The Umpteen Keys to Happiness.

In a nutshell: we evolved happiness. It’s our reward for satisfying short-term and long-term innate needs.

One of those long-term needs is to feel safe, and the best way to feel safe is to feel resilient – to feel that whatever happens in life, we can handle it.

Another is to feel connected with ‘the tribe’. The best way to feel connected with the tribe is to feel that we contribute to the tribe and feel valued for our contribution.

There are other long-term innate needs, but this book looks at how we can satisfy those big two, and in the process, build ourselves person who is happy.

The entire book is below. The chapter headings are to the side.

Mark Avery.

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Why did I write this book?

When I was a child my father would tell me I was lucky to have a life. That puzzled me, because whenever I asked myself ‘Are you glad you were born?’ my answer was invariably ‘No.’

I believed my father when he told me I was lucky to have a life – I just couldn’t figure out why I was lucky.

I was fifteen when the football team I supported won a premiership. That day (up until then) was the best day of my life. I was bursting with joy. Elated, I asked myself, ‘Now, aren’t you glad you were born? Aren’t you glad you’re alive?’

The answer was still, ‘No’.

I stopped asking.

When my sister Jane and I were in our early twenties Jane became chronically depressed. She cried day and night, and could barely function. Next to her bed were bowls of cigarette butts and a wine cask. Every day I would visit her, or she would ring me, in tears, and I kept giving her reasons why she shouldn’t kill herself. I felt so powerless to help her that I came to dread her telephone calls.

Her medication wasn’t helping, and although I didn’t believe in New-Age remedies I was desperate to help her. She was not interested in trying new ideas, so I figured that I would try them. If I experienced a fundamental shift in my thinking, perhaps I could persuade Jane to try the technique. I tried re-birthing and self-development workshops; I even sent to Lourdes for holy water. (They sent me a gallon.)

Jane resented the pressure from family and friends to stay alive, but when one of her well-meaning male friends did reluctantly agree that perhaps she should take her own life, she felt terribly hurt. That made me realise a part of Jane wanted to live, and that part had felt betrayed by the loss of support. I was relatively relieved: for a long time I had felt guilty for persuading her to stay alive, and there had been times when I had considered giving her the same ‘permission’ to die.

I remember her smiling only once in those dark years. We were in the lounge room watching my football team playing to get into a Grand Final. There were seconds to go and it was close. Jane didn’t care about the game but I was so nervous I was bouncing around the room like a lotto ball. When my team kicked the winning goal on the siren I was so overjoyed I somersaulted twice.

My expression of joy was so absurd it prompted Jane to smile.

I remember that smile because it was the first I had seen from her in years, and it was to be the last. Six months later she killed herself, with pills. She swallowed the pills, and vomited them up. She kept swallowing pills, and kept vomiting them up, until finally she succumbed. She was determined to die.

In a way, she had won: she had her wish. I lost: I had failed to save her.

Twenty years later I felt compelled to write about what makes a person happy. To do so I had ask myself that question again: ‘Are you happy? Are you glad you were born?’ It was a question I had long avoided, and the answer was slow in coming. But when it came, it intrigued me, because it was ‘Yes!’

With that answer I felt qualified to write about happiness. I began reading widely. I read that happiness comes from having close relationships, but I didn’t have a close relationship. Other books linked happiness with success; I was the antithesis of success. Happiness is also associated with having a fulfilling career, but I had worked a string of temporary jobs, none of them satisfying. High self esteem was supposed to be another factor, but my self esteem was so low it disabled me. In much the same way an amputee can be physically disabled, yet happy, I was socially disabled with a low self esteem, yet happy.

Having a purpose in life was often mentioned as a vital factor in achieving happiness, but I was simply paying off a mortgage, and trying to ‘survive’.

Ironically, in terms of writing this book it may have been a blessing not to have those supposed prerequisites for happiness, because had I possessed them I would have assumed it was they which made me happy. I would have assumed the happiness gurus were right.

I would have been wrong.

I didn’t have those supposed necessities, yet I was happy. I had to think long and hard about why. Finally, I had an inkling, and began writing. After a few chapters I realised I was still trying to help my sister Jane. I still needed to solve the puzzle of what makes a person happy.

Eventually, I came to understand what really does make a person happy. It’s not complicated. It’s certainly not a secret and I’ll tell you right now: happiness evolved for the same reason we evolved our knees and our kidneys – it has a purpose. Happiness is an incentive and a reward for satisfying long-term innate needs. When we satisfy those needs, we are rewarded with core happiness.

