Programmed for Unhappiness
I have some questions for you and would appreciate your insights. How is it possible to just stay present when it feels like unlimited potential presents itself? Potential is futurizing. I get that. But how is it possible to just stay present in an experience when potential feels so real? And when a plan is in place and people are working toward a goal, then one person bails? Is potential the same as having expectations?
I was in a musical collaboration that was the absolute best musical collaboration of my life. We were writing A-list songs together. My music partner was a guitarist/songwriter/singer. We were about to professionally record our first CD. I already had been offered a venue for our first house concert and a beautiful cafe had offered their space for our CD Launch party.
We’d been playing consistently every week to work up the material for the CD and for concerts. It was truly the most joyous experience of my entire musical career. I had never felt so matched in a collaboration as I did with this guy. And I had never felt so much unlimited potential for our music as I did in this experience.
He told me how unbelievable it was that we created two A-list songs entirely in one sitting each.
There were so many things that were positive and moving forward. This past week was my birthday. At my birthday dinner, he gave me a card with a pictures of an umbrella – a possible name for our group. The inside of the umbrella was a beautiful sky with puffy clouds. He told me he had ordered this umbrella for me for my birthday but it hadn’t arrived yet.
Three days later, he told me he changed his mind and does not want to be in a musical partnership. Done. Gone. He just wants to do his own thing. Emotional whiplash. Wow. I’m sitting with a major disappointment. It’s shocking to me.
Disappointment comes from having expectations. What does this mean in life? To go through life with not caring about outcomes? To never be attached to anything or anyone? Is this humanly possible, or only for a select few who spend their lives on mountains but never have to interact with people.
I appreciate any insights you can share with me. Thank you!
Signed, Major Disappointment
Dear Ms. Major Disappointment,
Thank you for sharing so much of your heart and soul. As always, my intention is to answer your questions with clarity and truth. Many times people don’t want to hear or accept the truth about themselves and the choices they make, but without acknowledging and accepting the truth, you will never be free or happy.
The truth is, your reaction to what has “happened” to you is a programmed response. It’s not your fault. You were taught at an early age to have expectations of people – especially people you really like. Look around. You can see human programming everywhere. The majority of the world’s population has expectations of the people they love.
The problem is whenever you have expectations of anyone, the feeling of disappointment and heartbreak is right around the corner waiting to appear. Your email contains key statements that are clues to how you’ve been programmed for unhappiness. I will attempt to dissect each one.
“How is it possible to just stay present when it feels like unlimited potential presents itself? Potential is in the future. I get that. But how is it possible to just stay present in an experience when potential feels so real?”
Living in the present moment is our only reality. When you live in the past or the future, you are literally wasting your time and subtracting from your happiness. You were not born knowing how to live in the future or dwell in the past; you were literally programmed to live that way.
You arrived here living in the present moment, but then your parents unknowingly, ruined your life and brainwashed you into practicing the same habits their parents taught them. From birth until probably one or two years old, the future and/or past did not exist in your head. When you passed the age of three, you were already programmed to “look forward to” something other than the present moment. It all started innocently enough with looking forward to your birthday, Christmas, holidays, summer or even the first day of school. The program was locked in. The value of the living in the present moment was lost forever.
I don’t know about you, but no one taught me to appreciate each moment of every day. In fact, I was programmed to “look forward” to just about everything except the present moment. The practice of living in the moment is just that–a daily practice. It was only later in life, when I began to prioritize happiness, that I realized I needed to live in the moment.
“And when a plan is in place and people are working toward a goal, then one person bails?”
You used three words in your email four times. The three words are, “he told me.” He told me is interchangeable with (fill in the blank) told me. Just because someone tells you, or promises you that doesn’t mean that what they promise you they’re going to do is going to happen. It’s a hard reality to accept, but the bright side is when you don’t expect people to keep their word, you can experience the emotion of gratitude more often when what they promise actually happens.
“Is potential the same as having expectations?”
