One reason happiness is so elusive is that people tend to center their search around “me.” What do I need to do to make myself happier? The problem here is that you’re being self-serving and looking for a recipe that is defined by your needs, your frustrations, your anxieties, your difficulties.
“But,” you ask, “how can I possibly help myself if I don’t center my plans and actions around myself?”
Here’s a thought: Instead of putting yourself as the main ingredient of the recipe, take yourself out of the recipe. Consider the possibility that, whatever your difficulty, using the emotions it generates within you will increase your sensitivity to others who suffer from trauma and conflicts similar to yours. This empathy will not only help others, but yourself as well. That’s right, taking yourself out of the formula will encourage you to reach out to others. The bonus? You will discover that reaching out will bring you ample helpings of personal satisfaction, and help you cope better with your problems.
Empathy. We usually think of it in terms of helping others. If you have been previously victimized or are presently dealing with emotional upheaval in similar ways as another, who can understand their plight more than you?
The true human beauty of empathy, however, is that both the giver (you) and the taker (the other) reap the psychological benefits. There is no more effective therapy than empathic service to others.
Whatever your plight, you are not alone in your difficulties. The best way to facilitate your ability to cope is to make sure that, as you travel the road to finding personal satisfaction, you leave no one behind. In that way you will find yourself participating in the richness of the human adventure.