Choose to Be Happy – WOMEN in RECOVERY




CHUG like the ‘Little Engine that Could …’

  • CHOICE to replace or convert the situation,
  • HARMONY of motives through self-exploration,
  • UNDERSTANDING the situation and creating a road map,
  • GOALS (to lower anxiety, set goals LAPDS — lower, alternative, process, dynamic, , simple)


OPTIMISM that I can eventually be happy no matter what the outcome,

FOCUS on the ball and ultimate concern.


Through strengthening your Higher Self and increased mental control,




Clients come into my office with many types of problems. Many of these problems are about concerns over which they have no immediate external control. People worry about their relationships, careers, finances, addictions, health, and everything imaginable.

Some have almost given up hope and are seriously considering suicide. We can do nothing in one hour that will actually eliminate any of these external problems. We cannot reform partners, find a new job, or find sudden wealth. All we can do is think and talk.

Yet, amazingly, almost all of my clients leave my office feeling much better than when they came in. If they cannot immediately change the external causes which they believe cause their misery, then how can they immediately feel better? They can achieve more mental control of the situation and increase hope. Since mental control is the most important factor regulating emotions, clients can feel much better in less than an hour.

External conditions are important to our happiness; but most of the external conditions we assume to be essential, are not. When we believe that we cannot be happy unless the external world matches our desires, then we lose ‘mental control‘.

The beliefs:

  • that no particular external conditions are essential for happiness and
  • that we can mentally control our emotions are foundations for mental control of emotions.

There are limits on external events, but no limits on thoughts. Real world events must stay planted in the ground, but our thoughts can soar. If we achieve mental control over these thoughts and emotions, then achieving control over the external events is not so important.


One inner conflict can spread to many situations and interfere with our harmonious functioning in all of them. Resolving one underlying conflict can increase harmony throughout our lives as the following example illustrates.

Two different clients faced two different tragic situations. These situations dramatically changed their lives.

One: I will call Mary–developed an illness at age 19, which left her with no vision. Mary had loved visual beauty, reading, driving a car, going to movies and plays, and participating in many activities with her friends. She also loved her independence. After losing her sight, she could not even go for a walk by herself if it meant being in traffic; and her social contacts became much more limited.

There was no way that Mary could get her sight back–that was out of her control. She also had new limits in many life areas. She could never again drive a car, watch TV, or see a sunset. Although she had new limits to the real control she had over the external world, she discovered how to get mental control over the situation and her emotions.

Once Mary believed that she could find different routes to happiness, she began finding them. She found new routes to happiness in old activities she loved. She even learned how to “watch” TV and movies by listening and using her imagination. When she wanted to go for a scenic drive, she would ask people to describe the scenery and she would create mental images of what she saw. She continued to go with her friends to the same places. She even went to singles bars and danced.

She also found many new routes to happiness through a new view of life, new activities, and an inner world that she learned to love.

She told me that her loss of sight had opened doors and created a world of opportunities previously unknown to her. It is ironic that she is so much happier than most people with normal vision. She brought light into my life and I will never forget her. She was so happy and radiant that she helped me see how even loss of sight can be overcome by living in harmony with our outer and inner worlds.

Too much dependence upon others

means loss of mental control over our happiness.

Two: I will named her Nancy, also had a tragic loss. Her husband suddenly died. She had been extremely close to him; and had depended upon him as her main source of happiness in many life areas.

Nancy had feelings of helplessness, anxiety, and depression because she had lost control over much of her life. She had been so dependent upon her husband for taking care of her that she had little confidence she could Take Action for the care of herself. She had developed a strong belief that he made her happy and had little confidence that she could make herself happy. Nancy believed that the center of control over her happiness was external–her husband–and not internal.

Deciding to take responsibility for our own happiness increases our mental control. To get mental control over her life she had to learn that she could make herself happy and develop realistic plans for getting her values satisfied. She learned how to do the scary things her husband had done for her such as pay the bills or get the car fixed.

She was feeling especially lonely and out of control when alone at home. Therefore, it became especially important for her to learn ways that she could make herself happy when she was at home alone. She found ways to entertain herself during times of the week when she had been used to doing things with her husband–such as Saturday night. Nancy changed expectations that she shouldn’t be alone and thoughts that she was weird if she went out alone.

Understanding and planning establish mental control. The essence of mental control is understanding and planning. These are means of cognitively processing the input at an optimal level. Nancy worked on understanding the situation and its causes and on developing realistic plans for getting her values satisfied. Her increased understanding and planning gave her the mental control and relief she sought.

It was not necessary that she had not yet carried out those plans. Of course, once she did successfully complete her plans and get her values satisfied, then her confidence was strengthened even more.

Knowing the limits of mental control gives us more mental control.

  • After reading books about feeling happier, do you ever feel guilty because you aren’t happier?

You may have turned the ultimate concern of maximizing happiness into an expectation that you should feel happy all the time–or there is something wrong with you. That only leads to unproductive guilt. Aim for gradual improvement (with some backsliding) instead of being stubborn and living an ‘all or nothing’ life choice.  The fact that you are aware of your own mind power is the first step in reaching all your goals, regardless of how quickly you achieve them, or how often you change them.


In his review of research on factors related to happiness, Ed Diener (2002) says, “Thus, one determinant of people’s adaptation to conditions often might be the extent to which they alter their goals when new circumstances prevail. Thus, goal flexibility may be a key to [happiness] in adverse circumstances.”

Mental control and hope, are these MAGIC?

  • Does it seem like magic that–without any real world changes–we can feel a lot better and still be honest with ourselves?
  • It isn’t magic, but it is powerful medicine!
  • What is the essence of this magic?


HAPPINESS is not caused by external conditions.

  • Happiness measures the harmonious functioning of our brain– how optimally it is challenged and how much it is learning.
  • Over challenge causes over arousal emotions like anxiety and anger.
  • Under challenge causes under arousal emotion, like boredom and depression.
  • We can adjust our emotions like a thermostat by adjusting the challenge level.
  • Belief in mental control seems like magic, because that belief alone helps get control.

Take Actionperhaps …

Happiness may be simply a realistic HOPE.

Excerpts from Tom G. Stevens, PhD.


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