What Will Make Me Happy: Reframing My Desires with Martha Beck

My List:

1. A trip to the Bahamas (with Grace) – swimming with dolphins.

2. Someone taking me to dinner – I’m thinking romance here (or bona fide, intimate friendship).

3. Plenty of money in my bank account – no worries about if I’ll break even this month.

4. More time to rest, exercise, linger over a good book – I’m thinking more free time.

5. And, as Martha Beck would say: Creative Problem Solving.

In the book Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck is taking me, the reader, on a journey to find my “essential self” — which she explains is the part of me that is my true North (my life purpose, my joy-bringer). This “essential self” is often in opposition to my “social self” (the side of me that thinks about what Everybody else might say or think about me – or as we have called it before “The Joneses”). One treasure of this journey of the essential self is me really knowing what brings me happiness. And, a way to get there.

I’m kind of old. So, there is a lot about me, just from reaching my forties that I know brings me joyful feelings: I am open to and enjoy exploring new ideas; I love coffee, yoga, meditation, learning lines from favorite films, and spending time with my daughter. Tulips, deliciously scented candles, and varying hues of blue are all yummy, too! Also, I tend to lose all sense of space and time when I am teaching a great lesson, watching Grace smile, or feeling “in love” (with a person, a place, thing or even an idea – oh how I love nouns; Let me count the ways…).

All of the above bring joy.

“But, wait, did you imply you are NOT happy?” you ask. For me to answer in either definitive  direction is a process. And before you feel sad or sorry for me, let me clarify the journey: mostly, I know what brings or adds happiness to my overall life experience — such as the potential for gaining My List above. Of course, I know that “stuff” can add to life’s joy factor!

Yet, what I am interested in exploring, with Beck’s help (and with Life’s assistance, too) is this thing she calls Emotional Happiness (EH).  In my “Emotionally Safe Environment” my EH will blossom, like a spring tulip.

What is an Emotionally Safe (ES) Environment?

It’s where I can dig out my “shrapnel” from my past hurts, childhood wounds, and crummy experiences (and we have all had some CRUMMY stuff by the time we get to forty, right?). Then, I allow healing.

In “Chapter Seven: Repairing Your Emotional Compass”, Beck has lead me through diagnosing my emotional injuries (like ‘stuffing my anger instead of standing up for myself’), then to treating my wounds (and all those in my frontline tribe of friends who are a ‘sane and sympathetic audience’, um – thank you!), to having compassion for myself (a tough road considering I am a life-long perfectionist).

So, as I get real with myself and heal, in a gentle way, and in a safe place, with safe people (my ES environment) “bursts of enthusiasm and new ideas” are born from my inner healing. So True.

So, how does this ES Environment bring EH?

According to Beck, it’s all about the deal with me finding my “essential self”: my life purpose, my joy-bringer- What Will Make Me Happy!!!!. On My List it’s more about gaining number 5: Creative Problem Solving, than number 1, 2, 3, or 4.

You see, number 5 has nothing to do with things or other people.  According to Beck understanding “my own basic needs, not external circumstances” will bring me EH (Emotional Health).  On My List 4 out of 5  involve external circumstances (1, 2, 3 and 4), such as people’s actions (more vacation time or a boss giving me a raise, for example)…

…I even thought of adding a non-negotiable number 6: Grace’s good health and happiness.

The trouble is this: If I continue to depend on another person’s behavior (like my daughter no longer debating dinner options) or a hoped for experience, Emotional Happiness may not be attainable for me.

Because what Beck suggests here, as a happiness booster, is a shift in thought: What is the emotion I would be feeling if I had all the stuff, the relationship, and all the money I want?

My “emotional” answer: Fulfillment. A basic need for me is to feel that I am realizing a desire, or feeling fulfilled.

So, using Beck’s wisdom, how do I (or WE) go about getting that feeling?

If I get what I want, I will feel fulfilled. For example, how do I feel fulfilled without getting that luxurious Bahamas trip?

SIMPLE: What I really want is to fully and zestfully experience my life.

So, what I do now, is reconfigure what my present resources can do.

Beck says, “Reframe your desires”.

Here’s My New “Reframed” (and accomplished) List:

  1. Find fun water adventures, locally with Grace: We went to Salisbury Beach Reservation and saw the wild seals sunbathing on the rocks! Mammals are mammals after all.
  2. Enjoy dinner with a loving friend or family member: We had Chinese with Auntie #1, homemade chicken soup with Auntie #2, and French toast with strawberries with a favorite friend at our own comfy kitchen table!
  3. Appreciate the money I do have: It brought us to Disney on Ice, and I didn’t worry about how I was going to pay for going to “Disney”!
  4.  Achieve more Free-time: We had school vacation this week! Daily Agenda: Rise later and read more! Done.
  5. Creative Problem Solving: a best friend came over and helped me comb over paper work and find a solution that my eyes could not find! Thank you, Bestie!

Fulfillment. That’s it. That’s what made me happy this week. This was my “essential self” in action. I didn’t get a raise or luxurious trip. Yet, I am fulfilled.

Months ago my “social self” would have compared these apples to someone else’s apples. I really did care what someone else thought…I did. But, sadly, back then, I had not created an Emotionally Safe Environment for myself, either.

Certainly, My List (first one) is still attainable. “And, what about non-negotiable number 6?” you ask. Fortunately, Grace is doing great! Surely, she’s lining up a debate for tomorrow’s breakfast: eggs vs pancakes. Heck, it might be fulfilling to have both! Certainly, it’s achievable.

If you were to reframe your desires to achieve happiness this week, what would your list look like?

Feel free to share! And I offer cheers and love to your “essential self”!

Wishes of fulfillment, too.

Blessings and peace,

Pamela Rae


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