Yes. Potential, by definition, is the future. All expectations happen in the future. In fact, a synonym for expectation is potential. Having expectations is part of the human programming that creates unhappiness.
“Is this humanly possible, or only for a select few who spend their lives on mountains but never have to interact with people?”
Just because a person spends their life living in a monastery or on top of a mountain doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re happy people. The measure of how happy a person depends on how they process and handle life’s challenges on a routine basis. I mean I’ve heard plenty of stories about monks having no patience. It’s impossible to be impatience and happy at the same time. What would happen if the Dalai Lama is served soup when he ordered a salad? What would happen if the Dalai Lama’s alarm clock wasn’t set and he missed his morning meditation? How about the washing machine broke at the monastery and His Holiness had to wear yesterday’s underwear?
Unless you witness how a person navigates through their challenges, you are not able to conclude their internal state aka their happiness. Just because you have muscles, doesn’t mean that you’re strong. Your internal state of happiness or contentment is measured when you’re challenged regardless of where you’re living.
My dear Major Disappointment, let me share a similar story when I practiced the religion of the having expectations about people and future potential.
On October 3, 2014, I underwent arthroscopic hip surgery. A couple of weeks after surgery I began physical therapy. There was an older gentleman who was also recovering from surgery, and, coincidentally we shared the same doctor/surgeon. An excellent doctor by the way; so if you ever need arthroscopic hip surgery, hit me up for a recommendation. I digress.
What usually happens when I meet someone new is I ask a lot of questions. This gentleman, I’ll call him Tim, told me he used to manage several very famous rock bands in the 70s and 80s. I will not be specific as to exactly who he managed, but trust me, the bands were world-renowned.
I asked him what was he currently doing and he told me that he waiting for his boss to retire. His boss was David Letterman, the famous nighttime TV talk show host. My mouth dropped open because here I was sitting next to someone who was obviously very connected in the “business” I wanted to be apart of. I began to make a pitch for my own television show. I started off by saying, “I’m the next Oprah!” I shared the idea I’d had for my own show—–starring me, of course. Well my new BFF loved my idea and told me he knew a few producers looking for fresh shows with unique content. That’s me, fresh and unique.
As you can imagine, I was so excited that I literally began planning my first show. Did I mention my new best friend managed world famous rock bands, knew producers that were looking for new shows and most importantly worked with David Letterman? I gave him my business card and promised to follow up with my resume, social media links, website, media contacts, photos, references, and the kitchen sink. Hollywood, network TV, here I come! But before I went to Hollywood, I needed to make a few phone calls. I called my mother, my son, a close family friend, I think I remember telling one of my next-door neighbors who, unfortunately for him, was outside mowing his lawn.
I sent “Tim” a friend request on Facebook and my request was confirmed. I privately messaged every link on the web I was featured on, including links to my own online radio show. I will admit, I was very impressed with myself and what I had accomplished during the many years of preparation for my big break. I was ready for network TV. I was going to Hollywood, and I could smell success.
Let me go back to Ms. Major Disappointment’s email for a minute here.
“I was in a musical collaboration that was the absolute best musical collaboration of my life. We were writing A-list songs together. We were about to professionally record our first CD…I already had been offered a venue for our first house concert and a beautiful cafe had offered their space for our CD Launch party. We’d been playing consistently every week to work up the material for the CD and for concerts. It was truly the most joyous experience of my entire musical career. I had never felt so matched in a collaboration … and I had never felt so much unlimited potential for our music as I did in this experience.
There were so many things that were positive and moving forward.”
What she describes above is exactly what I felt at the time.
- Excited about the future
- Planning the future
- Attached to “possibilities” in the future
- Hopeful about the future (hope is for dopes)
- Emotionally attached to an outcome
- Expectations galore
Back to my story. On December 16, 2014, I sent a private Facebook message to my new best friend.
