Why We Struggle With Happiness ~



Caroline Myss focuses on the struggle to obtain happiness, why we are unhappy, and how we can find happiness based on the chakra system.

How to feel better about yourself and the world around you.


by Caroline Myss

In a workshop a few years ago, one woman noted, “Being happy is just so difficult these days.”

It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard similar comments through the years, but something about the way she said it made me stop for a moment. Maybe it was because I had noticed three magazines at the airport that featured articles on how to find happiness, steps to take to guarantee you would be happy, and how to figure out why you weren’t happy.

I leaned back on a table and asked this woman, “What do you need to make you happy?”
She drew a blank. Well into her forties, this woman actually had no idea what she required or wanted or even associated with happiness. All she knew was that she was not happy. I asked, “Do you know what happiness is for you? Do you associate it with a feeling? Do you associate happiness with things or people? What exactly do you mean by the state of ‘being happy?’”

Then I opened the question up to all the participants, only to discover that almost everyone in the workshop was unable to articulate what being happy meant to them in terms of the big picture.

This made me think that maybe this so-called search for happiness is not the real issue. Maybe we are finding the ingredients of happiness difficult to articulate, attain, and sustain because we are the problem. Have we somehow become at odds with this force of nature that we have named happiness?


I am not surprised people find happiness difficult to define: Its elements are rooted in an organic life force. Meaning: we are happy — if not happiest — when we are living in harmony with our inner nature. We feel most content, most balanced, when the choices we make reflect our true feelings. We feel honest and clear. We are not hiding secrets from anyone, we are not betraying ourselves, we are comfortable speaking honestly (not about wounds, just about life), and we feel openly and generously loving toward others.

At the core of this life philosophy is a deep understanding that you are a part of nature and that you reside within the cycles and laws of nature. You, and everyone else, are therefore subject to the ongoing cycles of life: death and rebirth; gain and loss; joy and grief; feast and famine; bonding and abandonment.

During your life you will experience betrayal: you will betray others and others will betray you. You will lie to others and others will lie you to. You will judge others unjustly and you will be judged unjustly. You will hold onto grudges and others will refuse to forgive you. You will fall in love with strangers and strangers will fall in love with you. You will be saved miraculously from harm, sometimes knowingly, most times invisibly. You will be guided to be certain places on time. Sometimes those places include accidents. Other times you will meet future partners and best friends. And when the time comes, you will end the journey of your physical life on Earth.

These cycles of life are archetypal. That is, they are essential ingredients that make up the alchemy of the human character. These ingredients make us the same, and vulnerable to each other. Like invisible threads, they join us by our weakest links so that we may stand humbly before one another. One of the roots of unhappiness is telling yourself that you are better than others, that you do not do what others do, or that you are incapable of their negative actions. You’re not. None of us is incapable of any negative action because we are all made up of the same ingredients.

When we tell ourselves we are better than others, we begin to believe that we are separate from nature itself and its cycles. We begin to tell ourselves nonsense like, “The cycles of nature do not apply to us because we are special. We are not like “those people.” And soon we begin to feel entitled. We tell ourselves that because we are special, we are entitled to protection from the cycles of nature. In fact, pretty soon, we start believing we can strike up our own bargains with God. Here’s a popular one: If I am a good person and do everything right, nothing bad will happen to me. After all, I’m special and entitled.

Separated from the cycles of nature and armed with a head full of self-constructed mythologies, off you go into a made-up world that doesn’t really exist — except in your own mind. Your happiness becomes reliant on these myths holding intact, all of them built upon illusion, as Buddha would say. Inevitably, of course, one of those cycles and experiences will manifest, shattering the fantasy. (This is usually the point at which people ask, “What kind of God does this to people?”) Perhaps a betrayal erupts in a marriage; maybe you suddenly lose your job. There is no shortage of examples of how the cycles of life express themselves.

I am convinced that people cannot articulate their ideas about happiness because they are completely dissociated from its very mechanism, which is nature itself. Not understanding how you belong to and are subject to the way life works, you have no alternative but to make up your own story, your own mythologies, and hope they work. You will shy away from people who threaten your happiness myths, and you will perform all sorts of silly incantations and heel-clicking, hoping to instantly transform your life into a happy zone.


1.     Having an aggressive attitude about aging. If that’s you, knock it off. Either you love being alive — which includes the natural process of aging — or you don’t. You decide.

