- "Am I happy?"
- "Am I happy with the person I am?
- "What activities and experiences contribute to my authentic happiness?" (List everything that comes to mind.)
- What aspects of who I am would need to change in order for me to be innately happy?
- What aspects of my life would need to change in order for me to be innately happy?
- "What would my life be like right now if I were able to make these changes?"
I saw Julia three months after her husband of thirty years died suddenly of a heart attack. Initially seeking help to deal with her grief, Julia soon began discussing some of the other underlying stresses that contributed to her unremitting state of unhappiness. In examining the last several years of her marriage with Ben, a chronic alcoholic, Julia realized that she had imposed several limitations on herself, making it difficult for her to feel happy. She spoke about how Ben would begin drinking when he woke up (around 2 p.m.) each day. Most nights, she confessed, he would fall asleep on the couch almost immediately after dinner. Julia restricted her own interests and hobbies to fit into her husband's schedule and admitted that even small outings like going to a nearby coffee shop were arduous as Ben preferred to be at home.
Julia was fuming as she relayed how Ben's ex-wife Sandra had recently served her with papers contesting Ben's will. Julia despised Sandra. A legal battle over Ben's estate was the last thing she needed. Julia, an intelligent, vivacious, and optimistic woman, was overcome with anger that first visit. Consumed by her hatred of Sandra and the repressed anger she now felt toward Ben, Julia was unable to move forward in her life.