I have been a big proponent of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy since I began it, earlier this year. Yet, the basic idea behind it is that your thinking is wrong and you should change it. In some situations, this is helpful but in others, telling yourself that you are “wrong and can think other ways” only makes you feel worse. Technically, I suspect that this specific train of thought isn’t really following the guidelines of CBT but it’s easy to have.
I then discovered a conversation about CBT and another form of therapy that is becoming more popular–Accept and Commitment Therapy. ACT puts a focus on noticing your thoughts, feelings and what professionals call “personal events” and accepting then. Instead of changing your thoughts, the focus shifts to identifying values and commuting to them, regardless of your thoughts. It’s an interesting take on distancing yourself from your thoughts and learning that it’s just a feeling or just a thought. These events lose their power over your.
I think I actually revert to some ACT-like thought processes when CBT lets me down. It’s not all the time but sometimes it just feels as though it’s not enough. So, as I was trying to envision just what ACT is, I discovered some books by the founder, Stephen Hayes, and other professionals. Interestingly enough, I noticed a running trend. Hayes and others suggest that making happiness a goal is misleading and I concur. In fact, I would go so far as to say that aiming for happiness can actually deter you from achieving it. The underlying theme is that life is difficult and maybe we’re not meant to always be happy and that’s okay.
I mean, sometimes we will have difficulties and we won’t be able to smile all the time. Forcing ourselves to do so can actually make us feel worse. And sometimes people do really stupid things in the name of “I’m not happy.” So what? Are you safe? Healthy? Content? Maybe you don’t need to be happy right now. Maybe happiness is one of those ideals that sound good but actually cause people to be miserable. Isn’t that a little ironic?
Maybe the reality of life is, if you always expect happiness, you’re going to be let down.