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The Elusive Pursuit of Happiness

What is Happiness - Waismann Method Podcast

Episode 12: Happiness - Understanding Its Definition, Impact on Mental Health, and Connection to Substance Use Disorder

How do we know if we are experiencing happiness? What is the definition of happiness? How does it affect our psychological health, and what is its relationship with opioid or other substance use disorder? On today’s episode, Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCCDavid Livingston, LMFT and Dwight Hurst, CMHC address this complicated emotion.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. How do we know if we’re happy? What is happiness and how does that interact with our own health management and our own ability to avoid unhealthy coping skills and opioid dependence and things like that? So what we’re going to talk about today. Hey, guys, it’s Dwight. I’m joined, as always, by Clare and David.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: We are going to discuss today what is happiness and what role does that play in our own psychological health. We’re going to transition right into it here with David starting out with a definition of what is happiness.

David Livingston, LMFT: What I know about it and you know, and what I’ve read about it, a lot’s been written about it, you know, that that happiness is basically creating conditions for it to have things settled well enough in your life. So there’s some peace and to not be in conflict inside and outside so that not that things have to be perfect or that they ever really are, but that, you know, all things considered, you know, you you’ve made as good a peace and sorted things out as well as you can and can feel that. And then beyond that, surrounding yourself with people who care about you and you care about and, you know, reflect that to you and who are excited to be with you and enjoy you. And people you enjoy is one of the biggest causes of happiness. I mean, you can see that you look at a baby and it’s all of a sudden someone walks in. It’s excited to see you see it’s move, elevate. It goes from a static or a distressed state to a happy state. And I think that’s one of the major conditions for happiness. You know, it’s always coming and going. But but to begin to understand what we need and what what elevates us and what keeps us there, I mean, we’re meant to be elevated really through good experiences with other people and then other meaningful things in our life.

David Livingston, LMFT: So that’s kind of what all the sorting out is, is as far as I know.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: It’s a funny thing because it’s based off of such a sensory level experience. If you say, are you happy, all of us can usually tell, like at a sensory level if I’m how I’m feeling. And so I think we think we know what happiness is and even know what it feels like. But then when we sit down to define it, that’s a that’s a really good definition. You gave as good as any I’ve ever heard because it’s a little hard to pin down the definition. Right.

David Livingston, LMFT: But we’re right and we’re in a state of flux always like, you know, I’m filling out these forms and it says and asks about the mood and the so forth of the patient, kind of I end up clicking four or five boxes because within one hour they’re sad. They’re happy. Right. I mean, in one period of time, you’ll see just an immense shift in people. So, you know, really, we’re in flux, but it does help to know kind of what creates a baseline of well-being and therefore more happiness.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: It’s one of the things was Eye-Opening to me was the first time I heard someone really sort of Stratis Stratify sort of sort of stratify the term of happiness and talk about all of the different emotional experiences that can kind of fit under that umbrella. And I just I remember one of the things that stood out to me was they started by saying relief. How many people in here felt relieved sometime and, you know, recently and saying, well, that’s a form of happiness. You thought something bad was going to happen and it didn’t or it wasn’t quite so bad. Relief is an emotion that some people here listening might remember from like a year or so ago. I don’t know if it exists anymore, but it’s a feeling that we used to have when bad things didn’t happen. I’m just kidding, frankly, because it comes and goes like everything else. But I’d never before thought of relief as a form of happiness. And it you know, it sometimes makes me wonder what kinds of things fall under that umbrella, because I think there’s some subjectivity to that.

