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Your Belief in Happiness is a Trap

Updated: Feb 28, 2020

If you believe happiness is your right you will demand others give it to you. It is not the duty of other people to give you anything, let alone happiness.

If you believe you should be feeling happiness in your life and you do not feel happy then you will be prone to believe you must be doing something wrong or not doing something right.

Those thoughts are a brain stew recipe for anger, anxiety and depression. You will get trapped in the negative thought cycle that can be very difficult to get out of.

The trap is in the belief. The belief so stated in the Declaration of Independence that we have been “endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights”, one of which is the “Pursuit of Happiness”. Over the years we have done so many things to twist that proclamation that it has taken on a mythology of its own. Some of us may actually believe it to be a Constitutional Law. It is not.

The Constitution, Bill of Rights, does not list happiness as a right. The declaration was only a claim by a few powerful people of a nation who wanted to free the nation from its ties to another nation. And it was only a proclamation for the “pursuit of happiness” and not happiness itself. And no average Joe or Jane were consulted on this proclamation. I doubt anybody living at that time who were struggling to survive day to day believed they were due some happiness.

Fast Forward to the present and the pursuit of happiness will vary from person to person. My pursuit may look different to yours.

So, nobody owes you anything. Nor is it the government’s duty to make its people happy. That said, it should not make its people miserable, either.

The brain stew recipe for anger, anxiety and depression are due to the mixture of cognitive distortions you may be holding. One of the distortions you may be adding to your stew might be “should” statements. “I should be happy. It is my right. People ought to treat me with respect.” Or maybe you're adding the distortion of “fortune-telling”. “If I do these things or get these things, I’ll be happy. If his person does that thing then I can be happy.”

You may have discovered that getting those things you wanted did give you a state of satisfaction. For awhile. So with that desire satiated, another desire pops up that you think you need to have to fill you up emotionally. It is a never ending cycle.

A few things you may want to keep in mind as you consider your pursuit:

  • It is up to you to embark on your personal pursuit of happiness.

  • Look at how you are hindering your pursuit and don’t look to others to provide your happiness.

  • Happiness is not an end goal. It is an emotional state and emotional states do not last forever.

Emotional states change minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, day-to-day, situation-to-situation. A good experiment to do would be to pay attention to when you have a feeling pop up and see how long it lasts. When has an emotion every lasted forever? Or more than five minutes? It doesn’t make sense to believe happiness would last forever.

When people win the Super Bowl or a Gold Medal that initial jolt of joy is fantastic. However, it diminishes over time. Emotions have a shelf life. They are energy and energy drains. You will need to recharge. Your thoughts play a role in how you will recharge, which is why thoughts and emotions are so closely tied together. It is rare to have one without the other.

It will help you in your growth to explore why you think you are entitled to happiness and how that is affecting your current emotional state. If you are feeling angry, sad, hurt, disgruntled, about not obtaining happiness, it could do wonders for you to explore the cognitive distortions related to those uncomfortable emotions.

One way to free yourself from the trap of happiness is to get joy from the journey. It is hard to be trapped when you are on the move.


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