You might not know it, but today what matters most is not in our stock portfolio, nor is it parked in the garage, or in our bank account. The thing that matters most are matters of the heart, the things that create a sense of fulfillment and connect us to each other. Before you write this column off as just another touchy feely concept, ask yourself when have you been most happy and what was it that made it so? Happiness is damned important and it’s finally becoming more important in public awareness and psychological discussions.

According to the December Family Therapy Magazine (Draeger-Muenke, Horowitz, Shaham), the Declaration of Independence’s right to the pursuit of happiness may have created a culture of takers rather than promoting the qualities that create long term happiness in us. We have been pursuing happiness and ignoring healing, personal growth and spiritual awareness.

In my world of psychotherapy, the New Age concepts of just think positive and happy thoughts, has not been helpful. It has helped people right into denial and repression. All those nasty feelings that raised their hands and were seeking attention just got sublimated into passive-aggressive nasty actions frosted with a loving façade but were never dealt with. I own being a New Thought, New Ager myself, and I can tell you that if you don’t get to the core values and character strengths to heal core issues, thinking positive is simply not enough. There is great value in having a positive attitude, however one must also sit in the dark places of the psyche and honor them in order to heal them. Thinking happy rather than dealing with what is and working through it, simply creates more pain in the long run, Every time we put on blinders and ignore the parts of ourselves that are asking to grow, be more authentic and caring, we deny our own happiness.

Victor Frankel, the renowned psychiatrist suggested that we build a statue of responsibility next to the statue of liberty. Liberty comes with a need for responsibility and ethics. It comes with the need for consideration of others. If that is not there, then it simply becomes selfish, personal material masturbation, another quick fix. Everything needs balance.

So, does all this mean that we should not sit in the lap of luxury? Absolutely not! Have all the luxury your little heart can handle. The point is not the material itself, but rather, how you feel about it, what you are wiling to compromise to get it and what you do with it once you have it. It’s about putting matters of the heart and soul first. It’s about staying awake and keeping your desire for more – of anything – in balance and in perspective.

What have you given the control in your life to and what brings you alive, because everything else is too small for you, as David Whyte says in his poetry. It’s about checking in with you and doing a soul or character inventory. What is your level of wisdom and your commitment to greater knowledge? Are you growing, creative, curious, open to new perspectives and possibilities, or are you standing still in the status quo?

Where do you rate yourself when it comes to courage, speaking authentically, standing up for what you believe and stepping into leadership roles that may make you a pioneer rather than just part of a crowd that goes along. What is your level of bravery, consistency, persistence and commitment?

What is your level of humanity, your ability to be openhearted, forgiving and caring? What portion of your time, energy and money is spent helping others, caring for others? Are you aware of what is going on in the world and making an attempt to change it in some way?

Are you committed to justice, balance, integrity and honesty? Do you have a voice inside that knows these qualities are only about you and the quality of your own character and no one else?

And, importantly, are you having fun? If you are not having fun and enjoying your life you are out of alignment with yourself. Life is grand. It’s a great experiment in finding our best selves, in fact, that is the only reason for being here.

This is a great time, at the beginning of the year, to take stock and get real about who you are and who you know you can be. Being in alignment with you is the most empowering and joyful place to be. Try it and see.

© Dr. Dina Bachelor Evan 2013

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