2.     Waiting for another person to make you happy. No one can make anyone happy any more than you can make someone fall in love with you, or make someone forgive you. Waiting for another person to make your life perfect is the kiss of death.

3.     Feeling entitled. I’ve met more people than I can count who are drowning in their misery because of feelings of entitlement. These base entitlements may include inheritance, real estate, promotions, raises, bonuses, special seating arrangements, invitations to events, and so on. Divine entitlements include things like the belief that bad things won’t happen to you because you are a good person; you don’t get sick, others do; your child is special, therefore ordinary events such as accidents and illnesses will never befall your child.

4.    All talk and no action. You cannot talk your way into becoming a happy individual. Happiness is hard work. Becoming anything worthwhile takes effort. Think, talk, act. The absence of action in your life will always lead to depression and unhappiness.


As an exercise I used the chakra system as a map, charting the soul’s requirements for engaging with happiness. If we could ask the soul what it requires us to know or do in order to create a happy life, these are answers we might get:

First/Tribal Chakra: This is your tribal center, your chakra through which you are connected to the laws of nature and to its cycles and rhythms. In order to thrive, you need to live in harmony with nature’s ecosystem. You have to plant seeds, symbolically speaking. You need to stick your hands in the earth and connect to the life force. You must be rooted in something that matters. You need to be part of a community of people, a community of life. You need to matter to this community and find people who matter to you. You cannot define “meaningful” relationships only by those that are romantic. Life is filled with meaningful relationships of all kinds.

Second/Relationship Chakra: This is your center of relationships and creativity, as well as values such as integrity and loyalty. Being in relationships with others is essential. Friends, family, lovers, neighbors, community members, volunteer groups — you need people in order to thrive. No one can be alone and happy. And you have to stay creative. This means you must feed your mind creative inspiration, like good books, film, theater, museums, and conversations. Creative outlets are also necessary. Happiness requires expression and input.

Third/Self Chakra: This is your ego center. Happiness is built on healthy self-esteem. The shadow side of self-esteem is narcissism, a life that’s “all about you.” If you are serious about creating a happy and healthy life, then raise the bar on what you expect from yourself in terms of how you live. Become a person who does her or his best to live without contradictions. Keep your word and don’t betray others or lie. Such a personal code of integrity, I assure you, will improve your chances of creating a happy life because you will find you hurt people a lot less. You will discover that living at this altitude of consciousness requires you to be extremely mindful of what you say and do — and that consciousness, that degree of thoughtfulness, is precisely what creates the refined harmony named “happiness.”

Fourth/Heart Chakra: If you want a happy life with someone, or just yourself, clean out your heart center. Carrying baggage and repeating your wound stories again and again is self-destructive. Punishing others for your bad days and unhappy childhood is cruel — although many find it useful as a control mechanism. Get up tomorrow morning and fall madly in love with your life, or at least something about your life. Happiness is about cleaning out your heart and nurturing the graces that matter: hope, love, and forgiveness. Let the past go. And don’t be shy about telling others you love them or that you are sorry for something. You may not have a second chance.

Fifth/Will Chakra: Make important choices when you need to make them. Have the courage to be spontaneous. Do not let others make choices for you that you then have to live with. Speak up. Remember that you are an adult. Children living in adult bodies never find happiness. Happiness requires that adults live, walk, talk, and act like adults.

Sixth/Mental Chakra: Do not play mind games with others or yourself. If you live in denial about things or if you harbor secrets, creating a happy life will not be easy. Happiness thrives on open, clean air. You can’t be happy if you are always wondering if a secret has slipped out the back door. Stay out of the trash: gossip, rumor-spreading, and so forth. Don’t dwell in fear; if fears are controlling you, then do something about that. They seep into your mind, and then your heart, and then your bloodstream. Imagine for a minute that you have no fear of being who you are. How does that feel? Like pure bliss, right?

Seventh/Spiritual Chakra: Happiness requires that you have an inner theology or spirituality that can withstand the storms of life. It matters not what tradition it comes from. What matters is that your inner spiritual truth is, in fact, a genuine spiritual truth that truly nurtures you. You have to attend to your spiritual life, not just visit it when things go wrong. The divine is not a hobby. The sacred is in every breath of life, yours included.

I hope that this has provided some insight for those of you actively seeking ways to become happier.


Caroline Myss is a five-time New York Times bestselling author and internationally renowned speaker in the fields of human consciousness, spirituality and mysticism, health, and archetypes. Her latest book, Archetypes: Who Are You?




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