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: But I think what you just said, you know, especially what we’re going through right now, is one of the basic of feelings of achieving happiness, is being content, you know. Being…

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: That’s a good…

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: You know, feeling satisfied, feeling safe, you know. And right now it’s just things are just too crazy for any of us to feel a feeling of, you know, being content with our surroundings. There’s so much anxiety that and I think this is important as well, you know, a sense of responsibility, you know, being committed to yourself in a healthy way. There are so many factors that allow us to feel content with ourselves, but right now is just very just difficult to focus on these things when everything in our surrounding area feels so, you know, unsafe, so unknown.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: And I think that’s probably important for the listeners out there to know. Right. Is that right now is a time I know from my work with patients when they come through treatment of any kind right now, just about everybody’s talking about things that are going on. And to know that there’s this it’s kind of like a little bit of a weight in our backpack, you know, that we’re all carrying around with us when things are really hard and at the same time then trying to thrive psychologically and trying to embrace healthy behaviors and healthy thoughts that can help us to be happy in whatever form we can. It kind of it’s interesting, Clare you’re talking I heard two different kinds of content in there, like content and safe with how things are, but then also feeling more content with who we are. Right? And one of those is one of the second one can see us through when the first one’s not available sometimes.

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: No doubt, no doubt. So we truly need to find gratefulness to the things that are solid to us at this time in our life. You could be your wife, you know, a friend, something that feels solid and can give us that feeling of feeling content, at least for that moment when we are with that person like David was talking about when the baby smiles, you know, that’s a feeling of “It’s OK.” You know, “I’ll be OK” because what we’re going through is temporary and people need to understand that. But it’s not going to last forever. And the things that we have that are solid, they will. So it’s it’s important to have our expectations and not to try to oversimplify what happiness is.

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: I think a lot of people oversimplify and just think, oh, I’m not happy or I’m happy. I mean, everything is great or everything is bad. There’s no such thing. You know, it’s it’s the important things, the solid things, the ones you can rely on that should give you that feeling. Content, regardless of what is out there, is going to that shaky moment for a second. And I think that’s important.

David Livingston, LMFT: A writer and mythologist Joseph Campbell said that from his perspective, the purpose of being the purpose of being alive was to have an experience of being fully alive, which means that we can be sad when we’re sad, happy when we’re happy, grateful when there’s things to be grateful for and angry well, when we need to be angry. Well, and that we we can be fully human, and that a lot of addiction or a lot of problems is an inability to tolerate the complexity and the fullness of our humanity. And really, the peace comes from the work of that of not only just tolerating, but being able to actually kind of enjoy all these states. And the kind of the miracle of it, as far as I can tell, is that the more we are not in conflict with our sadness or any part of ourselves or our happiness and people are in conflict with their happiness or gratefulness, the more we can allow those aspects of ourselves, the more alive we feel, more we have to share.

David Livingston, LMFT: If you want to talk about a state of happiness, if it’s got to be somewhere close to that, because then nothing’s left out and because we are always in a state of flux, then then what is there to worry about? And that that’s, you know, we’re going to go through all these things a million times, whether we like it or not. Why not kind of begin to have a philosophy and a way of of seeing that as a way forward. And also, if we could tolerate ourselves, we don’t have to go to opioids or alcohol. Essentially, there’s a better chance of that. But usually to do that, we need help from other people to to actually be able to do that. That’s that’s something that’s very difficult to do alone.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: There’s that sort of self permission, a self-acceptance of our own humanity. I like how you talk about that and how embracing all parts of our emotional make up are part of allowing ourselves to be that person. Do you view that then, David, as part of the allure of intoxication then is to be pulled away from like I can I can live in that all or nothing state or delude myself into it if I’m intoxicated. Right. I can I can transcend the the, you know, emotions shifting underneath me without being able to control them. I can have this superhuman control of how I feel in the moment. Or do you see that as a rejection of the self in a way then?

David Livingston, LMFT: I think I think on some level it’s it’s got to be right because, you know, it’s I think these things are always fairly complicated. Right? Because sometimes it’s just habit. Sometimes it’s what we’ve seen growing up and how other people cope. And we don’t really have much of an understanding of other ways of dealing with things. So it’s not to kind of, you know, blame anybody for this or that. I think it’s in the end, it’s kind of a lack of of really understanding and feeling that there are better options. And I think if that takes hold, people actually, you know, actually coping with drugs and alcohol, you know, this is not a great option. People actually suffer more. It’s it’s really overrated. So. But feeling that and knowing that deeply is, you know, that’s kind of the work of, well, certainly what we all do.

