Steven had been unhappy all his life. His father was distant, virtually not present emotionally, and his mother was a critical, angry woman. No matter how people tried to love him, he just couldn't see to feel it or be happy. On one occasion when he was actually feeling the love, I asked him how he felt.
"Neutral," he said.
I laughed. "You have so little experience with happiness in your life, that you don't recognize it when it hits you in the face."
"So what can I do?"
"Just change the ordinate."
"What? What's an ordinate?"
"Ever seen a graph?"
"On the horizontal axis you measure one thing, while on the vertical axis you measure another thing. Let's say you want to demonstrate on a graph the rainfall during the year. One way to do that is to put the weeks of the year along the bottom of the chart—the horizontal axis—while putting the inches of rainfall along the vertical axis. Marking a single point on the graph, you can then express—for example—that in the sixth week of the year there was half an inch of rain. With me?"
"On this particular graph the horizontal axis is time, and the vertical axis is how you feel over time. Your problem is that all you've ever known is unhappiness, so the vertical axis—which is called the ordinate—is labeled Unhappiness. Over time, all you measure is how unhappy you are. If things are going well--even when you're loved--the best you can feel is less unhappiness. The best you can feel is brief moments of relief. It sucks."
"You're actually telling a lie. Instead of seeing what's really happening, you're describing only the negative involved. Understandable, but not the truth."
"What can I do?"
"Relabel the ordinate. Instead of measuring unhappiness, label the vertical axis more accurately—and more productively—as Happiness. It's truly happiness you want, so why not finally recognize it? Why not measure it? Now, when you get loved, you'll be more likely to feel what's really happening."
Stephen made a decision to simply recognize more truthfully what was happening in his life, and then he was able to feel it more fully.
Unhappiness is actually not a real thing, much as darkness is not a real thing. You can't measure darkness. You measure light. Darkness is simply the absence of light, much as unhappiness is the absence of love and joy.
In much the same way that even a small bit of light can dispel "darkness," so also can love eliminate "unhappiness" with the creation of joy. We must measure what is real. In the same way we measure light, we must recognize and "measure" Real Love and the happiness that follows, rather than focusing on the absence of these conditions.
Replace your anger & confusion with peace and happiness.
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