By Tracey Cleantis, author of The Next Happy
As a therapist, I see a whole lot of cognitive distortions when people are imagining what it will be like when their ship comes in (no one ever imagines the port tax or the sea sickness that might be a part of ship ownership). People are SURE how they will feel if X happens. However, when X happens very often people differently. Want to know why? Read on!
Myth #1: “I know exactly how we I am going to feel”
We tend to anticipate how we are going to feel when the dream comes true. How? Happy!! Duh? Well, the reality is that we often feel another way. We imagine that when we get the letter that says we got into the school or the call that says we got the job that we will be bouncing off the ceiling. However, the day comes and it is nice and everything, only it just isn’t how we imagined it to be. In our dreams we rarely include the realities, the challenges, and the difficulties that are a real part of life. When we are fantasizing about getting a big house it is not common to imagine the all the expenses and annoyances that come with the upkeep. No, in our fantasy all is easy and peasy and challenge free. Life is, as you may have noticed, not so challenge free. Not surprisingly, sometimes folks even have a little depression and disappointment when their dream comes true because it doesn’t feel exactly as they imagined it would.
Myth #2: “I will be forever happy”
We believe that when we get the guy, the job, the degree, the house in the Hamptons, and ‘that car” we will be happy forever more. Only no matter how big the dream come true is, we are creatures who have hedonic set points. What does that mean? It means that no matter what happens to us, both good and bad, we tend to, after a time, go back to the same level of happiness that we had before the dream came true. Big achievements don’t impact our long-term happiness the way we will imagine they will. What does impact out happiness are the small things that we can do everyday. According to Shawn Anchor, author of The Happiness Advantage, there are simple things we can go everyday that will make us happy: mediate, practice gratitude, and practicing random acts of kindness. These small actions are much likelier to impact our long-term happiness than the fulfillment of a big dream.
Myth #3: “Having this dream come true will finally get me the love, validation, and acknowledgement from others that I really want.”
Okay, let’s say that actually happened, which by the way likely it won’t, think about how crappy that would feel. What if all of a sudden people liked and loved you more because of achieving the dream, wouldn’t that feel like a sort of false prize? Doesn’t it actually feel better to have people like, love and value you for being you and not because you have, do or own something? So this is one myth that if you could mange to make a truth (and you may), you might not actually want this one to come true, because I speculate that it wouldn’t feel as wonderful as you imagine it would.
Myth #4: "Getting this dream is going to change how I feel about myself. I am now going to have fantastic self-confidence”
Don’t get me wrong, I fully acknowledge how gratifying it can be to achieve something and how it is possible it is to along the path to dream fulfillment to build your self-confidence and use those steps to affirm all the great qualities and abilities it took to make it happen. However, it is also true that people achieve great things and sometimes still don’t’ think they are good enough. You have heard of people in power feeling like a fraud even though they rightfully earned their position, it is not an uncommon occurrence. It is important, with or without a dream come true, to see our strengths, achievements and value. Self-confidence should not only stem from achievement, but rather from being the person you want to be and living by the values that matter most to you.
Myth #5: “I won’t want anything else"
No matter how big the dream, let’s say it was to win an Oscar or the lottery or to get engaged or to finally have the house on the lake, whatever it is—we very often we tell ourselves that once we get it we won’t want anything else and that will make us happy for all time and eternity. However, the truth is that when we get something we are super happy about it for a little while and then all of a sudden the Oscar loses its glow, the house by the lake is a little too small and then we find ourselves wanting something else. We are simply lying to ourselves when we are tell ourselves that this one thing is the thing that will fulfill our needs for all time. The truth is that outside things can’t satisfy us when we are actually looking for them to give us inner qualities like love, security, peace and fulfillment. Those are things that we can have with or without the dream come true and should be cultivated in our here and now.
About the Author
Tracey Cleantis, LMFT, is a speaker, writer and a practicing psychotherapist. She is the “Dr. Kevorkian of Dreams” and is a personal and professional authority on how to let go of what isn’t working and to grieve, move on, and get to the to the other side where happiness is waiting for you.
Her blog was named one of the top ten blogs for Francophiles by Blogs.com and is rated one of the top 10 psychology and memoir blogs. In addition, Tracey has written “Freudian Sip,” a column at Psychology Today, and contributes to the Huffington Post. She has been featured on Fox News and in Redbook, Yahoo News and Salon.com. Her writing on finding happiness after infertility was featured in Jamie Cat Callan’s Bonjour, Happiness! (Citadel Press, 2011).
Tracey is a passionate writer who combines wit, wisdom, humor, theory made accessible, and a whole lot of heart. She speaks on grief, infertility, letting go of dreams, finding unexpected happiness after loss.
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