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: But David, Dwight touched on something that I believe is so important to find in any kind of satisfaction is being in control. I think all those feelings that you spoke about that makes us human are incredibly important at different times of our life. But being in control of those feelings, it’s what makes us satisfied. Then there’s something that makes us confident that things are not going to get out of hand, regardless if that’s happiness or anger or sadness. I think it’s so important to, you know, have a limit and control of those feelings. I think that really relates to happiness more than anything else. A balance per se.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Yeah. It gets back to that safety, too. It’s interesting, as we’re talking to some of the that types of happiness we’re talking about are kind of more overarching, like talk about contentment or safety or having kind of appropriate expectations about my life feeling in control instead of out of control. Those are in some ways, those strike me as ones that we feel that sort of even transcend the sensory level immediacy. In other words, where we’re feeling if I feel happy just right now because I’m watching a movie or playing with my kids or something, that’s a that’s an immediate experience. But at the same time, I could be doing something that’s making me sad. But if I have overarching contentment and an overarching safety and feeling of safe control in life, then I’m still happy in a way while and more able to go through that sad period.

David Livingston, LMFT: You know, the truth is we have to come back to kind of step by step, day by day. What is it that it’s going to allow me to kind of get through the day and be OK today and function today and, you know, and it really, really unfolds more like that.

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Like setting goals?

David Livingston, LMFT: That’s right. Like setting goals, sizing things, right, right, not getting too far ahead of yourself and at the same time making sure there is something that you’re moving towards.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: When the when the dynamic of addiction and dependence settles in. David, you mentioned a little bit ago how it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It promises happiness and it lies. Right. What are some ways that sabotage our engagement with real emotional contentment, safety, happiness? What are ways that it disrupts that?

David Livingston, LMFT: It confuses what it is and what it means to really take care of yourself and remember who it was who said to me, so you do the hard thing and life gets easier and you do the easy thing in life gets harder. It’s kind of like that you’re you’re not suffering correctly. Like there’s always going to be things that are hard or, you know, but you want to stuff it towards things that matter, meaning not just suffer but but build and work towards it. And what happens is, is you really can get stronger. You know, I have this experience just recently at my at my house where there were some people in my house doing some work. And, you know, I would see them working. And then I would think, oh, I can do some of that. And I get out and I spend maybe an hour doing it and I just wouldn’t get it done right. And I mean to be OK and fine. And then one day I went out, I just spent like six hours just doing, you know, and got it completely right. Right it did. I just suffered through it until it was exactly done the way it needed to be. And what I got of the physical part of it was the emotional is that all of a sudden I realized I could push myself and I could work that hard and I could be that engaged. And the energy that came from that was immense. Right?

David Livingston, LMFT: So I it sort of freed me up to actually move that into my life in more ways. So, you know, I think that’s what happens is everybody with addiction, you start to get cut off and everything starts to get kind of limited in different ways. Rather than this experience of being fully engaged more.

