The Dance of Love and Fear
This poor rich manhe looked so pale and drained. He was living a life that held no happiness, and he needed my help.
He had everything the world could offermoney, freedom, friends, and familybut I could see that he did not have the one thing he needed most: simple happiness.
This man was one of the wealthiest people in the American Southwest, rich in the resources that should bring happiness. At this moment, he could have been anywhere on earth, with anyone he wanted. The world of glamour, pleasure, and power was his. And yet here he was.
On the surface, he was a poster boy for the American dream, barely old enough to be a baby boomer, gliding through the good life. To most people, even the look in his eyes probably bespoke nothing darker than worldliness or weariness. However, I have spent all of my career and most of my life looking beneath the surface of human behavior, and what I saw in his eyes was haunting and familiar. I've seen that look too many times.
Fortunately, I have learned how to help people overcome what's behind that dark and empty expression. I have learned how to help them find happinessto alchemize it out of fear, depression, boredom, and even grief. More commonly, I have helped people to locate the elusive quality of happiness in lives that should already have been good.
Your life probably looks pretty good to most people. These days, that's true for many of us. We've all worked so hard and attained so much. But do you often feel as if you've lost something?
That was certainly true of this man. Because he was enrolled in the 7-Day Life Enhancement Program that I direct at Canyon Ranchone of the country's most prominent health facilitiesI wouldn't have much time to spend with him. It doesn't take much time, though, to teach people how to be happyto teach them the things that happy people already know.
And it won't take you long to learn what happy people know and to learn how to feel happy for the rest of the day. It will take longer, however, for you to work these lessons into the heart of your life, until happiness becomes a habit and unhappiness feels foreign.
This might be difficult for you, but what task could be more vital?
If you don't think happiness is critically important, perhaps it's because you have a narrow definition of it, as many people do, thinking that it just means being in a good mood most of the time, or experiencing the emotion of joy. But happiness is neither a mood nor an emotion. Mood is a biochemical condition, and emotions are just transitory feelings. Happiness is a way of lifean overriding outlook composed of qualities such as optimism, courage, love, and fulfillment. It's not just tiptoeing through the tulips of la-la land, and it's not something that changes every time your situation changes. It is nothing less than cherishing every day.
The wealthy man who had come to see me had lost his love for life. If you haven't met many wealthy people, you might think he was an aberration. You might think, "Give me that money, and I'll show you how to be happy!" The fact is that wealthy peopledespite Madison Avenue's fairy tales about themare unhappy just as commonly as people without much money. That's one important thing that happy people know: Money doesn't bring happiness.
You've heard that before, right? So you're probably thinking, "Yeah, that must be true" (and are secretly thinking, "But it doesn't apply to me!").
It does apply to you, though, as the new, emerging science of happiness proves. The myth that money brings happiness is one of the happiness traps that I will tell you about in this book, along with the happiness tools that will free you from these traps. Learning about these traps and tools will change your life.
If, on the other hand, you go on believing the conventional wisdom about happiness, you might never be any more fulfilled than you are at this moment, no matter how good your life gets. The traps can hold you down forever.
If you are stuck in one or more of the happiness traps, at least you're not alone. Happiness, as I'll show with research and with my own extensive clinical findings, is a relatively rare quality. Most people think that happiness is common among othersespecially those with happy-face veneersand that it is imminently available for themselves, just over the horizon, tomorrow's payoff for today's pain. In reality, happiness is not at all common in modern American society, and is even scarcer now than it was in earlier, less affluent times. In terms of happiness, America is going downhill, and has been for more than 20 years, even as our affluence has blossomed. Such a sad paradox: The more we've attained, the emptier we've become.
The man who had come to see melet's call him Christopher Connerwas extraordinary in his affluence, exceptionally strong-willed, and charismatic in manner, but he had a lot in common with the average person.
What he mostly had in commonwhat we all have in commonis that we are brothers and sisters of the same imperfect evolution, the same flawed flesh. We all have a neurological fear system embedded deep within our brains, a neural network that once helped us survive as a species, but now limits our lives. This biological circuitry of fear is the greatest enemy of happiness.