Even though you seek happiness, you sometimes treat it like your biggest enemy.

Even though you try to avoid suffering, there are times you run straight towards it. 

The fact that your behaviour isn’t always the way you would want it to be has a psychological and neurological reason. The psychological reason has to do with the relationship you have with yourself en the way you engage with your thoughts and emotions. Old (subconscious) convictions about yourself like ‘I am not good enough and I have to fulfill to these standards’ often play a part.

When you strive for something consciously it can still be undermined by your own judgements about yourself which, in return, make you reach the opposite of your goals. For example, you could become depressed when you are trying to be happy, fearful when you are trying to relax and distracted when you are trying to concentrate. When you are fixating on trying to forget something, you remember it all the more and when you are forcing sleep, you become more and more awake.

When the tennis player McEnroe faced an opponent whos forehand was going really well, he would make a compliment when they were changing lanes; ‘ Wauw, your forehand is tremendous today!’ His opponent would start to miss easy balls. When the effect of an action is the opposite of what you had in mind, it’s called a counterproductive reflex. Just like scratching when you are itching from a mosquito bite, it will only increase the itch.

The neurological component is the amygdala-hijack. The amygdala arranges where you focus your attention and plays a crucial part in judging dangerous situations. When certain input reaches a threatening level, your amygdala basically ‘shuts down’ your brain and activates the reaction patterns of fight, flight and freeze. These patterns are very useful in extremely dangerous situations but not very effective when you are dealing with a difficult boss.

It might be possible to find happiness slowly by becoming aware of your physical, rational and emotional signals. By observing yourself and through training you can become aware when you are in an amygdala hijack and when and old (incorrect) conviction from your youth is influencing your behaviour.

Signs of an amygdala hijack are feeling flustered, feeling a knot in your stomach, suddenly not knowing what to do and freezing. Another behaviour can be that you overreact to what a person says to you. It can feel as if a lens zooms in on you and you become very aware of yourself.

 


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