The search for better is inherent in us all. It may appear as the drive toward economic success, public validation, or improved relationships. However, the primary thing we desire, according to Ira Israel is to be loved unconditionally.
In his new book, How To Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re An Adult: A Path To Authenticity and Awakening Israel helps readers navigate the journey from conditional to unconditional love. He also suggests that it is when we let go of our false selves that we tend to find true happiness.
“Many people have default voices in their heads that tell them that whatever they do is not good enough. This hedonic treadmill manifests as phrases such as ‘I’ll be happy when I have a better…home, job, relationship, salary, vacation, automobile.’ The origin of this voice is the wounded child inside of us subconsciously and retroactively seeking the acceptance, approval, and love of primary caregivers (parents, teachers, siblings, and so on) who withheld love, loved us conditionally, or treated us in ways we did not understand,” writes Israel.
But we also live in a society that overvalues external appearances and falsely entwines happiness with features of the American dream; doing well in school, landing a great job, marrying the right person, and so on.
For some, the desire for acceptance and love can be so strong that they develop a façade that then becomes their reality.
“Many people become so closely identified with their façade that they no longer know who they are, other than what it says on their business cards, resumes, Facebook, or LinkedIn profiles, Instagram and Twitter accounts, or in Google searches. Some younger people even judge or score their lives daily by the quantity of social media followers they have,” writes Israel.
Israel poses an important question: Is unhappiness itself is the byproduct of living in a society that continuously forces us to jump through unrealistic hoops for the unconditional love we crave?
This constant striving often results in resentment.
“When babies want to sleep and are forced to eat, that foments resentment. When children want to play and are told to do math, that foments resentment. When teenagers want to explore sexuality and are told that they cannot, or should not, that foments resentment. When college students want to be artists and are told they must study to become doctors or lawyers or engineers, that foments resentment,” writes Israel.
Romantic love also tends to promise many unrealistic outcomes. Israel quotes Robert A. Johnson, author of We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love, who calls love the “single greatest energy system in the Western psyche.”
In the midst of fleeting passion, we spend much of the time feeling a deep sense of loneliness, alienation, and frustration over our own inability to make genuinely loving and committed attachments.
“Usually we blame other people for failing or being incompetent in some way. But maybe we subconsciously create problems in or sabotage or implode our relationships,” writes Israel.
We can also become stuck on the hedonic treadmill chasing the American dream; enshrouded in an occupation that we didn’t really choose, is not our true calling, and does not feed our heart and soul. These “golden handcuffs” can easily provoke anxiety and depression.
The questions we should be asking instead, writes Israel, are centered around what really makes us happy, what we were taught about happiness, and what narratives promised happiness.
“Isn’t it ironic that the supposed prizes of our brand of capitalism pull us apart and push us into big houses with fences, exclusive first-class lounges, country clubs, private boxes at sporting events and concerts and so on?” Israel asks.
According to Israel, questioning the society in which we were raised and its many misleading premises, is a fundamental part of becoming happy.
“We must be proactive about our thinking if we want to be happy,” writes Israel.
Hypocrisy is a surefire path to misery, and seeking peace in Western society requires congruency and a matching of our inner worlds with our outer ones.
What we need, Israel tells us, is new level of consciousness. One that allows us to see things in a different light, to embrace paradoxes, to shed our fears and prejudices, and to shift our internal experiences to allow for better perceptions, narratives, and outcomes.
“There is no plan B. The only possible panacea is authenticity, which is difficult but must be attempted and practiced on a daily basis. It is up to us to break the chained of unskillful solutions that were handed down to us, to consciously decide who we want to be, what relationships will nourish us, and what type of world we want to live in,” writes Israel.
Challenging our assumptions of happiness, authenticity, and culture, Israel writes with refreshing elegant, simple, and clear prose, offering readers all the tools to live more fully, authentically, and happily.
How To Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re An Adult: A Path To Authenticity and Awakening
New World Library
Softcover, 163 pages