Can our happiness benefit others covertly?
08/366 days Towards Self-Mastery. Status: no coffee for 2 days..!
When we're glum, those around us feel it, and if they are inclined to glum, they quickly sink right into it.
When we're happy, our mood uplifts everyone close by. You know what it feels like to walk into a room where the energy is off, right?
"There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world." Robert Louis Stevenson.
Okay that quote's probably a bit old, and I'm not owning it, it came directly from Sarah's essay for today. To be honest it sounds way too prescriptive for me and I've got red flags going off all over the place. That "duty" word scares me a bit, well, a lot.
In fairness, the happiness trend was alive and well when this book was written, some 20 years ago, and I have to say that it served me well.
Is happiness contagious? That seems to be the key question here? And if it is, should we be mindful of our happiness and other emotions and the impact they have on others?
Since the happiness era we've moved onto the next big trend in social change, authenticity, thanks largely to Brene Brown.
But there's another theory that was beginning to get some airtime 20 years ago that has gained a lot of traction in physics and the social sciences, Field Theory. (It pays to have a few years on me, I remember this stuff.)
Field Theory. When it comes to the contagion of emotions, this theory makes all the difference, and it boils down to one simple fact. The air that we breathe and the soup of air in which we navigate through life, it's not an empty space. It's a space filled with energy and information.
And that energy, when we move around it, when we express ourselves into it, when we emote in any way, and especially in exaggerated ways, like really angry stuff, or sobbing or any other form of struggle, is going to shift and move, and carry that information to others that are connected to us and/or in close proximity, and have an effect of them.
Now that effect it has on them is related to their inner emotional landscape, so there's no telling how they'll respond.
Does that mean we should hit the anxiety button about how much emoting we engage in spontaneously?
No! Please don't buy into the happy-clappy notion that life should be all peace, love and mung beans, and fall into guilt and shame about feeling and expressing your emotions.
What we can do though, is make a commitment to feel good by remembering what it is that delights us, see yesterday's post, and then committing to working with our unresolved stuff.
My way is to capture each event of disharmony that I experience and do the inner work to figure out what it is that's making me miserable, even when it feels like it's someone else's fault.
Because I'm the one feeling misery, I want to know what that event is triggering in me. What assumptions, what beliefs, what old stories am I hanging onto that are triggering? I want to review them and revise them and release them if necessary.
And of course, once I know why I'm triggered I'm more empowered to know what the appropriate action for the situation is, and less likely to dissolve into emotional turmoil next time it arises.
I've been doing this work for years, so there's not too many things that trigger me these days. It's a lovely relief.
That's self mastery!
So to answer the questions posed by Sarah for today.
"Is happiness contagious?" Absolutely, and together with authenticity, it is especially healing on the mind and body.
"Should I be worried about the impact I have on others?" For me, that's a yes. I'm so aware of how Field Theory works in practice that I have it in mind all the time. And as I can't, and don't want to stop my emotions, I use my process of Towards Self-Mastery to manage those emotions quickly and effectively.
I'm not so sure about the duty part though.
366 days Towards Self-Mastery
When I considered my New Year's intentions for 2020 I had just one: To allow my heart to love what it loved...and let it lead me. (If not now, then when?)
I've spent months working on integrating my life. To live life more fully with my home life, my interests, my work, my responsibilities, all coming together, all connected. I want to give each the attention that they desire and need, and still have time and energy for the others. That means living and working from the heart. As I was clearing out my bookshelf over the Christmas break I discovered Simple Abundance. I set it aside to explore it on New Year's Day as I lazed through another delicious day of nothingness. Sarah, the author, says this book is about living in grace. Living in grace I realised, is about Self-Mastery.
My thirst for understanding the human condition has driven me all my life, and hand-in-hand with self-mastery it has been a life-long goal. And seeing as I love to write, that living in grace is about self-mastery, and I love a bit of a challenge, then if I am truly going to let my heart lead, I really don't have any other choice. So scary as it feels, I'm starting out on a daily mission of leaning into the suggestions of this daybook and making a daily post to keep me accountable. If not now, then when?
I'm Josie. You can find out a little more about me here.
Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy: by Sarah Ban Breathnach
This book is written for the Australian and NZ market because it refers to seasonal changes. It's available on Amazon here if you'd like to follow along.