Are You Living With a Fear of Happiness?
A few days back I was working with a client who has been trying to set up her own business for many years but never quite getting it off the ground. She finally decided to book a session with a life coach to try and fathom why she couldn’t achieve her “ultimate” dream.
While we spoke, I asked her if she could identify any limiting beliefs she held. The usual ones came up – I am not good enough; I don’t believe in myself – and then she shared one that blew my mind. She told me her biggest fear was losing happiness.
Not only did this fear resonate with me but it got me thinking about this (seemingly) irrational fear. Why would someone fear happiness, let alone lose it? Can we lose happiness? Does this make you a sad person if youfear being happy?
Read on if this is one of the deep-seated fears that’s holding you back from your own greatness and from achieving all your goals and dreams.
Is There a Phobia of Happiness?
Believe it or not but there is a phobia of happiness! It’s got a name and it’s called cherophobia (the name alone makes me think of cheer and cherub). This phobia describes an irrational fear or aversion to being happy. "Chero", in Greek, means to rejoice. So, if you fear rejoicing then you could be living with cherophobia.
I’m always wary of labeling any condition so don’t go and think you’ve got some disastrous affliction now because you fear happiness. But, it’s good to know there are enough people out there, like you, who prefer to avoid feeling happy.
If you’re wondering if you’ve got cherophobia, ask yourself the following questions:
Do I believe sadness always follows a joyful event?
If I win the lottery do I believe bad luck will follow shortly afterward?
Do I believe there will be bad consequences whenever I am happy?
If I am happy, do I believe that I will lose everything that’s good?
Rate your answers between 1 and 10, with 10 being a resounding yes. If your ratings are high, then it’s possible you have cherophobia.
What Causes a Fear of Happiness?
All your fears are based on your beliefs. The same applies to your fear of being happy. The trick is identifying the beliefs that cause you to develop a fear of happiness. I always take my client back to their childhood as that is where most, if not all, our beliefs stem from.
With my client who spoke of her aversion to happiness, she could easily identify that her fear came from her mother. From a very young age, she remembered her mother always saying “Something will go wrong” whenever her mother was having a good time. And, her predictions always came right!
This gave my client enough evidence, in her mind, that if you have happy times, be prepared for the bad consequences. What was happening here was a self-fulfilling prophecy that had been passed down through the family (my client was also able to identify that her grandmother had the same fear.)
A negative belief naturally results in negative expectations, reinforcing for my client and her maternal family members that being happy was surely going to result in being unhappy pretty soon afterward!
We underestimate the power of our beliefs, both limiting and empowering. And, when you hold onto these beliefs, your emotions and actions are projected outwards, creating the reality you see. Limiting beliefs result in negative consequences while empowering beliefs results in positive outcomes. It’s really that simple.
What’s not simple is:
Identifying your limiting beliefs
Unpacking or unraveling those beliefs
Letting them go
Traumatic events, both physically and emotionally, can trigger a deep, innate fear of being happy. I, myself, can clearly identify times when I’ve been ridiculously happy, only to have something go wrong soon afterward.
It didn’t take me long to start not trusting happiness because I believed that I would lose everything associated with that happy event very quickly.
For my client, whenever she visualized her business doing well, she felt excited and happy. However, as soon as she felt these emotions she shut them down as fast as she could. Her thought process went along these lines:
“If my business succeeds then I will be happy which means my business will fail very quickly.”
So, subconsciously, she chose to make sure her business NEVER succeeded. Her fear of happiness was holding her back from achieving her ultimate dream of running a business that would fulfill her life purpose.
How to Trust Happiness Again
You’re halfway there to finding and trusting happiness again when you acknowledge the belief driving your fear of being happy. And, there could be more than one limiting belief that supports your core belief that bad consequences are the natural outcomes of happy events.
When unpacking limiting beliefs, you need to do the following:
Identify where the belief comes from: Once you know, ask yourself, “Is this my story to carry?” For my client, it was about giving the story “back” to her mother and grandmother. There was no need for her to carry this same belief herself.
Come up with evidence: To validate your beliefs, you need actual evidence. You can describe these facts such as, “When I got my degree with distinctions, I was diagnosed with cancer soon afterward.” or “I treated myself to a beautiful dress but after sending it to the drycleaners it came back all shrunken.” While these may seem like validation of your belief that it’s dangerous to ever be happy, are they really justifiable for taking away your happiness?
