Yet, the opposite seems true. Our individual and collective mental health seems more fragile than ever.
Defining of Happiness
“But wait,” you may say, “isn’t the pursuit of happiness enshrined in our Constitution? Were the founders of our country deluded?” Here’s where shifts in language can cause problems. You see, there are two very different definitions of happiness. The first definition – the one most likely to be used today – is “feeling a sense of pleasure, gladness, or gratification.” Who among us doesn’t want to feel these pleasant sensations?! However, as with all human emotions, the feeling of happiness doesn’t last. And the pursuit of such feelings actually increases the likelihood of anxiety and depression!
The second definition of happiness, the one presumed by our country’s founders, is substantively different. This happiness is defined as “living a rich, full, and meaningful life.” This happiness results when your choices and actions are grounded in your deeply held beliefs and values. In other words, you know who you are and who you want to become. You know what’s most important in life and you are actively pursuing it. Rather than a fleeting feeling, this happiness is a profound sense of a well-lived life. But here’s the challenge: though this kind of happiness often produces moments of pleasurable feelings, it also brings difficult and uncomfortable feelings like sadness, anger, and fear. In other words, a rich, full life will involve the full spectrum of human emotions.
Good & Bad News
The reality is, difficult emotions are a part of even the best lives. We all get sick or injured and eventually, we will all die. Every one of us will lose valued relationships through separation, rejection, and death. Every life contains crises, disappointments, and failures.
But here’s some good news: though difficult emotions are inevitable, you can learn how to handle them productively. You can make room for them, reduce their negative impact, and even utilize them to create a meaningful life. At Life Discovery Counseling, we’re ready to help you do just that.
Consider Online Therapy in Oregon for Christian Counseling
Our Clackamas and Hillsboro-based counselors are excited to work with you, wherever you are in Oregon. Your relationships can thrive again. We can help you get back on track in a way that aligns with your faith and values. When you are ready to start online Christian counseling in Oregon, follow these simple steps:
- Learn about our therapy team in Hillsboro and our caring counselors in Clackamas
- Schedule an appointment with your preferred therapist, or contact us with questions
- Feel more connected to the important people in your life
Other Mental Health Services at Life Discovery Counseling in Oregon
If you are in Clackamas, Happy Valley, Damascus, or Hillsboro, we can help you in person at one of our comfortable therapy clinics. Christian counseling is the cornerstone of our approach to therapy. Not only do we see adults, but children in counseling too. We also work with depression treatment, anxiety therapy, trauma therapy and PTSD treatment, relationship issues, marriage problems, and postpartum counseling. No matter where you are in the state, we can provide the support you need with online therapy in Oregon. Once you’re ready to start, we’re ready to meet you. Let’s connect!