At the beginning of this year, I started reading Derren Brown’s book, ‘Happy: Why everything is more or less fine,’ and whilst I finished the book months ago, it’s effect on me has been profound.
The book takes the reader on a journey through the philosophical history of what it actually means to be happy and how one might get there. Along the way, Derren exposes the dangers of poorly thought-out modern day ‘bandwagons’ like positive thinking, self-belief and setting goals, demonstrating how these methods can actually increase anxiety rather than the opposite.
Now… I have a terrible memory, which means that I’ve probably already forgotten the ins and outs of what the Stoics and the Epicureans said and did.
But one thing that has stuck with me – something that I’ve come back to time and time again, when things are good and things are bad, when I’m struggling or my friends are struggling – is this idea that it’s not the events themselves with cause pain, suffering and anguish, but rather the story that we tell ourselves about them.
If I’d learned nothing else in 2018, I think this would have been enough.
That’s why I keep going on about it!
And though I’m not entirely sure Derren would appreciate me quoting from Tony Robbins, a man who epitomises modern-day positive thinking and self-help, I’m going to anyway:
Tony Robbins says, “It’s not the events of our lives that shape us but our beliefs about what those events mean.”
Something happens and we tell ourselves a story about what this means. We form beliefs based on this information… and these beliefs are at the core of what we say, think, do and feel.
Learning to observe your ‘inner-author’ from a distance, and detaching yourself from the stories you’ve been creating, will allow you to regain control of what things mean to you, or about you, or whether they need to mean anything at all.