Dr. Ken Larsen
I believe that happiness is not something we can seek for itself. Dr. Glasser and Mike Rice (a friend who is a Choice Theory Addiction Counselor) have told us that we can seek pleasure for itself, because pleasure can be a solitary pursuit. Happiness is more of a byproduct of a life lived in caring relationships with others. Within those relationships we are getting a large portion of our needs met for love and belonging, for fun, for freedom and for a sense of self efficacy or power. For most of us, even if our lives are reasonably happy, there is still a level of the imperfect in our happiness. There is often a small emptiness somewhere inside that is hungry for something that we may not even be able to name or identify.
I think the Serenity Prayer offers an appropriate response to this hole inside us. “…grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
I have found that if I strive and strain to fill the hole, to find the answer to the question raised by that empty space, it becomes more elusive and slippery. Struggling to meet an unmet need that is beyond our grasp simply drives it further away. For example, if I am striving to earn the affection and approval from someone who has withheld it, this will just widen the gap, and increase the distance between us.
It is far better for mental health to “accept the things I cannot change” and move on to pursue the other good things in life. Many have found that in the process of letting go, the frustration and anxiety that are associated with that unmet need subsides and may even go away. The interesting and paradoxical experience of many is that sometimes letting it go is what allows what is wanted and needed to gently come in to fill the hole without any strident effort.
I believe that a perfect state of mental health and happiness is beyond our grasp. I also believe that we can all make progress in this pursuit, even though the price for perfection is prohibitive.