“True success, true happiness lies in freedom and fulfillment.” ~Dada Vaswani
One of the best parts of recovery from toxic relationships is the part where you work on figuring out what makes you happy. But for a lot of survivors of relationship trauma, this is a difficult pursuit. It doesn’t come naturally anymore, or we feel so sad and depressed or anxious that we can’t even begin to consider what “happy” might even look like for us.
You know how I like to look at things like a scientist, right? Well…indulge me for a moment, and let’s look at this scientifically. We’ll start by dissecting three commonly believed theories on happiness.
- Everyone is pursuing happiness, whether they realize it or not.
- Pursuing happiness never leads to happiness.
- Pursuing happiness is selfish.
If you ask me, I think number one is the closest to correct. That has been true for me. The thing is, I didn’t fully understand what it would mean to be happy. Or what it meant for me. And that meant I was often looking at the wrong things to bring me that happiness. It wasn’t until I stopped expecting other people to make me happy that I truly found my own place of genuine peace and joy in my life. I had to do it myself.
That might be exactly why the second theory, “pursuing happiness never leads to happiness,” has been entirely untrue in my life. But I could see how an intelligent person might think this.
But like I said: sometimes when we think we’re pursuing our own happiness by pushing forward in a bad situation (such as staying in a toxic relationship), we’re actually stopping ourselves from it by not doing what we know in our hearts we should.
And the idea that pursuing happiness is selfish? That is just ridiculous. As long as what makes you happy is legal and doesn’t hurt anyone, why would it be selfish to want to be happy? This is just some negative, outdated ideology, in my opinion.
As a survivor, that pursuit doesn’t always feel possible, which is why I developed this Miracle exercise. I use it with my clients and it really helps them get clear on what they want.
Try the Miracle Exercise at Home
Here’s how you do it: Sit down with a notebook and pen, or open up a document on your device. Read the following and write down the answers to the questions listed. Don’t overthink the questions – just write down the first thing that comes to mind, no matter how silly or insignificant it seems.
Imagine that tomorrow morning, you wake up and a miracle has happened. Your life is now perfect in every single way. You don’t have to worry about money and you have everything you need. Spend a few minutes imagining how that would look for you. Then, read the following points and answer the questions for each in your notebook or device.
Imagine the Environment:
Where do you live?
What is the house or living space like?
Where do you wake up, and what does the room look like?
Get up and walk around – what does the rest of the living space look like?
How does it smell?
What do you hear?
Imagine the Household:
When you wake up, who’s sleeping next to you, if anyone?
Do you live alone or with others?
How many people live in your house or living place and how are they related to you?
Imagine a Day:
What would be the perfect way to spend that perfect day?
What do you do when you get out of bed?
How does your day go after that?
Imagine the whole perfect day in this new perfect life.
Imagine a Lifestyle:
What would you do if you didn’t need money?
Would you have a large circle of friends, or just a few?
How would you spend your time and with whom?
Would you want to be alone all the time, or ever?
What would you do all day, every day?
Would it be the same thing every day, or would it change each day?
Imagine Life Goes On:
As your perfect life goes on, what would it look like?
What other sorts of people, situations, and things would you want to have in your day-to-day “perfect” life?
Where do you go from here?
What does the future look like in your perfect world?
What other details do you want to include?
Try to be as detailed as you can with your answers. Be honest and don’t be afraid to be “weird” or “silly.” You’re the only one who will see this stuff, so be as outrageous as you want to be. When you’re finished, take a look around the page and start thinking on what you wrote. Leave it to “steep” overnight or even just a few hours, and then come back and look again. Think about your answers and how they might start to be translated into your current life. And, think about how some of them might become part of a larger plan in your life – more of a long-term strategy as opposed to quick-hit changes.
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Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.