From me: 12/16/2014 8:42 am
Greetings Tim. (not his real name) Wishing you and your family a memorable holiday season. Did you ever receive my email? Let me know! smile emoticon
From “Tim”: 12/20/2014 6:48 am
Hi Rebecca, yes I receive everything. I was just thinking of you when I got your message. I met with ________ yesterday and discussed you with both WorldWide Pants and Oprah’s contact. I’m sorry it took so long, but I was away and, believe it or not, ________ was in Florida and Cuba for weeks. Nonetheless, Oprah combined her company with Discovery, and no longer works on new projects and all energy go to her network. Dave’s last show is in May, and Dave is moving in a totally different direction. ________ is also retiring in May. Also we discussed the importance of the numbers game, and it seems your numbers have a long way to go. By numbers I mean followers on FB, followers etc. On a personal note, although I get what you’re thinking, I wouldn’t call yourself, the next Oprah. Oprah already exists, and you really don’t want to open that comparison. Anyway sorry for the delay, but I hadn’t forgotten you or our conversation. I hope you have a perfect Christmas and great new year. “Tim”
Thank you sooooo much Tim! And I “get it” about saying I’m the next Oprah…great point! smile emoticon
Love to you AND your family!
One day … sooner than later …you will hear my name mentioned ….heart emoticon
Chat Conversation End
Side bar: While I was copying the Facebook message from Tim, I noticed the small print at the top of the chat box. “You and ‘Tim’ aren’t connected on Facebook.” What? Are you kidding me? Tim de-friended me! Without so much as a good-bye, so long, adiós, arrivederci, au revoir, bon voyage, sayonara or even a see-you-later-alligator? I was de-friended by the only person I knew that knew David Letterman. The crazy thing was this newsflash didn’t even register on my emotional Richter scale. Not one bit. Why? Because from October 3, 2014, until December 16, 2015, I made it a daily practice to eliminate expectations of people and attachments to outcomes from my life. It was easy for me to experience probably the most connected person I knew in showbiz disconnect from me.
Let me get back to Ms. Major Disappointment’s email again because there’s another lesson to be learned from this type of experience.
When you find yourself in a moment or moments of joy, happiness, elation, excitement, enjoy it and soak it all in while it lasts. Enjoy the moment(s) without attaching an expectation to future moments. Enjoy the moment(s) without attaching to an outcome of a future moment. To be happier, enjoy the moment without expecting the moment to last into the future.
I am a huge football fan. I love watching the professional games every Sunday. I also watch the “A Football Life” documentaries. I’ve listened to many interviews from athletes that have won multiple Super Bowls. I can only imagine the emotions after years of playing, preparation, training, injuries, the highs and lows all climaxing on a Sunday in February. The Super Bowl is broadcasted all over the world. After you win the Super Bowl, they say there’s a glow that lingers. But that glow does not last. You can never go back in time to get that exact feeling back. But in the moment, the feeling is beyond description; a natural high.
If you talk to an athlete who’s won the Super Bowl more than once, they describe their emotions for each Super Bowl win with a different adjective. Why? Because each win feels different. I’ve heard an athlete from the Dallas Cowboys say that his third Super Bowl win wasn’t a feeling of happiness or excitement but of relief. Why? There was so much pressure to win the Super Bowl for the third time that he couldn’t enjoy the win until months later.
My point is this. The programming for unhappiness runs deep. It takes a conscious effort, and most importantly, daily practice in every moment, to let go of your past and future moments. Remember, the present moment is your only reality.
Warning: Choosing happiness as opposed to the programming that is offered by most of the world, is road not traveled by the masses. When you make the decision to rewire the programming that keeps you unhappy, you will feel like you’re going through emotional withdrawals. Trust me; I know first hand. It’s possibly the hardest and loneliest journey you will make in this lifetime, because you will have to look in the mirror for solutions to all of your problems. That alone doesn’t feel too good.
Good news: When you recognize that your current program is hindering your happiness, you may want to prioritize rewiring that program.
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