He holds victory in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,

for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Proverbs 2:7-8

I just want to be happy.

Too many clients

God bless America, but instead of having the “pursuit of happiness” in our founding documents, we should have had instead the “pursuit of goodness.”  Happiness is our god, but if you pursue happiness for it’s own sake you will in all cases not find it.  Sorry.  It’s unfortunate.  My client load is filled full of people who want to be happy, but are miserable.  Why would they be so discontent?  We live in a free country.  We can do what we want, mostly.  So why aren’t so many of us happy?

Clients have told me that their previous therapist asked them “what do you need to do to be happy?”  Usually this is said to a frustrated wife with a self-absorbed husband or a husband with a judgmental wife.  These therapists ask: “How can you take that?  You deserve better.  What do you need to do to be happy?”  These kinds of questions lead people to be tempted to consider divorce in spades.  If you want to be asked these questions, don’t come and see me.

If you’ve sought happiness by saying whatever comes into your head, and you and your spouse argue like cats and dogs, I’ll talk with you about having a little more self-control.

If you’ve sought happiness in all the fantasies of pornography and now your life is falling apart and you got fired or your wife is thinking of leaving you, I’ll talk with you about stopping the selfish pursuits and doing the right things instead.

If you’ve sought happiness through an affair because you say your lover listens to you and accepts you and she loves you, I will tell you what you are feeling is a façade and I will challenge the notion that what you feel is love and that love, instead is patient, kind and does not seek it’s own, and you are not doing these things with your wife and she’s the one that you need to do them to, not some stranger to the promise you made to God some time ago and you were serious at the time and what are you doing now is playing Russian Roulette with your soul and maybe you’d better learn that love is an act, a choice, not a feeling, anymore than getting a high from heroin makes you happy.  You are on a buzz and this buzz can kill.  I’ll tell you that, but you won’t be happy to hear it.

If you’ve sought happiness by considering divorce because you and your husband are on each other’s case or he’s withdrawn and doesn’t talk with you anymore and he seems to be mad all the time and he never touches you unless he wants sex and he spends all his time in the garage and never ever lifts a finger to help you in the house, I’m not going to say: You poor thing.  Don’t come to me if you want a pat on the back and encouragement to dump the bum and just do what you need to do to be happy.  I’m going to ask you instead to bring your husband in and let me hear the other side of the story and whatdayaknow he says he doesn’t help in the house because when he does he feels you criticize him right in front of him and the kids, and you grab the towels and scowl at him while you show him the correct way to fold them and these humiliating digs have been consistent over time, so he just gave up because his 1977 Corvette doesn’t say mean things to him and the one way he can let go of his fear of you is when the two of you are intimate but you don’t seem to want to do that either so he feels rejected and lonely but if he’s in the garage at least he’s not in the house feeling resentful.  But of course, if I suggest you bring in your husband you won’t want to do that because you want me to say he a lout and you need to dump him and when I don’t you go to a therapist who does or you just do it anyway and then you go to your next marriage and you haven’t learned a thing and you scoff at this husband just like the last only this husband doesn’t go into the garage.  This husband gets mad and fights back and the two of you go at it and this is the second time the police were called and then you wonder why you aren’t happy.

But if you will stick it out with me and let a concept or two sink in you will hear me say things like: Doing the right thing is it’s own reward and maybe you don’t feel happy right away, which is fine.  This isn’t exactly easy.  The goal is not to be happy.  The goal is to do the right thing.  And if you do the right things amazing things happen.  And you’ll say, but I can’t do the right thing because I don’t feel like I love him and I’ll say you can’t wait until you feel love, you have to DO love and finally, after battling this idea in your head because you’ve been taught to pursue happiness, instead, you decide to DO love and you go out in the garage and grab a stool and ask your husband what he’s working on and look at him, wondering, and he smiles and tells you this and that and he goes on and on and he’s not said this much to you in months and after a bit he asks you if you want to go to the Dairy Queen and you surprise yourself by saying yes and then you wonder at the power of doing the right thing.

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