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‘Am I happy?’ The Hard Truths about Happiness we all Need to Know

Happiness is a continuation of happenings which are not resisted - Deepak Chopra

‘Happiness is a choice, not a result.Nothing will make you happy until you choose to be happy.

No person will make you happy until you decide to be happy.Your happiness will not come to you.

It can only come from you!’

Ralph Marston

How are you?

I often start my talks with exactly this question, moving around the front row of delegates, shaking hands with people individually. The response is generally consistent, ‘I’m fine’, ‘okay’, ‘very well thank you’, or ‘getting along.’

These are, in fact the only acceptable answers in our society, in response to a question to which nobody really seems to want an honest answer.

But, if I were to say ‘On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you feel; where 10 means you feel very happy and 1 represents feeling very unhappy indeed?’, what would the answer be then?

When I ask this question specifically, the range is surprisingly varied. The very same people who previously replied ‘fine, okay and getting along’ will scale their happiness between a range of 3 and 9.

This is much more illuminating than the original answer; the answer which has been censored and filtered into something acceptable, and hints at our tendency to create a ‘false self’, the outside of the mask which we present to the world.

Scaling happiness

‘Am I happy?’

Lydia looked up from the questionnaire I had just handed her.

It asked her very significant questions about what was working in her life and what were areas of ‘challenge’. It asked how she was feeling. She was required to scale the answers.

She seemed uncomfortable.

‘Am I happy?’ she repeated ‘ Can anyone expect to be really happy?’
‘When did you give up on the idea of being happy?’ I asked her.
Lydia looked thoughtful.

It was the start of a very revealing session. We had got to the heart of the issue.

Scaling is an excellent tool for gaining clarity, both for the therapist and for the ‘scaler’ themselves. Because when you scale an emotion or emotional state, whether it’s the am I happy question, or scaling anxiety or anger, you are in what Dr Arthur Deikman referred to as your ‘observing self.'(1)

In other words, you have to detach from the emotion, step back and observe it.

‘Stepping back’ and noticing your emotional state

The ability to dissociate and associate at will from an emotional state is central to psychological well-being and achieving the elusive happy state. It is something I promote in my therapeutic coaching work, both as a tool for practitioners and for clients.

The idea of promoting and supporting emotional well-being with appropriate psychological tools, is very relevant for the new insights now emerging from research and our better understanding of, and attitudes to, emotional health.

There are many easy-to-learn ways of supporting our own well-being underpinned by the building information emerging from neuroscience.

‘Stepping forward’ into the emotion

The ability to step back and scale anxiety for example, can, in itself, resolve the actual anxiety very quickly. And taking a psychological step forward, sitting alongside what feels like an uncomfortable emotion, is the essence of mindfulness.

If a client is encouraged to stay in the situation, sit alongside of and not run away from the emotion, fight or flight (2) after awhile becomes disengaged and a helpful message is sent to the limbic system. ‘This is not a life or death situation.’ If the client continues to observe and scale the anxiety while staying in place, they will notice the numbers begin to reduce.

Every future occasion when this technique is repeated, further breaks the pattern of panic and anxiety. The monster becomes smaller until, in the end it simply disappears.

Scaling anger works by the same method; buying time between an immediate emotional ‘reaction’ to an event, and choosing instead an appropriate, rational ‘response’. This can be achieved by scaling the level of anger, as a psychological observer, detaching from the emotion sufficiently to gain perspective and buy time.

Scaling, then, is a very useful tool, and my work consists more and more of handing over tips and tools for ‘affect regulation’ both to clients and practitioners, with an explanation of how they work and why they work, giving people the confidence to put them into practice and empowering clients to draw on their innate resources.

Follow these mindfulness tips:

If you are experiencing an uncomfortable emotional state, whether sadness, anger or anxiety

1. STOP!

2. Slow breathe to delay emotional reaction

3. Take a step back from the emotion. See it from further away. Scale the emotion

4. Observe the emotion. What is it trying to communicate to you? How is it trying to help you?

5. Practise emotional intelligence. Continue to re scale as emotional arousal settles back down. Now choose the appropriate response instead.

Happiness is your default state. Make use of proven mind management tools to enhance your wellbeing so you can feel your best, be your best and live your very best life.

Neuroscience is increasingly showing us that our brains are neuroplastic and we have far greater control over them than many of us care to acknowledge.

It’s sometimes hard to accept the hard truth, but it’s a reality that we shape our minds with our thoughts.
So happiness is a choice. Make it!

Scaling, the observing self, The STOP System, matrix of interventions, the continuum of wellbeing, dissociation and STOP panic attacks in one session are all part of the NCFE accredited Fusion Therapeutic Coaching Diploma and Distance Learning Skills Certificate.
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1. Dr Arthur Deikman:

2. Fight or flight:

Frances Masters

Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist with over 30,000 client hours of experience. Follow her @fusioncoachuk, or visit The Integrated Coaching Academy for details about up coming training.