Inner Game: where does your happiness come from?

What is Inner Game?

I just saw this quotation on the internet:

We turn away from primal perfection, our completeness, our unity with the world…

… we create an illusion that we need something exterior to ourselves for our completion…

… this dependency on what is exterior is what makes a man’s ego.

This is the essence of understanding inner game.

So where does your happiness come from? If it comes from controlling anything or anyone outside of yourself, then it is fragile indeed. If happiness comes from needing a particular outcome with a particular person, it will be thrashed against the rocks at the ocean shore until there is nothing left of it.

“The light of strength is constant, sure as love, forever glad to give itself away, because it cannot give but to itself. No one can ask in vain to share its sight, and none who enters its abode can leave without a miracle before his eyes, and strength and light abiding in his heart.” – ACIM

Practical Inner Game — the Feelings Barometer

In an ever-shifting world, how do we keep our inner game rock solid? The best way I have found is paying attention to my feelings, literally moment to moment.

Say I’m in a conversation with a man. Even if it’s a fairly heated conversation, I will stay in the conversation as long as I’m feeling good about it. Which means we are both making a sincere effort to connect.

But if I feel my energy drop, a sensation that for me is usually somewhere in my gut or solar plexus, or occasionally as happened yesterday in a conversation with a man, he is being rough enough that I get tears in my eyes, I pay attention to those feelings. Then I check in with myself and let intuition guide what I’m going to do.

What I will NOT do, ever again, is stay in a situation that feels bad to me. I realize now that my feeling good is literally the ONLY thing that really matters. If I feel good, people around me will feel good, so it’s truly the greatest gift that I can give to the world.

How to Navigate Bad-Feeling Situations: The Willingness to Communicate or Let Go

In non-violent communication parlance, a drop in my energy level (with feelings such as fear, sadness, anger, frustration, etc.) generally means that some need of mine is not being met. In a conversation with a man, the needs not getting met tend to be for respect, care, consideration, mutuality, communication, and so forth.

In concrete terms, perhaps a man has begun criticizing or shaming me for something in the past (which is over and done with, and which I am obviously powerless to change). Perhaps he is trying to make me “work” for his attention and affection. Perhaps he is putting responsibility for things on me instead of taking responsibility for his part in things. Those are the sort of things that may trigger a drop in my energy level.

What many people do in these situations, and once upon a time I did it in spades, is try to “fix” the situation, i.e., by compensating in some way in an effort to get the other person’s approval back. Indeed, some pickup artists rely on that human reflex to get what they want from women.

That’s not my way. Not anymore. What matters to me now is maintaining my own internal state of happiness. Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others! ;-)

So I’ve replaced the old model (supplicate, fight, or flee) with new options, and which option I choose is based almost entirely on moment-to-moment intuition:

1. Communicate in a non-violent way in an attempt to get both of our needs met, or
2. Step back from what doesn’t feel good and restore happiness internally.

About the Author:

Erika Awakening is a Harvard Law School graduate and former practicing attorney. She left the rat race to become a location-independent entrepreneur, holistic life coach, blogger, speaker, healer, and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT tapping) expert. Erika Awakening is one of the world's foremost experts on eradicating limiting beliefs and lifestyle design on your own terms. Learn more about Erika Awakening

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  1. hi Yay,

    well, you’re talking to someone who doesn’t actually believe in the evolutionary myths. from my perspective, this is all a dream that we are waking up from. the evolutionary myths are the stories our collective ego made up to hide the fact of what we really are: pure divine consciousness.

    if you’re interested in reading more, I have blogged about this in some older posts: (though my views about how sex fits into this have evolved since then)

  2. “… we create an illusion that we need something exterior to ourselves for our completion…”

    Yea yea.

    I read my fair share of Krishnamurti, WHO, by the way, is quoted by Eckhart Tolle.

    I ask this dude to define ‘completion’. He won’t be able to do it.

    The concept of “mind” has been tackled by men far smarter than the person who made that chinese fortune cookie quote…and the answer is??? they can’t figure it out.

    In the meantime though, we are forced via hardwiring to seek relationships to propogate the species. If we all were self-completed, we’d have NO need for another. No need. None. Species then dies off.

    Richard Dawkins ( another one of those pain in the butt scientists) wrote a book called the Selfish Gene. It’s all about this.

    Oh, Krishnamurti was boning his secretary. Teehee. : )

  3. hi Yay,

    Welcome to the blog and thanks for commenting.

    Actually I see it as a paradox: the less we seek external validation, the more we receive it. The more our happiness comes from within, the easier it is to have intimacy with each other.


  4. “… we create an illusion that we need something exterior to ourselves for our completion…”

    Please don’t listen to these silly people.

    Read real scientists like Alan Shore, who’ve done deep studies on attachment. We are hard-wired for attachment for totally obvious reasons….like..propagation! of the species.

    These guys say pretty things that people like to hear and then put on world wide web blogs for other people to chime in and go “Yea” in unison…oh the irony.

  5. Maya Martin says:

    Great post Erika!

