Conditional Happiness – Stage Three
By the time we are adults there are thousands of rules we follow. What bad words we can’t say, grades we are supposed to get, how much money we should make, what our body should look like, and what we “need” to accomplish in order to feel good about our self as a success. You could walk through a clothing stor and your mind and you would find that your mind has rules about what you can wear, what you can’t, why someone else could, what is cool, and what your friends would think. And this is just some of the rules about clothes. As we grow up family rules are added to by school teachers, religion, society, commercials, magazines, and friends about what is cool, and what is not cool. There are even rules in our mind as to what an appropriate reprimand, punishment, or ridicule is.
When we are completely socialized we no longer need anyone telling us what we should and shouldn’t do. We have acquired a vast library of rules and had the verbal, emotional, and sometimes physical, conditioning of punishments and rewards so that we no longer need anyone reminding us. We keep our self on the track of “shoulds” and avoid the “shouldn’t” things pretty well.
In a self socialized state we still get a good feeling when recognized or praised. We get an emotional boost when someone we like is attracted to us and desires us. It is a big vote of approval and acceptance in a sensitive area of self image and acceptance. We also react emotionally when our work, or art is given a negative opinion, or we are dumped in our relationship. These emotional responses are not only triggered by what other people say and how they treat us. We have emotional responses to what we tell our self, both negative and positive. Since most of the day we are not getting feedback from other people, most of our emotional feelings are determined by our own thoughts, opinions, judgments, and beliefs.
When we do break one of our rules a voice in our mind reprimands us before anyone else. Sometimes the voice in our head reprimands us even for considering to break one of our acquired rules of “supposed to.” Emotionally we feel guilt, shame, or fear even if no one is around. When we do something well, that voice in our head can give us praise, and approval as well. We feel good about our self even if no one recognizes us. At this stage our mind keeps us socialized, and we create our own emotional responses. At this stage these self regulating beliefs and internal dialog are the primary determinant of our emotional state. We respond with more emotions from our internal narrative about how well, or bad, we are doing than we do to actual success and failure.
At this stage a person might be living very much according to a script of expectations that society has written for them. If life is going along pretty well in accordance to the script, then everything is fine. All is as it should be, and they feel happy with themselves and their life, provided life meets the conditions of their script. This is conditional happiness. Many people live their life pretty well in this third phase of happiness. If things don’t go according to the script, then this triggers fear, self judgment, criticism, and negative emotions. Negative emotions happen automatically when the conditional expected rules in our mind are not met.
At the same time we also experience our natural expressions of emotions from Stage 1. However since our mind is so busy with thoughts we were conditioned with, we have many more emotional responses to them, and naturally expressed emotions are drowned out. The majority of our natural emotional expressions will still be love based, there just aren’t as many of them because we are so busy with our life trying to meet all of the conditions we have set up for our self. Sometimes these naturally expressed emotions will be congruent with our conditioned emotions and sometimes they will be in conflict.
The higher the level of conflict between our natural emotional expressions and socialized emotional responses, the more likely a person will enter into Stage 4. At this point they will have a need to let go of their socialized conditioning. Most people get by living in Stage 3 of happiness for most of their life with minor adjustments to their beliefs, scripts, and rules they were socialized with. Some people will be dissatisfied living according patterns of their past, or their negative patterns will have become overgrown. When a person becomes dissatisfied with their conditioned patterns and decides to change them, they enter into Stage 4 of Happiness.1