As a society, we are hooked on happiness. If you need any convincing, I encourage you to visit your favorite on-line book seller and type in the word happiness. There you will find thousands of titles that promise to share the secrets of living a more blissful and delight-filled life. And yet, regardless of the panacea of information found within most popular happiness self-help books, none pay adequate respect to the fact that many people will need an emotional clearing in order to live the happiness hypothesis.

For me, this void was recently emphasized when I went to see a popular happiness author. After an inspiring speech from the New York Times bestselling author, the floor opened for questions. At one point, a woman in her early thirties addressed the speaker at the microphone. She complemented the author on his work and agreed with the benefits of his particular philosophy, but she also shared her personal struggle to embrace fully his concepts into her life. As she described the unrelenting sense of worry and insistent mind chatter that meets her every morning, this woman’s sadness was palpable even from the back of the room. It appeared the author sensed her emotion, as well, and was incredibly compassionate. However, I felt he was misguided in his response to her.

In short, he told her to keep thinking positive thoughts and stay focused on the end state she desired. He went on to say: don’t worry about limiting beliefs, karma, negative emotions, past lives — all that stuff people are talking about these days. In essence, he recommended just staying the course of his book, which had not included adequate exploration of these issues the respondent was raising.

As the author was sharing his views, I wanted to tell the woman I understood her struggle and her pain. I’d lived in an unexplained undercurrent of doubt, sadness, and fear that had moved through me for most of my life. I wanted to tell her how my experiences called for a different approach.

While I didn’t get a chance to talk with this woman that night, if I could have, I would have shared with her how our bodies hold on to negative emotions and experiences. Like squatters, they hunker down undetected. They have the uncanny ability to make us feel exaggerated negative emotions, fill us with self-defeating thoughts and chatter, and leave little room for happiness to move in.

I know, just a few years ago I would have scoffed at any such notion. Really— our bodies hold negative emotions? But think about this logically. Have you ever seen someone at a dinner party and felt his sadness or anger greet you well before the formal introduction? Or maybe you’ve met someone whose emotions of frustration or disappointment jump from her face a little too easily? Maybe you’ve recognized in yourself emotions that seem to have overstayed their welcome?

Our “squatters” are really gestalts, or uninterrupted chains of negative emotions, that tell us how to feel instantaneously. If we want to feel differently, most of us will need to learn how to remove these uninvited guests. Yes, I would even tell that well-intentioned author this emotional clearing is necessary before his wisdom can fully come to life. And, I would tell him that there are simple and easy techniques to release these gestalts…one by is indeed possible to remove the obstacles to our happiness. But, that would raise skepticism, right? Instant emotional healing?

In fact, this skepticism is why I often start with a convincer at the beginning of a breakthrough coaching session. One of my favorite recent examples of a convincer was with a client who was quite doubtful of these methods. First, I asked the client to think about an event that occurred in the past, but was still fraught with negative emotions. Within a few minutes, we both could nearly touch the emotion in the room as he described putting the family dog to sleep seven months ago.

Before starting the release process, I confirmed the client felt the grieving period had been sufficient. Then, we released the sadness tied to this event that he was holding in his body. What the client described after the ten-minute release process was the complete absence of sadness. The only thing that remained was the admiration and gratitude for the pet who had been a revered family member. He then proclaimed, “Let’s get started.”

You see, when the negative emotions leave the body, we make space for a different perspective and greater happiness. We can’t ignore the limiting decisions, this idea of karma, or even the notion of past lives. The reality is that we hold our life events in our body like squatters. And unfortunately, those memories with negative emotions get priority storage. For some individuals, an emotional clearing — or eviction notices — will be necessary before they are able to invite more creativity, joy, gratitude, and awe into their life. Not because we are weak, wounded, or broken, but because emotional healing precedes happiness.

Author's Bio: 

Susan Crampton Davis is the founder of the Positive Change Network (, a Seattle-based consultancy and coaching practice that helps people remove the self-imposed mental barriers blocking greater success. Prior to starting PCN, Susan held senior leadership roles at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Getty Images, Staples, Amazon, and W. L. Gore & Associates, Inc. Today Susan has a thriving practice where she uses the simple and powerful coaching techniques that helped change her life. She is a master-level NLP practitioner, a hypnotherapist, and a practitioner of Belief Reconditioning Therapy™, which is a client-centered therapy that involves several healing modalities.