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: There is a difference as well. Know from avoiding the issue, being happy about it. Like David is saying, there’s got to be a result. I think sometimes most of the time people use substances to avoid the issue. What gives them a false feeling of satisfaction and happiness, but eventually is going to pass and you’re going to need to start substances again to avoid a little longer. And obviously, that avoidance is going to snowball at you. So it’s understanding to know the difference of creating happiness or avoiding distress I think is extremely important, crucial for us as human beings, even when substances are not, is it is used by a lot of people not to face the issues they need to put it to the side, put it to the side where they keep carrying the issues constantly as much as they think they are avoiding it is actually weighing on them. So as David was saying, instead of dealing with it, you know, focusing on it and solving the problem, now they keep on carrying with them.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: That’s why you’d hope for empathy, too, when it comes with when we treat people who are going through this recovery treatment process to away from addiction, I, I know we’ve talked a couple of programs about the empathy that is sometimes lacking, but it’s the way you’re just saying that’s a new angle on that. You would hope that we all know what it’s like to crave happiness and to wish we were happier. We all know what it’s like to feel out of control and we all know what it’s like to avoid our problem-solving. Right. And so as you just put that, that’s even when there’s no substance use involved. So you’d hope we can flip around any of us who maybe haven’t had that heavy-duty, intoxicant abuse problem to turn around and say, oh, I get it, because I can get it a little bit then and say that’s what someone might be looking for. I guess we are. I guess we’re all trying to look for happiness. And I guess many of us avoid our problems sometimes in a very unhealthy pattern. It’s just that it doesn’t emerge as addiction. So nobody calls us on it as much sometimes.

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: And I think what I see out there especially is what we’re going through nowadays. You have to find happiness within as much as this might sound like a Hallmark card or some people looking for somebody else to make you happy, it’s never going to work. You’re not owed by others your happiness you have to build it yourself.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: That gets me thinking a little bit about sometimes people gravitate towards the substance abuse when they have not had some of these experiences we’re talking about of feeling successful, you know, that some people might feel like I went and worked on something either metaphorically or literally for years. And I put my energy into doing what I was told or trying to do things that would make me happy. And they didn’t. And I fell into an addictive process. And now I come out of that and I’m in that person’s shoes. I may not have a lot of confidence that happiness is something I can achieve. Right. What do you what do you think about that or say to someone coming into that where they’re like, I don’t know if I can recapture happiness because I don’t know if I was good at capturing it before some of my problems.

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Now, I think I think happiness is not just a destination. I think a lot of people believe they were not happy before because they were expecting a certain result. It is so important to create happiness through that path.

David Livingston, LMFT: I focus on happiness really is more as a process when there’s a cessation of pain, when there’s an increase in energy, and when we serve each other and were served by each other. I think of some of the major conditions for happiness. I think trying to capture a state is dangerous because I think that’s part of what leads to addiction, because it’s not a capturable state. It’s it’s a developmental understanding of how life works, that we all need to be involved in meaningful work with each other and give and take and receive. Well, and that that was my experience when I spent that day just doing that labor at my work is that wasn’t that the job got done? That was fine. But it was that it freed that that energy and that need was freed up. People really commit to treatment if there’s an immediate freeze of energy that their mood elevates their their addictive tendencies go down. Whatever compulsivity is, they immediately feel better. The second they’ve made a call to come in, they decide, OK, I’m going to do this. And they’ve made that commitment. And there’s just so you know, these are the states and they’re missed. They’re not thought, oh, I’m going to treatment. That’s to state have happiness. But it actually is people’s mood elevates. So, you know, again, I think it’s from my perspective, it’s really just understanding how this is this works.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: And you can miss that if you get caught up in the expectation that that a state is supposed to be captured. I like how you said that. If we think that house is a place I should be. And I think sometimes there’s a lot of pressure to act that way when we and to think we’re supposed to be that way.

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: I believe there’s a difference in you know what David is talking about? I think there’s a difference between the result and the purpose of your action. I think when they call and they schedule treatment, there’s a purpose here. So they are enjoying the road. They are enjoying the process. I think if you wait just for the result, so you just get happy when it actually happens, but commiserate throughout the process.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: And so then having to yeah.

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: The purpose gives you hope, gives you a sense of achievement, gives you like gratitude for the ability to have this opportunity I think is so important for us to, you know, enjoy the path and not just the destination because the destination can change.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: I hadn’t really thought about purpose in that way before, tied with happiness. Now I’m always going to think about it. That’s a really good point.

