Live, Love, Doubt and be Happy? Really? How is it possible to be happy with a doubting mind? Isn’t happiness synonymous with contentment? Perhaps for the moment. But we live in a world of constant change, and it is inevitable for doubts to arise, which can rob you of happiness–if you let them. Yet the paradox of “healthy doubt” can coexist with happiness, enabling us to live a life of harmony in ultimate freedom. Let’s explore how.
Beliefs and the mind
Our culture values certainty over doubt–no doubt about it! Uncertainty is for cowards. Yet, not long ago, the view that the stock and housing markets would only continue to rise seemed a certainty. What if a healthy dose of doubt had been heeded by business and government leaders? Think of the different trajectory our economy would be on right now.
Doubt is a mental state where being uncertain can create fear and anxiety. Doubt is expressed in questions like “Am I marrying the right person?” or “Do I really trust him?”
More intrinsic doubts deeply affect our self-confidence, leading us to question “Can I do this?” and “Am I good enough?”. Doubting thoughts can zoom out of control, ultimately affecting our health and well-being. The result is a life poisoned by doubt.
Underneath all this doubt is the thinking mind. The ego is our self-image, based on our conditioning. It wants us to believe that we are the center of the universe whose happiness is dependent on outside circumstances and objects. Since life doesn’t revolve around us and we can’t always have what we think we need, doubt arises. Our ego is happy only as long as it feels in control and acts to maintain its powerful rule over our lives.
Power of doubt
Research has shown that our brains react almost instantaneously to statements that contradict our values and beliefs, causing us to stop listening, become angry, and start arguing. Yet research has also revealed that those injected with doubt can become stronger advocates for their own beliefs. Healthy doubting can produce increased tolerance, self-confidence and deepen intimacy in relationships.
An enthusiastic advocate may appear certain in their convictions. Yet, their advocacy may unknowingly seek to convince themselves as well as others. A peacebuilder can encourage opposing parties to find a common middle ground by acknowledging their doubts. When opponents acknowledge where each side may be vulnerable, they are likely to deepen their understanding of themselves and each other.
Shakespeare said, “Modest doubt is called the beacon of the wise.” Keeping the door open to doubt, probing uncertainty, and questioning everything are the very foundation of science. Think of Thomas Edison, who conducted over 10,000 experiments in order to invent the light bulb. At the core of his motivation was a love for invention. His unceasing doubting served as fuel to keep him going.
Many things in life can never be fully understood. John Patrick Shanley, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning play, Doubt: a Parable, wrote in the introduction, “doubt requires more courage than conviction does…because conviction is a resting place,” while doubt “is infinite.” Certainty can be blinding, while doubt can reveal a deeper sense of our true nature.
Unprocessed doubt can result in paralyzing fear. But using doubt to question yourself can strengthen your beliefs and free you from fear. Instead of hiding doubts about your beliefs, welcome discussions with others.
Core of happiness
We are taught that happiness is dependent on circumstances and objects: a toy, a lover, a job, money. Yet joy and happiness are in fact our birthright. They are at the core of who we are. They’re always present, like the sun behind stormy clouds, though mostly hidden underneath our divided, thinking mind.
True joy, including desire, happiness and equanimity, is independent of objects, beliefs and circumstances. It doesn’t need the ego to find fulfillment. The fearful ego puts up red flags of doubt to help it remain in control. But doubt can’t rob you of happiness. Humor the ego, make it a friend, and take it along for the ride.
Richard Miller, PhD, founder of the Integrative Restoration Institute and yogic scholar, has written “Our desire for happiness is taking us away…. Each moment reveals the great Mystery that joy and happiness are already the case.” When we search for something outside ourselves to bring lasting happiness, we always miss the mark. When we tune in to the heart and examine what we care about, our purpose and heart’s deepest desires, we create the opportunity to engage our deeper passions.
So, don’t see self-doubt as a negative. It can be the door that opens us up to receiving messages that can enhance our lives. Invite doubt in for tea or coffee and have a doubt-filled inner dialogue. We don’t need to know things for certain. We can make peace with our doubt.
We have a choice. If you challenge beliefs that rule your life, you’ll be able to dip into the wellspring of your True Self where love resides. Let doubt—and your ego—be your powerful friend, not your controlling enemy.
Find happiness. Be love. Be your true self.
Join my free iRest meditation groups held weekly on Sunday mornings and Thursday afternoons where you’ll find space to rest and explore this further.