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Can this book help people suffering depression?

If my sister Jane were alive today I still could not heal her. Depression is not simply a lack of happiness; it’s a complex illness that comes in many forms, and needs professional treatment.

I have no evidence to suggest that the ideas in this book can treat depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or any condition related to anxiety. That said, I like to think that someone applying the umpteen keys in this book would be less likely to become depressed. But I don’t know if that’s the case. I certainly don’t claim it to be so.

If you know someone who is depressed don’t give them advice, and don’t remind them that there are people in worse circumstances. That doesn’t help. If you want to ease their pain a little, ask them how they are going, and listen.

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What is happiness?

Being happy is not about living ‘life’s spectacular journey’, as some happiness experts attest. Nor is it about avoiding suffering. A happy person feels all the dark emotions: anger, fear, sadness, grief . . . but isn’t broken by them.

There are two kinds of happiness: ‘temporary happiness’ and ‘core happiness’.

Temporary happiness occurs when we experience the short-term pleasure of something happening, such as winning money, seeing our team win, or being with someone we love. And it occurs when we feel short-term emotions such as wonder, pride, or gratitude. That’s when endorphins, the ‘happy hormones’, rush to our brain and make us feel good. Our happiness soars, but after a while we return to normal.

Similarly, in troubling situations, such as when a pet dies, our happiness plummets. Again, after a while we return to normal.

Core happiness, or ‘set point’ or ‘baseline’ happiness is the sense of well-being we experience in our day-to-day routine: getting up in the morning, taking a shower, or walking down the street. It’s innate. It is our default happiness. And it’s the happiness which makes life worth living. We are not always conscious of it, but it’s the lubricant to life.

Of course, pleasure is also important: life would be drab and pointless without pleasure. However, people who can have whatever pleasures they want will find life unsatisfying if they have a weak core happiness. Conversely, those with a strong core happiness, although they may not have access to many pleasures, will take delight in the little things of life.

It’s helpful to distinguish between the two types of happiness so that when when we need to make a decision we can ask ourselves the same question the Dalai Lama asks himself: ‘Will it bring pleasure, or happiness?’

To sum up, to have an enjoyable life we need to experience both the temporary happiness we get from short-term pleasure and the milder, more pervasive ongoing core happiness.

You can figure out for yourself what pleasures give you temporary happiness, but what about core happiness? How do we get that?

See you in the next chapter.

‘When I think of happiness I think of a bed. The most essential part of a comfortable bed is a solid mattress. On top of that mattress you have crumpled sheets, you have to change those sheets and pillowslips every week, you have disorganisation, you have cold, you have warmth. But the solid foundation is there and that’s your mattress, and all of the things on top of that mattress is what happens in life. The foundation is your happiness.’
Linda Burney, MP of NSW Legislative Assembly.


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Let’s define evolution.

It is hard to speak of evolution without inadvertently attributing to it intent. I might say, ‘beetles evolved to fly’, which sounds like the beetles had a choice in the matter. Of course they didn’t. Or I might say, ‘evolution guides us’, or ‘evolution wants us’. No, evolution can’t guide us or want us to do anything; it’s not a sentient entity, it’s a process.

We use these expressions because they are convenient shortcuts to refer to the process of natural selection.

Here are three quick (and basic) examples to explain how natural selection works:
 Let’s say a camel is born with genes giving it a bigger hump than most other camels. Camels store fat in their humps (not water) and that fat provides them with energy when there isn’t food around. Let’s say there is a severe drought. That camel, having a larger energy supply on its back when food in the environment is scarce, is more likely to survive and pass on its genes. Over millions of years, with similar situations occurring, all camels end up with the gene and bigger humps. Natural selection has ‘guided’ a physical change.

When male giraffes fight each other for mates, they bash each other with their heads. According to Robert E Simmons and Lue Scheepers in an article in New Scientist, the ones with the bigger and more powerful necks are more likely to win the battle, get the mate, and pass on their genes. Over millions of years this results in giraffes having bigger necks. That’s another physical change ‘guided’ by the process of natural selection.

A monkey born with the propensity to break nuts and eat the kernels has an abundant food source, and is more likely to survive a drought and pass on its genes. Over time, all its descendants will have the propensity to break nuts and eat the kernels. Natural selection has ‘guided’ a behavioural change.

