“The fantasy of happiness is sold to us every day. We live in a society that does everything in its power to eliminate sadness, sickness and all the negatives of life,” said Dr. Nima Rahmany from Maple Ridge. “And it isn’t working!”
Dr. Nima, as he is called, is a chiropractor, stress expert and world champion salsa dancer, who also specializes in emotional health. He gives workshops on emotional mastery, and his experience with the illusory expectation of happiness has led him to teach a more balanced and healthier approach to life in seminars across the Lower Mainland.
The current rash of happiness studies, the many self-help books and the movie industry, market an expectancy of “happily-ever-after” as something we should eternally and quickly expect and seek as our right. But Dr. Nima feels there is a darker underside that is not fully understood by the public. Giving the example of a magnet, which has two poles, a positive and a negative, he explains: “We have become so addicted to seeking pleasure and happiness – the positive side of the magnet – that we are unprepared to accept and deal with the inevitable, and negative challenges of life, which will always be there no matter how hard you try to avoid them.”
For example, the recent inclusion of grief as a mental illness in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a great mistake, he feels. “Instead of acknowledging our sadness, we medicate ourselves. Feeling sad has become an illness. It’s not an illness. We just haven’t learned the skills needed to cope with the inevitable curveballs of life.”
“This continual expectation of happiness leads many to feel a failure at life, and to become more stressed, depressed and dissatisfied, leading to a whole host of physical and emotional problems,” he concludes. And studies bear this out.
This reluctance to deal with difficulties and tragedies reminded me of the movie, “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” A young couple whose relationship has come to an end, decide to remove all memory of each other. The consequences are thought provoking and sad.
But Dr. Nima says that rather than attempting to eliminate the memory of a sad event or relationship with drugs or alcohol, or to run away to a theme park to get another shot of illusory happiness in the face of boredom, we can recognize the potential opportunities that the difficulties of life can teach us, and make a goal of being more authentic rather than “happy.”
Life is sometimes painful, sad, boring, difficult or tragic. What we do about that can be a defining moment in our life and important to our health. Dr. Nima has discovered that “these negative feelings serve to give us feedback to where we are not living congruently with our own actual values when comparing our lives with others, which can be the root cause of many who have low self esteem and depression.”
Remembering the young couple in that movie, who were afraid of their emotions, I thought of some of the spiritual thinkers and movers that we admire. What did Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa do when faced with tragedy, pain or oppression?
Nelson Mandela lived for over two decades in a brutal prison environment, yet it was not happiness he strove for, but rather the dignity of freedom for every human being. Imagine his joy when South Africa gave up its terrible apartheid regime, and he was freed. Not content with that, he went on to teach us all about forgiveness, thus probably saving South Africa from a brutal civil war. That same cause was echoed in the USA with Martin Luther King, who died for his efforts. The Dalai Lama had witnessed the tragic loss of his entire country and culture. In his book, “The Art of Happiness,” he says “Our attitude towards suffering becomes very important because it can affect how we cope with suffering when it arises.” Mother Theresa found purpose and God in the tragic slums of India. In her times of tragedy and failure she grounded herself in her spiritual sense of life.
All these individuals won Nobel Peace prizes.
Rather than becoming victims to their tragedy or sadness, they used it to learn about themselves, engaging in a purpose and a mission that was greater than the heartache they were experiencing. And it is their achievements and dedication to a greater cause that we remember.
Is this relentless pursuit of material happiness a new problem? No, it is a challenge that many spiritual thinkers through the ages have warned us about. Mary Baker Eddy, a 19th century healer and pioneer in the link between health and consciousness, was no stranger to sadness. She remarked on it many times in her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. For example, she writes “Trials teach mortals not to lean on a material staff, — a broken reed, which pierces the heart. We do not half remember this in the sunshine of joy and prosperity.”
We may not have the opportunity to serve our fellow man in the large way these individuals have. But as Dr. Nima suggests, having a purpose in life and living authentically and gratefully day by day is more health-giving than seeking happiness for its own sake. Learning from the lives of those who have made a great difference in the world can be inspiring. Their mistakes enable us to learn forgiveness. Their persistence is often grounded in spiritual roots, which help many people effectively deal with the tragedies of life.
Whatever way we choose in dealing with negative experiences, when we stop being afraid of losing superficial happiness and stop wasting time seeking it, we have an opportunity to own our lives and therefore our health in a deeper, more meaningful way that serves all mankind. This brings us a greater sense of purpose in life.