    This part spoke loudly (but non-voilently to me ;):
    “What many people do in these situations, and once upon a time I did it in spades, is try to “fix” the situation, i.e., by compensating in some way in an effort to get the other person’s approval back. Indeed, some pickup artists rely on that human reflex to get what they want from women.”

    I was very much like one of those women also – who attempted to fix the situation to get the energy back to the good place it started i. I cringe when I think about that. I suppose it is a natural human reflex built in at a primitive level to protect us that has now become unnecessary, even dysfunctional.

    Being happy is truly the best game you can have. I’ve been reading the Tao Te Ching lately and it’s all about inner game!

    Thanks again! Love you blog!

    Maya Martin

  6. Great Post Erika! I really liked it because you touched upon many points I’ve been paying attention to lately. Like how we can’t look outside of us for answers. We look inward and empathise and reconnect to our needs. We begin living OUR lives -not a life for the approval of this one or that one. Not even for what we have been influenced by others to think “this is what we want/need”. Only WE can truly connect and feel what our true self is needing in the moment. It is our job to be our own best friend and connect to that, and empathise with that. we can then find it alot easier to -in a non-violent-sincere way communicate our needs. We communicate this without it being a “demand”, it’s just a request. When we feel that another Human Being comes to us in a sincere request for our help, we open up our hearts. We experience their needs as a gift, an oppurtunity to fill our golden-human-nature. This deep and beautiful nature, to give, to contribute to “wonderful life”.

    When we build our own self-esteem, our own sense of self and our needs, when we nurture and care for ourselves, we assert ourselves and confidently communicate effectively and get our needs met, we become the best friend/lover to our close ones. Our own sense of well-being will flow from us and warm them and fill them with feelings that will make them long to be close to us. True friends that will stay true to us throughout life, come from this and grow closer through this. This is what Intimacy and fulfilling relationships are all about. A true lover, however short and however long he chooses to bestow his unique aura oozing of self-esteem, becomes himsef when he lives a life connected to his own self and needs first. He then tends to the needs of others as a dear gift of life –and they feel this and appreciate this.

    It’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong, who deserves reward and who deserves punishment, it’s about HOW are we going to make life as wonderful as we can NOW.

  7. Doesn’t a lot of this go back to “standards”? For example, if someone behaves in a way that makes you perceive it as violent communication, they’ve violated a standard of yours. Often I think a great deal of unhappiness comes from not meeting our standards.

    I think there can be a healthy amount of communication that has to do with your standards, i.e. “righteous anger.”

  8. There is, I have noticed this idea that communication should be specified as non-violent. It always strikes me as odd that you make this clarification, that violent communication is too prevalent or too expected.

    Most people start communication non-violently anyway, people don’t tend to just go off for a fight without provocation.

    But anyway….

    Yes, the “inner” in inner game is well-applied. The deeper you draw from within yourself, the greater the resource. And it is not finite, you aren’t going to run out of happiness, so long as you continue to live and live well. It’s a renewable regenerative resource, always fresh and full at the start of each interaction with each new person.

    There is a problem, though in the last idea that you shouldn’t stay in a bad situation. I think this is too broad a brushstroke, for the idea of a “bad” situation is so vast.

    You could burn your toast, are you leaving the kitchen?
    You could spill a drink, will you stop using cups?

    This is a gross swing of the pendulum where things move in extremes, and in very black-and-white means. Things are not always +10 or -10, there are many steps in between.

    Also, situations are mutable. Always in motion, always in a sea of action and consequence, always moving in a direction (generally forward), so the bad situation of this moment is capable of changing the next moment. Even if that change is 1%, it is still change, and that can often make a great difference.

    Sitting in extremes will intensify only the extremes of inner game. You will either experience great depth of it (however fleetingly) or such scarcity that you’ll begin to incorrectly doubt a lot of things.

    Inner game grows best as a range…the whole spectrum, not only at ends.

    All that remains after inner game are vehicles for expression.

  9. Reaching within for answers is a liberating experience. I have often noticed a significant drop in energy, and a subtle negativity pervading my whole body. If I let this persist, I generally fall into depression. If however I actually stop and listen, there is usually an answer there. Unrelated to your topic of relationships, but my message related to my dissatisfaction with my job.

    Going along with being externally validated, I have a tendency to reach for self-help books to look for answers, and ultimately end up chasing my own tail. Coming back to self-awareness seems to be the answer, just as the quote suggests.

  10. Hi Erika, I enjoy reading your blog, it’s nice to see a woman’s perspective on things :)

  11. I completely agree with your comment about the importance of keeping yourself happy internally. If you rely on external forces to determine your happiness, then if any of those forces are affected, you are just as easily affected.

    There is something special about being in total control of your happiness and understand the means of avoiding that happiness from being affected.

    It’s just like the Matrix in a way. There’s nothing that can stop you from being able to do the things that you want to. It’s just a matter of not thinking you can do something. It’s a matter of knowing you can.

    This is easily applied to taking care of yourself. “Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others! ;-)”

    An elevated level of that is the first standard you set:

    “1. Communicate in a non-violent way in an attempt to get both of our needs met”

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