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: But I think that is in everything in our lives, you know, maybe the destination is going to be better than what they planned in the first place. But if we just concentrate on that, then any change to that is going to be a letdown.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: And even more like a threat to right, it’s going to be a letdown, but also if I’m caught in that addictive dynamic, I’m going to proactively anticipate that threat, that it might mess with my feelings. And then that’s a more of a tendency to want to take that control back of the feelings. I mean, not a healthy control. Right. But I’m out of control. So I’m going to try to reach for a substance for control that is in the short term might feel effective and then feel and then actually throw me out of control.

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Yeah, but again, I think that’s what we said in the beginning of all this is oversimplifying what happiness means.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: But trying to take it in bite-sized chunks right there, trying to evaluate my day, not so much am I happy in a big way or how did I feel all day? It’s like how did I feel for part of the day? You know, what moments stand out for moments of joy or moments of sorrow.

David Livingston, LMFT: It’s I think, Clare, you make a really good point about it, because I think it’s feeling grateful, you know, in bringing up gratitude and reflecting on all the kind of miracles that exist within just a life. It kind of makes you coalesce and gives you a state of some period of kind of reflection on what could also maybe be called happiness is is a way of just feeling like, oh, wow, you know, that there’s that there are amazing things happening. And just that we’re here is amazing from a certain perspective. And so to be able to move in and out of kind of, you know, the daily things you’ve got to get done and this and that and move into a bigger perspective. And just I think that’s a moment. And I you know, I certainly don’t do that enough. I’m always grateful when I hear people remind me of that, you know, and I think that that’s maybe a way to coalesce that part of ourselves.

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Yeah, I think there’s always also a factor of humbleness, a part of us that understand that a lot of things don’t happen, you know, by chance. And if we’re here for healthy, if we have a chance to do something next hour is also, as simple as it sounds, is also a reason to be grateful. And I think a lot of people say feels that in our happiness because of how humbling, you know, having an idea of something bigger than you is. And I’m going a completely different area. It seems that I find that this young new generation is missing, you know, and I think that’s where the entitlement and the need for things, you know, is coming in. There is a lack of humbleness. There is a lack of gratitude for just being and having the opportunity. Does it make sense to you guys?

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: I think it does. I’d like to tie in.

David Livingston, LMFT: It makes so much sense to me. I’m glad you said that.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: I wonder, do you feel like hope ties into that, too? Because I’m thinking about in particular, when you see that difficulty with gratitude, humility sometimes. I mean, yeah, there are some of the trends in the world that kind of lead to that. I know that with a lot of young people I talk to, they also suffer from a loss of as many of them are like a loss of hope, like if I work hard, is going to do any good anyway. And that’s jaded I guess would be one way to say that, you know, to throw that log on the fire and say, if I don’t have…

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: If I thought that if I do this, I’m not going to achieve it anyway, is again is concentrating on the destination and not the purpose of what you’re doing while you’re doing. It is the story that I see. You know, even my three children, you know, they are going to achieve the world. They are going to be the best on again. You know, there is a process, there is a process that you should be happy through it.

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: You know, there is even people that are with us through treatment. You know how many times you hear David? I’m bored. I’m bored and bored. Why are you bored? You’re feeling right now to be grateful you receive that opportunity, you know, to be medically detoxed, you know, and now you have, you know, a new chance here to do this all right, to be emotionally present, to be emotionally grateful for the opportunity of being here, of meeting people. So I think I think this is missing the content that is like people go to restaurants, you know, and let’s just order the dessert and leave. Let’s enjoy dinner. And if the food takes a little while longer to come in, let’s enjoy the conversation.

David Livingston, LMFT: Yes, right, right. That that that is so critical because the that that at its root, the cause of boredom is an inability to move into a process level of life, because when you’re in the process, you there’s no boredom, right? Because you’re just in the midst of life unfolding. Right? It’s not you’re not looking for something that’s a misconception and probably kills happiness quicker than anything I can think of. People who are successful and live good lives live primarily in a process state. They’re not looking for an end result or things to happen. Not not that they’re not making decisions or distinctions or, you know, deciding what they like. More than not, they do. But within that, they’re living primarily in a process level. And really, that’s one of the major parts of of what I think, you know, has to get shifted so that, you know, that people like you’re saying, see, life is we’re going to dinner, OK, we’ll who is not here? But here we are. Right. And so what’s going on? Right and right. And that that process level, it takes immediately out of boredom.

