When it comes to happiness, I’m not often going to be quoting either ex-Conseravtive MP Gyles Brandreth or indeeed the xenohpobic and misery inducing Daily Mail, but a change is as good as a rest. I’m intrigued by one of Gyles’s ‘secrets to happiness’ from his recently published book and article in ‘Fe-Mail’ (get it – because the Mail is, of course a men’s paper when it comes to important things like news and sport, but likes to cater for the lovely ladies every now and then) .
‘Happiness’ sells, because who doesn’t want to be happy? My own philosophy (Lukas’s secret to happiness, and you get it free…for what it’s worth, as I’m a notoriously gloomy old queen) is that it’s a journey rather than a destination, and that we alone are responsible for our own happiness. So I’m surprised how challenged I feel by one of the most simple of Gyles’s ‘secrets’ – to ‘smash the mirror’. That is, not to be so self-absorbed, to ensure we don’t spend so much time thinking about ourselves. .To avoid becoming self-obsessed. Avoid introspection. I work as a counsellor, so much of my training has been about self-reflection and ‘self awareness’, but perhaps this does as much harm as it does good? Living on my own, writing, (even blogging) means constantly over-thinking and questioning. Gyles quotes advice given to Prince Edward from Prince Philip ( another two first and last mentions)
‘One of his best pieces of advice he gives to everybody is talk about everything else, don’t talk about yourself, nobody’s interested in you.’
He’s right. I’m not remotely interested in Prince Philip. Harry, on the other hand… The mirror I all too often look has a harsh light on it, dazzlingly bright and unforgiving, banishing all the interesting or more complex and complicated shadows. Sometimes, it’s akin to a fairground Hall Of Mirrors, distorting but also fascinating. And wherever you look, there’s a mirror – walking past a window, or near a puddle, who isn’t tempted to look at oneself, or criticism from others.
I grew up in the 1980s, which were defined by self-absorption and the rise of consumerism, the individualism of the ‘Me’ generation. Counselling as a profession is often (quite rightly) criticised for its own strategy of naval-gazing. Communication, counselling and even flirting courses I’ve been on ,have often posed the challenge of just sitting and listening to someone else for five minutes, without speaking yourself or interrupting them.
Michael Jackson famously sang of The Man In The Mirror. As a teenager, I played the ‘Mirror Man’ in an alternative version of ‘Snow White. There was a lot of tin foil and lots of sequins involved, which I have to admit I adored. I spent ages looking at myself, as a mirror, in the mirror.
But as of now, I’m smashing mirrors, and not worrying about ‘bad luck’. And then I’ll work on Gyles’s secret Number Two – being a leaf on a tree. This happiness thing can’t be too hard, can it? Not if Gyles Brandreth has mastered it.
And anyway, enough of me – how are you doing?