But let’s say a giraffe is born with genes giving it an extra leg. This giraffe has trouble running fast and is easily caught by a predator, so it doesn’t live long enough to pass on its genes. Therefore, we won’t see many giraffes walking around with five legs.

So, although gene mutations are random, over generations the mutations beneficial to the species can become normal to the species. That’s the process of natural selection.  It is generally thought that most physical features and behavioural traits of organisms came about in this way.

In some circumstances, natural selection may result in a new species.

‘How do different species come about?’

Let’s say that on one side of a mountain range there are wide open spaces, and giraffes regularly fight with their heads to win mates. On the other side of the mountain is jungle, and a giraffe born in that jungle with a longer neck will have no advantage. It might well injure itself swinging. So, that ‘long neck’ mutation isn’t favoured.

Over tens of thousands of years, with those different conditions the two groups of giraffes will develop so many differences that if you were to bring them together and mate them, they could not produce fertile offspring. The two types of giraffes would have become separate species.

The giraffe’s closest extant (living) relative is the okapi, which lives in the Congo rainforest.


‘What is a subspecies?’

Imagine a river that becomes full of crocodiles and isolates a thousand giraffes on a large island. These giraffes can’t get back to the mainland to join the others, so the two groups can’t interbreed. Over time, the island giraffes develop their own characteristics (such as different markings or shorter necks).

If these island giraffes were transported to the mainland and were able to successfully breed with the mainland giraffes, the two groups would be the same species. However, because of their different characteristics the island giraffes (the minority) would be a subspecies.

Mind you, in all of nature it is not that clear cut. A species can be determined in other ways, too. The example given is simply an example of natural selection.

‘Lizards are different to giraffes. How can they be related?’

Their common ancestor goes back more than a hundred million years.

‘An eel-like creature from 505 million years ago was a forerunner to all vertebrates, from fish to humans. Fossil evidence confirms that Pikaia gracelens had a rod of elastic tissue running along its back, making it the oldest chordate ever found.’
New Scientist, 10 March 2012.

‘Did humans evolve from gorillas and chimpanzees? Or monkeys?’

No, but we share a common ancestor that may have looked like a nimble rodent. Over a long time, over large areas, and in varying conditions, those creatures evolved into different animals, depending on the environmental forces. A simple and speculative example: if the rodent-like animals lived in rainforests that offered abundant food in the trees, they would probably stay in the trees, and over millions of years become monkeys or apes. If any of those creatures had been born with the inclination and ability to walk on two legs they would have gained no survival advantage, so that mutation would quickly be bred out. Such a population might eventually evolve into another type of ape, but it wouldn’t evolve to be a bipedal ape.*

Let’s say another population of the same rodent-like animal lived in savannah plains, and found food in the long grass. The ones born with a mutation allowing them to stand on two legs and see above the grass might have a significant advantage, and be more likely to survive and produce offspring. Over millions of years they might evolve into bipedal, land dwelling apes.

That’s how different animals might evolve from one common ancestor.

* Susannah Thorpe and her colleagues of The University of Birmingham suggest another possibility: that our ancestors evolved to stand on two legs while still in the trees. Balancing on two feet and using their hands to hold branches for balance helped them reach the fruit on small, outlying branches (New Scientist, 9 June 2007).
 Another theory suggests that we became bipedal from having to wade in water.

‘Evolution cannot explain the origin of life.’

It’s not meant to. The origin of life has nothing to do with evolution. It’s a different topic entirely.

‘Are there other factors contributing towards evolution?’

One factor is epigenetics, which is about genes being influenced by the environment. For example, a creature living in drought conditions, unable to feed itself properly, might give birth to young smaller than normal. When those young grow up they might also give birth to young smaller than normal, even though the drought had ended and they (the parents) had eaten well! Had the drought not ended, then giving birth to smaller young might be an advantage for those young – they would need less food to stay alive. Another example: a creature living an abnormally stressful life might give birth to young that grow up more prone to becoming stressed than they otherwise would be, and when they give birth, their young might be born with genes switched on ready to make them stressed in even mild circumstances. That’s epigenetics.

Some viruses can also contribute towards a creature’s evolution by infecting its sperm or egg, thereby changing the creature’s DNA slightly. Those changes would be inherited by its young, and if those changes are beneficial then they will be passed on to future generations by the process of natural selection. For example, primates like chimpanzees, gorillas and us have within us ancient virus DNA that helps our females give birth to healthy young.


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The need to be resilient.

First, we need to look at how happiness evolved.