Cast doubt: Now, this is a tricky one but crucial to letting go of beliefs that no longer serve you. By asking questions such as, “This event happened when I was 12 years old. Do I really need to still carry that story now that I am 54 years old?” you’re creating doubt around the evidence supporting your belief. By casting doubt, you’re already breaking down the validity of that belief.
When you’re ready to let go of your limiting beliefs, you can install empowering beliefs. These could include:
I am worthy of happiness
I am safe
I am good enough
I believe in myself
I am responsible for my own happiness
You might find this book by Richard Carlson, "You Can Be Happy No Matter What: Five Principles for Keeping Life in Perspective" useful when working on ways to find happiness again.
There’s always a lag between installing positive beliefs and seeing positive outcomes but this doesn’t mean it’s not working. Instead, imagine your limiting beliefs are taking a slow bow and preparing to exit your mind. This could take some time as you go through the process and until then you need to “fake it until you make it”.
An excellent book for understanding beliefs and how to shift them is Jane Roberts, "The Nature of Personal Reality: Specific, Practical Techniques for Solving Everyday Problems and Enriching the Life You Know." It was this book that finally helped me make sense of my limiting beliefs and releasing them.
Eventually, upon a moment, you’ll wake up one morning and realize that you’ve been happy for a while and that nothing bad has happened. And, when bad things do happen, you’ve learned not to associate it with your happy times.
Life happens and you’re always going to have your ups and downs. But, it doesn’t mean unhappy events are a result of you having fun.
Tips for Releasing Limiting Beliefs in the Shamanic Way
Whenever I’m working on my own limiting beliefs or helping my clients to shift their own, I always find shamanic ways of doing it. Besides doing the actual exercise mentioned above, I also like to do the following:
Full Moon rituals: Full Moons are a good time for releasing negative beliefs. I always burn a little fire and write a note expressing my gratitude for the lessons I’ve learned from my limiting beliefs. I then burn the note, releasing my beliefs at the same time. Lighting a candle and burning your limiting beliefs this way works just as well.
Ask the tarot for advice: I use my tarot cards to show me what I can do to release any beliefs or fears that are holding me back.
Visualize: I visualize releasing my negative beliefs and then replacing them with empowering beliefs. I see these new, positive beliefs as bringing me joy, happiness, and love. I see myself as being happy, joyful, and excited about life. I make sure I link this visual with the event I want to achieve such as being successful in a business project.
Meditate: A wonderful exercise is to use meditation to install your positive beliefs. It’s important to make a list of elevated emotions you associate with those positive beliefs such as excitement, fulfillment, freedom, happiness, and love. While setting the intention to install your new beliefs, make sure you FEEL those emotions deeply.
Live in the moment: I tap into the power of NOW and live in the moment. Instead of letting the past hold me back and the future overwhelms me, I choose to live NOW. I work with what I’ve got now and I show gratitude for all I have and for all that is going well NOW.
Keep life simple: Instead of trying to get grandiose with my ideas, I keep it simple. I know what makes me happy (spending time with my partner and my dog in the garden is an example) and I make sure I follow through with these events. It’s all about finding the ordinary moments and turning them into extraordinary occasions.
It’s essential you don’t dwell on your limiting beliefs once you’ve identified them. This isn't about self-bashing, becoming a victim, or worse, blaming others for your lot in life. It’s about becoming responsible for your own emotions and actions. And, you do this by acknowledging what’s holding you back, forgiving, accepting, giving thanks, and releasing.
Once you truly let go, watch the space! And, be prepared for happiness.
Another great way to support you while working on releasing your limiting beliefs is to surround yourself with the right community. That's right. Make sure the people in your circle are positive, inspire you, and motivate you to be happy and more fulfilled. This is the kind of energy you need around you to find your happiness and to feel safe with it.
Having a fear of happiness is more common than you realize. It’s understanding what drives that fear that’s essential so you can let it go. Life is meant to be full of joy, love, and light. I truly believe that.
It’s about seeing the magic and trusting the process of LIFE. While I accept there will be times of sorrow (what would joy be without ever experiencing sadness?), I’ve chosen to believe that it’s not a reflection of allowing myself to be happy. My client was also able to see this and as I write this, she is busy releasing her limiting beliefs around happiness. I expect to see her business flourish soon.
If you’re holding onto limiting beliefs and it impacts how you experience happiness, contact me today. And, let’s get you back on the road of personal freedom, confidence, and of course, happiness.
This post was originally published on May 6th, 2021, and published on August 24th, 2022.
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