Most of us aren’t very good at happiness and remain there about as long as we might on a skateboard or a pogo stick. Part of it is being carried about by the natural ebb of flow of events. But we treat happiness like the universe was giving us a shoulder massage and finally hit the right spot with the right pressure. “Oh yeah, that’s it! Keep doing that!” we say with gratitude as the universe moves off, perhaps sticking its finger in our eye as it goes. “Stupid universe” we can’t help but feel. That’s one issue, that a high watermark for happiness based on good luck, is like the apogee of the roller coaster: For best results, hold your hands in the air, scream with a crazy ecstasy, and laugh with your friends about it later. We don’t often learn much from our highs, and when they pass we may feel rather flat inside as if we had been fooled into joy, then returned to the disappointing truth. Again.

This feeling that reality kind of sucks is a large but subtle challenge. It grows out of the individual blend of shame, grief, and fear that plays all day through our minds like an infernal top 40 radio station. Every moment of grief, fear, and shame becomes a piece of track connecting it to the next, and the next. This continuity becomes the world you recognize as your own, the self you recognize as you, and defines your expectations of what your life can be. Worse yet, it becomes reassuringly familiar and all of us need a place in our lives that IS reassuringly familiar. Part of the self then defends the borders of this dismal place against change. When we are happy, there can be a feeling of disequilibrium that the agents of our inner life work to “correct”. This is not usually something we are conscious of doing.

Things have to get pretty bad to form big enough cracks in your familiar world to shine a light on how mechanically self-defeating this is. This opportunity is almost always offered up by a broken heart. This can be a moment of true change if we consciously question and explore the reasons for the heartbreak. Feeling unlovable, and simple, robotic codependence being the most common. If a sufficiently bright flash of understanding happens, during this critical moment of searing pain it is possible to step outside of the templated sad story. This is a prison of belief taken for granted, you must achieve a minimum distance from your life story to see the path to freedom.

A broken heart contains escape keys. Find them, and head for daylight. Discover something new.