How I Became a Happiness Consultant
I have been investigating what it is to be human for as long as I can remember. In this quest I dissect the things that “everyone knows” to be true and examine the layers of unconscious assumptions inside them. In lieu of conventional training, I have been primarily trained by my inner guidance, constantly ask the questions “What is it to be human?” and “What makes people truly happy?” I implement with my clients all that I have discovered in the process of living my own life to the fullest.
I was raised by relatively nurturing parents and had a relatively pleasant young childhood. I feel lucky that in my most formative years I did not experience much shame, violence, manipulation or guilt. Although I don’t think my parents were really ready to have children when they did, I do credit them for raising me in a way that was nurturing and supportive enough to allow my inner self to remain basically intact, though hidden.
When I was 10 years old, my parents moved to a small Christian community, and without question I accepted and integrated its belief system as my own. At 17 I became engaged, and by 19 years old I was married to a minister of this community.
We moved to New Zealand (my husband’s new pastorate) a few days after our wedding. This change precipitated what I consider the biggest crisis of my life – a time of intense questioning of everything. I began to see that all I’d been taught about god, religion, politics, authority, marriage, sex, emotional health and the purpose of life on earth was intellectually irrational and emotionally crippling. My husband did not understand, appreciate, or share my journey but instead condemned the heretical thoughts and feelings that I was having. I knew my parents would be of no help whatsoever, having long-since forfeited their roles as “guides” to the church organization. I realized that my entire community was united against me, siding with the church and its teachings over the questions and feelings that plagued me. My circumstances left me in what felt like an impossible position- living with no community, no support, no family, no money, no education and in a foreign land, I had nowhere to turn. At that time I became pregnant and felt that my that my unborn child’s needs were more important than anything else. I decided that “making the best of things” would be my strategy for having an enjoyable life, at least until my children were grown.
For the next 15 years I lived the existence of a mother and “happily married” minister’s wife. This required severe repression of some parts of myself, but at the same time it reinforced my notion that I could find some degree of “happiness” no matter what. When we returned to the States and then later to the small religious town of my teen years, I tried to ignore the incongruous and twisted teachings there and did my best to appreciate what it had to offer. To help support our family I ran a daycare center in our home and started my own professional organizing business. Although I did not experience true partnership with my husband, I worked to build a friendship with him that supported our common desire to raise our children in a peaceful, loving and nurturing home.
In 2001, at the age of 34, I had another “midlife crisis” which I soon came to see as my “mid-life emergence.” In short, my inner-self rebelled. I stopped being willing (or able) to suppress myself and pretend in order to be loyal to a “marriage” that I didn’t believe in. I also became increasingly concerned that my children would unconsciously absorb the unhealthy beliefs of the community that had so deeply wounded me. I told my husband that although I wanted to remain friends with him and be a family, I had been pretending to be “in love” with him, I felt our marriage was a sham, and that I could no longer placidly go along with his religious beliefs and lifestyle. I felt that the lack of integrity in my life was killing me, and I didn’t want my true self to die.
After months of emotional upheaval, deep breathing, family discussions, counseling, community processing and truth-telling, we reached a new understanding about our lives and our relationship. We had a funeral for our marriage and declared ourselves divorced. We melted our wedding and engagement rings and had five “Friends and Family Forever” rings fashioned from the gold, one for each of us and our three children. We had a ceremony dedicating ourselves as friends and family forever. We established new agreements with each other and continued to live side by side for a few years in our family home. We worked on our relationship within a new paradigm – not as married partners, but as parenting partners and friends, with a commitment to be true to our authentic selves.
In the meantime, my mid-life blossoming continued. I dedicated a year of my life to an inner-directed “Essential Self School,” taking my lead as much as possible from my true desires. My children (then 8, 10 and 13) quickly caught on to this project and wanted the freedom to do this themselves, and so we began to homeschool in order to give them the freedom they craved. We based our curriculum on the search for our true selves, trusting that this would lead us to learn everything we really needed to know. I saw that when I stayed focused on breathing deeply, telling the truth, and trusting my own and my children’s desires, miracles began to happen in our lives and in the lives of those around us.
A year later I discovered The Hunger Project, a global organization committed to the end of chronic hunger. Working with the Hunger Project, I learned from experts that in order to end hunger we must focus on the empowerment of women. I saw that ending world hunger paralleled my own process of reclaiming my full self, and the implications of what I was doing began to crystallize. My professional organizing business slowly expanded to include talking with clients about what I was learning in my new life adventures, so that I could teach others to find the same healing that I had been discovering. As I became more comfortable with the details of homeschooling and unschooling, I offered support to other homeschooling families, and continued to discover the fulfillment and freedom of empowering young people to be in charge of their own lives and to express their true selves.
As my business has grown to include many different clients’ needs and wants, my unwavering focus continues to be the search for what makes people truly happy – an endeavor that almost always includes opening up to life’s pain in fresh new ways. As my adolescent children have begun their transition into adulthood, our life “curriculum” continues to be even more firmly grounded in trusting the guidance of our desires and our true selves. I remain a loving and curious student of the human condition, and I base my personal and professional life on my talent for increasing relaxation and pleasure in the world while supporting every human being’s journey toward wholeness. I enjoy working with clients who, like me, want to find out how to express their true selves, fulfill their deep desires, and create a life that is honest, authentic and free.
Amy Childs | Happiness Consultant