Have you ever had moments in which you asked yourself “Why am I unhappy?”
I may be a spiritual life coach, but I’m not continuously in a state of perfect happiness. I’m human just like you.
But I can tell you why you are unhappy.
And I don’t don’t even know you. I’ve never seen you. I’ve never spoken to you.
So then how? No, I’m not psychic or anything like that. And neither am I trying to fob you over with some ridiculous claim that I know everything about everything, and I can magically give you perfect happiness in exchange for lots of money.
The truth is there are probably several apparent reasons why you feel unhappy. Things which are specific and individual to you. The conditions of your life, your relationships, your finances, or whatever. I don’t know anything about any of that.
The thing is these conditions are what you see and experience on the surface. Below the surface there are psychological forces at work in your life, unconsciously pulling you this way and that. And these forces are universal for all humans. When you learn about, and understand these psychological tendencies you can develop practical strategies to change the conditions in your life that are perpetuating your unhappiness.
If you want to read more about the conditions which foster or reduce happiness check out this post by life coach Barrie Davenport. She has some great insight and outlines some superbly practical strategies you can incorporate with the ideas I will now present to you here.
[color-box]Unhappiness arises as the result of not being aligned with your authentic self. Tweet this[/color-box]
As the intelligent, responsible, and thoughtful person I’m sure you are, you have some sense of values. You know what’s important to you. You have standards. You know what kind of person you aspire to be, even if that’s just in a vague sense. These ideals, or qualities represent your values.
The problem is that what we ideally want to say, do, or be is frequently not what we end up saying, doing, or being.
And it is there that unhappiness starts to creep in. Deep-rooted, and subtle, this sense of dissatisfaction niggles away at us on an unconscious or semiconscious level. That nagging feeling of discontentment harasses us, and shows up in the negative conditions of our life that we mostly create for ourselves.
You will often know intuitively when you are living your life out of sync with your authentic self. You may try to ignore it but that sense of being out of alignment with who and what you aspire to be bubbles away just beneath the surface.
So why do we often end up doing things that go against our higher ideals?
Because, as humans, we have needs.
And needs are, by definition, near impossible to resist.
They are stronger than values or ideals. Whilst it requires a conscious decision to act in accordance with your values, your needs will unconsciously and involuntary drive you towards certain ways of behaving.
According to Human Needs Psychology there are six basic needs which are universal, and always manifest in varying proportions.
Your Six Human Needs
1. Certainty. The need for security, stability, and reliability.
2. Variety. The need for change, stimulation, and challenge.
3. Significance. The need to feel acknowledged, recognized, and valued.
4. Love and Connection. The need to love and to feel loved, and to feel connection with others.
5. Growth. The need to grow, improve and develop, both in character and in spirit.
6. Contribution. The need to give, to help others, and to make a difference.
These basic needs will often be hidden behind the appearance of some other motive.
For example, an unfaithful spouse may feel the need to be understood, or to be satisfied sexually. But a closer look would reveal that this person needs to feel more love and connection, or perhaps to be acknowledged (significance), or even simply wants more interest and excitement in their life (variety).
Your needs ultimately drive your behaviour, with or without the consent of your better judgement.
It is when your needs take you down paths that go against your ideals that you are setting yourself up for an unhappy life. In the case of the unfaithful spouse, trying to meet their needs in that way goes against their values (at least by the standards of most normal people!), and is destructive. That path will only lead towards more unhappiness.
While this example may be a little extreme, the same principle can be seen in just about any aspect of your life, small or big.
So if our needs are unconsciously directing us, what hope is there for taking control of our life?
Don’t worry, there is hope for you! All you have to do is “trick” your needs, by creating the conditions in your life to meet those needs in a more positive way.
Once you understand which are your most important needs, and how they are manifesting in the different areas of your life, you can take action to fulfil them in a way which is not destructive. You can think of activities and strategies to meet those needs that are in line with your higher ideals. When you are satisfying those most important needs you will no longer end up doing things against your values. That will make you feel good about yourself inside, and you will then be able to create the conditions for happiness.
This may not necessarily be easy. In the case of the unfaithful spouse it would require finding out how to get more love and connection from their partner, or to be more valued by them, or even to find ways to add more variety to their relationship.
But, as I’m sure you’ll agree, the result would be more than worth the effort… a happy and fulfilling relationship without cause for infidelity.
Combining spirituality with your values and needs is the ultimate way to avoid being unhappy.
If you are on a spiritual path you may well have a different approach towards the question “why am I unhappy?”. I’m not going to go into the various perspectives of the world’s spiritual traditions here. Anyone who has been following my blog will know that I value all and any spiritual approaches.
[color-box]There are as many paths to God as there are people in the world. Tweet this[/color-box]
But I will say that any spiritual tradition worth its salt should take account of the natural part of human nature, i.e. your basic needs. A spiritual life should be built on sound psychological foundations. This means using your spirituality to identify your higher ideals or values. It means understanding your human needs, and interpreting them within the context of your spirituality.
Accepting and giving permission to your needs is a basic part of being human.
When you are clear on your values, clear about your most important needs, and rooted in your spirituality, then you are set up for happiness. Bringing these three into alignment is the concept behind my Tree of Strength coaching model, and provides you with the inner resources to be able to change the conditions in your life which are perpetuating unhappiness. You will then be able to create the conditions which will promote happiness.
So the next time you ask yourself “Why am I unhappy?”, trying changing the question to something like “Am I living in alignment with my authentic self?”. Then check these three things in your life: Values, Needs, and Spirituality.