The evolution of temporary happiness (pleasure)

When we engage in short-term behaviours that benefit us and our species, such as eating, having sex or playing (playing is good for us because it hones our skills) we are immediately rewarded with pleasure. That pleasure is evolution’s way of persuading us to engage in those behaviours.

The evolution of core happiness
We are also rewarded when we engage in beneficial ongoing behaviours. But ongoing behaviours cannot be rewarded with instantaneous pleasure; instead they are rewarded with a milder, ongoing pleasure. It’s the relaxed, general feeling of wellbeing mentioned earlier: core happiness. Core happiness is evolution’s incentive, and reward, for engaging in beneficial ongoing behaviours.

‘What are those ongoing behaviours?’

Living in a tribe is one ongoing behaviour. In prehistory, hominids born with an inclination to live in a tribe were more likely to live long enough to pass on their genes. (Those who didn’t live in a tribe were more likely to starve or be eaten.) This would be a trait going way back, because many mammals have evolved to live in groups.

‘What would keep us inclined to live in a tribe?’

The need to be with one another (to feel connected with one another) keeps us in groups. Some people refer to it as ‘the deep need to belong’. When we satisfy that need we are rewarded with core happiness, and when we don’t satisfy it we feel isolated and unsettled, even anxious.

Another ongoing innate need.
Although we evolved a need to live in tribes, at times we also had to leave the safety of the tribe to hunt or explore our environment for new resources.

With too much anxiety we would be too afraid to leave the safety of the tribe, and we’d starve. With too little anxiety we would take too many risks, and die. To get the right balance we need to feel frightened in a dangerous situation yet feel we can handle it. When we achieve that balance we are again rewarded with core happiness.

‘How do we achieve that balance?’

Consider pygmy twins: one is raised to hunt spiders, snakes and crocodiles; the other is raised to avoid them. Which twin do you think will grow up competent and confident, and as a result, happier? Which twin do you think will grow up anxious and unhappy?

I claim that the twin who learns how to handle those dangers, rather than avoid them, will most likely become the happier of the two. The twin who avoids those creatures will not learn how to handle anxiety, or life itself, and as a consequence will tend to suffer stress and unhappiness. That means: the best way to feel safe in life is not to avoid scary situations, but to learn how to handle them. As Helen Keller says, ‘A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships.’

Many of us in this relatively safe, comfortable western society learn (like our anxious pygmy) to fear our environment because we don’t get the opportunity to discover that we can handle it. It becomes easy to be anxious, even over trivial things. Equally, it’s harder to be happy, because we are not getting that evolutionary reward for feeling capable.

We could, unwittingly, be fostering unhappiness. An increasing number of city children are not allowed to climb trees, walk to school alone, or do anything that might be considered risky. So, they don’t learn how to handle situations or handle their fears. Instead, they learn how to avoid them, and that’s a recipe for anxiety.

Every day we experience fears: the fear of failure, of rejection, of looking stupid, that our dinner will get cold —  a myriad of fears. We can reduce those fears by developing our belief that whatever happens, we can handle it. ‘I can handle failure. I can handle rejection. I can handle looking stupid. I can handle my dinner getting cold.’

If you feel you can handle those things, you are not going to fear them, are you? In her book, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway, Susan Jeffers points out that we only fear what we think we can’t handle. The trick, then, to reducing our fear of things that scare us is not to avoid the things, but to learn how to handle them.


“Peace is not only in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. Peace is in the midst of things as they are, when there is calm in your heart. That is the real meaning of peace.” (Author unknown)

This book is not about helping you deal with anxiety; it’s about helping you to not become anxious in the first place. It’s about reducing our capacity to become anxious, and satisfying that ongoing innate need to feel that whatever happens in life we can handle it. That’s resilience.

Our reward? Core happiness.

Happiness and resilience
Let us not confuse resilience with stoicism or toughness.

A resilient person might endure hardship, but will recover. That’s what resilience means: having the capacity to recover from hardship. Resilient people might express their pain by talking about it; they might cry and express so much emotion it scares the pants off the rest of us. But they recover.

A stoic, or tough, person can endure hardship without revealing pain. That stoicism doesn’t mean the person can bounce back afterwards and recover. It doesn’t mean the person is resilient.

A man might be stoic his entire life. He might endure hardship and worry, day after day, desperately hiding his pain, believing that if he were to reveal his suffering he would be seen as weak and unworthy, and would be letting himself, his family and his manhood down . . . and in that ‘weakness’ he would feel shame so damning, so overwhelming, it would split his world apart.

