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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I Looked So Happy Then


"How Sweet Are the Hopes and Pleasures of Youth"  by Anne S. Bushby



How sweet are the hopes and the pleasures of youth,

Ere misfortune has blighted their springs to the heart,

Ere the seeds of suspicion, and envy, and art,

Have supplanted the feelings of candour and truth!


In life's joyous morning, how glowing, how bright, 

Are the dreams of the future--by Fancy inspired!

Like bubbles, that ere they are form'd have expired,

So vanish its sorrows, as transient, as light. 

 

But soon, oh! too soon, must these feelings decay,

The storms of the world they can never survive;

And alas! when once gone they can never revive 

To soothe or to brighten life's desolate way.

To constantly believe that your true happiness is past is to affirm the fact that you continue to make decisions that do not build a better present but ultimately extend into a more miserable future. Dwelling upon old times, while being reflective and pleasant, can also detract from your ability to move ahead in positive, constructive relationships.You become "frozen in time" and cease to entertain thoughts of vital growth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           When you covet a wonderful past, you realize that it is so much easier to look back at what was comfortable instead of facing the unknown. The "grass is greener" in pastures of the past because you have already overcome the obstacles. The problem is that you can easily lose control of the direction in which your life is going by taking your eyes from the present positive road. The present or future may be painful, frightening, or challenging, but when you focus on your past, you avoid responsibility for your own future and you shirk the duty to overcome new pitfalls.

A great need exists for you to face the present. Sonce Reese, ("The Psychology of Why People Dwell on Their Pasts," Helium, www.helium.com/items, 2010) says, "Our minds also give us what we put into them. If you want to continue to dwell in the past, the mind will continue to create that for you. It is only when you decide to let go of the past and move forward that your mind will produce that outcome. You will only leave the past behind when you are psychologically ready to let go and move forward." In essence, you must make the conscious decision to move ahead.


When you are dwelling on the past or living in the past, you are usually talking about returning to certain memories over and over again like a bookmarked page. No new information is coming out. According to psychologist Adele Gregory, ("The Psychology of Why People Dwell on the Past, Helium, www.helium.com/items, 2010) "One possible explanation for this could be a variation of what Gestalt psychotherapists call "unfinished business" where past experiences intrude into the present because they didn't reach a satisfactory conclusion the first time around. A crucial element, such as an explanation, acknowledgment or apology is missing which keeps the person from being able to fully move on."

Sometimes when you dwell "on" the past, you frequently recount or cast up an event, often a perceived injustice. It might also happen in reverse, where you return to the past from regret over something you didn't do or say. The time spent worrying about such past events usually results in nothing positive.

The more important question may be not "why is someone dwelling in the past?" but "why are they disengaging with the present?" Gregory believes, "This opens the possibility that people dwell on the past because they find something in the present fulfilling, uncomfortable or confusing and an earlier time somehow holds the comfort or clarity they're searching for." For example, if you continually recount old adventures, you could see your present life as lacking excitement or freedom. You may also return to a time when you enjoyed a greater degree of success, respect or belonging in order to re-affirm your identity or restore your self-esteem.

Reliving the past, you can also return to a time when you enjoyed a greater degree of success, respect or belonging in order to re-affirm your identity or restore your self-esteem. Regret can preserve your belief that a happier or more successful state of affairs (than you face today) was at least possible - the past offers a defense mechanism for past events that have left you feeling disadvantaged in some way.


Then, Where Lies Happiness?

Several years ago, James Montier, a “global equity strategist”, took a break from investing in order to publish a brief overview of existing research into the psychology of happiness. (The Psychology of Happiness, www.trendfollowing.com, June 17 2004) Montier learned that happiness comprises three components:

  • About 50% of individual happiness comes from a genetic set point. That is, we’re each predisposed to a certain level of happiness. Some of us are just naturally more inclined to be cheery than others.
  • About 10% of our happiness is due to our circumstances. Our age, race, gender, personal history, and, yes, wealth, only make up about one-tenth of our happiness.
  • The remaining 40% of an individual’s happiness seems to be derived from intentional activity, from “discrete actions or practices that people can choose to do."
If you have no control over our genetic “happy point," and if you have little control over your circumstances, then it makes sense to focus on those things that you can do to make you happy. According to Montier's paper, these activities include sex, exercise, sleep, and close relationships.


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