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: All right, I agree, I 100 percent agree, and I think if people just concentrate and again on the moment they know, Dwight, I work with somebody that has some medical issues, you know, chronic disease. And because I’m a workaholic, you know, and I said to this person at one point today, you know, we need to work more and we need to do more. And he said to me, I guarantee you that the lat minute of my breath, I will not think I should have worked a little more. And you know what? I set up that second. I told you, they are absolutely right. You’re absolutely right.

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: So, you know, me thinking and we’ve got to work. We got to do. We got to achieve and stop to think, you know, we got to enjoy. We got we got to do what we need to do. But with enjoyment through it, regardless of, you know, the situation that we have to find, the positive parts of it.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: It’s things that get you here, that kind of mentality. And then once in a while, something takes root at that moment and you’re like, oh, yeah, actually. And it is funny because I think in some ways this is where it ties in a little bit with that addictive model. Right. Even we even use the phrase workaholic. Right. It’s because you enjoy and get meaning out of your work and you’ve built I mean, you built Waismann Method, right? You’ve built it around what you want it to be. And so it’s easy to get into something that we do feel passionate about and enjoy. And we are happy and but to me, what you’re saying there is kind of that risk of neglecting other things and not, well-rounding our lives out and saying like, oh, yeah, I should go home, I’m going to have fun here working till midnight, but I could go home and, you know, and I’ll have fun there that I can’t obtain here.

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: Yeah, correct. Yeah, correct. So is learning how to balance things, you know, learning how to accept our limitations, you know, enjoy every different moment and not just concentrating on achieving one thing, because I think nowadays they don’t just looking around and I keep saying about looking around because the world nowadays is causing so many people to have a hard time getting out of bed and facing the world, I think.

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: We are extremely, extremely lucky to be in the USA, to have a tremendous amount of resources, emotional resources, scientific resources, educational resources, social resources, could it be better? Of course, it could be better. Should we always search for better? Of course. But what are we angry about? We should be happy. We should be grateful, and we should be working to always better ourselves. But I think just waking up and, you know, I was born in a third world country. I know the difference. And I think that’s why I am more patriotic to the United States than most people, that were born here, so is knowing what could be what it could have been and what it is. And if you’re here right now and if you’re able to make choices and you have options – It’s pretty good.

David Livingston, LMFT: It’s really good.

Clare Waismann, RAS/SUDCC: And that itself should bring you happiness if you have the choice to make an option in the next hour. You should be happy. I think that’s really important for people right now as they wake up and think they know I can’t save this world. You have the benefit to face this world right now, and you have options of how you will feel regarding the things that are happening, you can feel sad, you can even feel a little anger, but you should also feel grateful and you should be happy by what you have. And you can’t forget that.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: Thanks so much for joining us again here on the Waismann Method podcast, Waismann Method® podcast is, of course, a creation of Waismann Method® where we help to do detoxification for opioid dependence and treatment and help you start your pathway back to health. Learn more about the Waismann Method and detoxification and the rapid detoxification process by checking us out at opioids.com or follow us @opiates on Twitter.

Dwight Hurst, CMHC: The music for today’s episode is Medical by Clean Mind Sounds. The show is produced by Popped Collar Productions, a company that helps you to get your podcast going, particularly those in the nonprofit and health care sector. Check us out at poppedcollar.net. If you have questions that you would like to see us address, go ahead and tweet those at us @opiates. We’ll be back again soon, asking more questions about how to be healthy and happy. Because when you have questions, you can find answers. When you find answers, you can find hope. Hang in there. We’ll talk to you again soon.