At least, that’s how it feels to him. That’s the threat. And so, he continues to conceal his pain, day after day until finally, mercifully, he dies of natural causes. ‘He was a tough man,’ his friends might say. ‘A hard worker. Never complained. There aren’t many men like him left.’

Or, he doesn’t die. Instead, he cracks. He suffers a breakdown no one sees coming. ‘What happened?’ they ask. ‘He seemed to be coping. Who would have thought?’

Or, he doesn’t die. Wonderfully, he seeks help, and gets it. He not only flourishes, but he keeps his stoicism. This time, however, his stoicism comes not from his ability to hide his pain, but from his ability to deal with it. He has become resilient.

Of course, a degree of stoicism is good to have. For example, we don’t want to burst into tears in awkward circumstances. However, if we develop resilience (the feeling that whatever happens, we’ll handle it) we tend to develop stoicism as well. Why? Because knowing that we will recover from the pain makes that pain easier to bear. That makes us stoic.

Not everyone who cries and talks about their pain is resilient. It is not the ability to express our pain that make us resilient, it’s the ability to deal with our pain. Expressing it is just one way to deal with it.

Further, a person resilient in one area of their life may not be resilient in another. For example, someone who is physically resilient, as tough as wombat stew, may not be emotionally resilient. Or vice versa.

‘Are there other ongoing innate needs?’

Yep. You might already be satisfying the other ongoing innate needs. The need discussed in this book – to feel that we can handle life – is one of the big ones, and one many people lack.

‘If I apply the umpteen keys when will I notice a change?

It may take a year or two, perhaps more.


The keys to resilience aren’t snappy catch phrases that are applied in five minutes. You will need to absorb their lessons gradually and apply them consistently over time. You don’t turn an ocean liner around in five minutes, and you are not going to change your life in five minutes.

‘But two years?!’

Those two years will come quickly. Also, it depends on how long it takes you to adopt each key. On an intellectual level you might easily grasp the precepts presented, but it will take time for you to fully believe them and for them to become an integral part of the way you live your life.

‘Two years is too long.’

You might already be applying most of the keys to resilience, in which case, you’re halfway there. You won’t notice the changes happening, but one day you will look back and see that you have changed. You will see that you have created a more confident, accountable person. You will gauge your happiness and see that your effort has been rewarded.

The changes you will be making don’t rely on willpower, but on awareness – a useful quality to possess in life.

’If I apply the umpteen keys to resilience, how much will I increase my core happiness?’
Enough to be pleased with the difference. To expect a complete transformation in your happiness levels may be unrealistic.

Recall a time when you were elated: you won a contest or just received a promotion. Would you hope or expect to maintain that feeling throughout your everyday life? No!
 Now imagine you are outside playing a game, but it’s nippy. You want to enjoy yourself, but keep being reminded of the cold. If it were just a couple of degrees warmer you could forget about the chill and enjoy yourself. A small change could make a big difference. Or, think of a cup of coffee. The difference between a regular cup of coffee and a great cup of coffee can depend on a few drops of milk. Again, a little thing can make a big difference.

In the same way, if you can increase your core happiness even a little, your whole life will change significantly.

Ready? Let’s start.


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Part 1. Be aware of what you are feeling.

Years ago, when I was visiting my uncle Geoff at his farm in Korumburra, he casually asked, ’Mark, how do you feel about circus lions being kept in cages?’

I answered, ‘It’s cruel, it’s wrong, it shouldn’t be allowed’, to which he replied, ‘Wrong answer’.

While I was puzzling at this he asked me, ‘How do you feel about your footy team losing yesterday?’

I told him we were unlucky; our key forward had a crook knee and we only lost by three points.

Again he said, ‘Wrong answer.’

Can you figure out why they were wrong answers?

He pointed out that he had asked me how I felt about circus lions being kept in cages, and I had given him my thoughts on the matter. Big difference. A correct answer might have included words like ‘concerned’, ‘appalled’, ‘irritated’, which describe feelings.

How did I feel about my footy team losing? Disappointed. Deflated. Flat.

Uncle Geoff explained that if we want our lives to run smoothly, we need to be in the habit of distinguishing between our thoughts and our feelings.

‘Why?’ I asked.

He said that some people try to be always rational, and lose touch with what they are feeling; others rely on their feelings and fail to think things through. Both tend to find themselves believing one thing but doing another, and living lives of mild confusion.

