The other day, a friend of mine posted on his Facebook (loosely translated from Hungarian) “Sometimes we go through life thinking we’re unhappy, but when we look back we realize that we were actually happy.” My husband and I were driving around thinking about this. How many times we’ve been struggling financially or having some kind of mini-crisis (or full-blown crisis) on our plates, simply wishing for life to be some other way. Pining for a better future that fits more with our desires for freedom, stability, and success. Then we always end up looking back with fond memories of the times that we were so eager to get past.
I always noticed this idealization phenomenon, looking back with positive feelings of nostalgia for even the most trying of times. I long attributed this to having a poor memory for the bad times and exaggerating the positive memories by focusing on the most positive feelings from that time. But my thought now is, “What if the positive emotion was there the whole time?” What if, even with all the struggling and suffering and wishing things could be some other way, underneath was always contentment. Maybe it was only the thoughts and the feelings that came up as a result of those thoughts that masked this contentment from me.
This is an important sticking point for me. Seven and a half years ago, when I had my experiences of ego-transcendence, one thing that became immediately evident to me was how much I was constantly struggling and suffering. I was never really at peace, and always had discontent, even when I thought that I was happy. I thought that I was happy because I lied to myself and told myself that I was happy. I chose to believe the lie. So, ever since then, I’ve been hyper-aware of my suffering, since I don’t want to fool myself into believing myself to be happy when I’m really not. The problem here is that I mistrust positive emotions. I believe myself to be self-deceiving when I think that I’m happy, even if it’s the case. So, I have little intellectual clarity as to whether my happiness is genuine or not.
So, there is a resistance there to feeling happiness, as clearly I must still be suffering if I have not transcended the ego. If I had transcended the ego, then I would actually feel positive. But since I have not, I must be unhappy and lying to myself every time a positive emotion comes up. The ego identified are always discontent… me-thinks. But this is shortsighted and reflects a distorted understanding of the memories of my experiences of ego-transcendence. What I realized then, was that everything is one thing and that one thing is inherently fulfilled, inherently valid, and unconditionally loving. And I am both part and whole to that one thing.
So, it is shortsighted for me to believe that people who have not transcended the ego can never truly be happy, despite my experiences seeming to imply this. This has been a false conclusion that I came to in my attempt to understand an experience that I had in a completely different state of understanding from how I am now. It makes no sense, in light of the fact that everyone’s true nature is infinite well-being, to believe that anyone is actually locked out from well-being due to having an ego. It may be the case that my mind has been telling me that I’m unhappy and that I’ve just been choosing to believe it due to my view that the ego-identified can’t be truly happy. So, the well-being and happiness is already there, it’s just my thoughts that obscure it from view.
So, in my attempts at self-honesty, I end up self-deceiving. And it is this very self-deception that perpetuates the identification with ego and all the suffering and struggling that come with it. Then comes more self-deception and the cycle perpetuates.