‘Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul. If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas. For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.’
(Khalil Gibran, The Prophet)

‘The trick’, Uncle Geoff continued, ‘is to think things through, yet be fully in touch with our emotions – and the best way to do that is to distinguish between our thoughts and emotions when we speak.’

I said, ‘Surely we all know what we’re feeling?’

He said, ‘No, not if we’re out of the habit of describing what we feel. It’s easy to lose that habit. Some of us, for instance, grow up with mixed messages. Our parents might tell us what we are feeling, or should be feeling, instead of allowing us to experience what we are actually feeling. Tell children that they’re happy, or grateful, when they’re not, and they’ll get confused, won’t they?’

I shrugged.

‘And, some of us are told to not feel certain emotions: “Don’t feel bad, Don’t be angry, Don’t be jealous!” So we get good at avoiding those emotions. We still feel angry or jealous, but we have lost our awareness of it.’

He continued. ’Some emotions are uncomfortable to feel, so we can become adept at avoiding them. Many people think it’s bad to be angry, so they don’t let themselves be angry. The trouble is, their anger reveals itself in other ways – in sarcasm, in the way they snipe at their partners or friends, or in their chronic complaining . . .’

I was grappling with that when he added, ‘Or, they twist their anger into other emotions, becoming bitter or anxious. They may even sink into despair.’

The lesson stayed with me. Years later, I discovered other examples of the distortion of unacknowledged emotions: someone who is jealous but not aware of it might become possessive; someone who is racist might not realise they are fearful; someone might think they are angry when the emotion they are feeling is envy, or humiliation, or loneliness, or shame. Some people aren’t even aware of their disappointment; they are being so stoic they don’t let themselves experience it.

It wouldn’t surprise me if some people didn’t realise they were joyful!

If we are not aware of an emotion it can undermine us or lead us astray. It can prompt us into engaging in behaviours that we ourselves don’t fully understand. We might do something silly, and later ask ourselves in exasperation, ‘What was I thinking?!’ A better question would be, ‘What was I feeling?’

Only when we are aware of what we are feeling, and fully experience it, can we begin to deal with the emotion in a healthy, constructive manner.

It’s not just emotions that we need to be aware of, but all the ‘dark bits’ inside us. Instead of keeping them hidden from ourselves, and from others, we need to acknowledge them. When we do, we realise that they aren’t so bad after all. After a while we come to accept them, and when we come to accept them, we come to accept ourselves.

Then we can relax. We feel better about ourselves and go easier on ourselves. With nothing to hide, we lower our guard with people, and connect with them on a deeper, more meaningful level.

Further, the more we understand ourselves, and accept those dark bits, the more we understand other people, and accept their dark bits. With that empathy, we become less judgmental and more easy going. We adjust our expectations of others, and become more flexible and easier to be with.

In short, one way to become resilient is to get to know ourselves: to be aware of what we think and feel. In particular, we need to be attuned to the dark bits inside us, because it’s those dark bits that create anxiety.

The keys in Part 2 address this.

‘We are taught many things in a lifetime, but rarely do we get a chance to learn about emotion and ways of relating to others. We make a great effort to develop the mind, but apparently we are supposed to deal with our emotions instinctively.’
(Thomas Moore, from his book, Dark Nights of the Soul.)

‘Why is it bad to confuse our emotions?’
If you don’t know what you are feeling, how can you address it? You can’t. So, it keeps popping up, niggling and misleading you. If, however, you know precisely what you are feeling you can start dealing with it. And, when you get good at dealing with your emotions you become less anxious, because you know you can cope with them and not be shattered by them.

‘It’s rare that we don’t have issues in life, but it’s the belief that we’ve gained the tools to deal with them which gives us a belief in our resilience and capacity to thrive.’
(David, from Leongatha, Victoria.)

‘How do we know when we have “fully experienced” an emotion?’

When the emotion has lost its sting. When it’s easy to cope with it.
Fully experiencing emotions isn’t easy, and takes time. Take as long as you need, especially if you have experienced trauma. Delve into your emotions at your own pace. There is no correct amount of time.
   ‘We don’t always have to be aware of our emotions, do we?’
No. But we do want the ability to identify what we are feeling, because there are times when we need to know.
‘If I come to accept myself, isn’t there a risk I might come to accept my badness too?’

Accepting your ‘badness’ does not mean condoning it, but it’s the first step towards changing it. You will have a greater chance of adjusting your behaviour if you understand the emotions underpinning it in the first place.

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