The Nature of Unhappiness (or The Reality of Duality)

by Dr. Christopher on June 15, 2012

The duality of life

Eating in silence, focusing on your food, where it came from, and how much of the world doesn’t have a peanut to eat, is a form of meditation.

But sometimes, when you’re not relaxed, you’re stressed.  And your brain craves numbing in the form of the brain zapper that is your television.

To unplug from reality for five minutes before the meetings I have to attend, Lea and I sit down to watch five minutes of one of my favorite movies, Soul Surfer, while I finish my man salad.

It’s the true story of a girl who gets her arm bit off by a shark and goes on to surf with her handicap, win some surfing championships, inspiring the world.

Bethany is in Thailand after the 2004 tsunami, where the natives have become fearful of the water, where the tsunami came from.  Remember, Bethany was attacked by a shark.  A live one.  With rows of sharp teeth and black goblin-like eyes.  And that traumatic event did not stop her from going back in the water.

So Bethany, with some cajoling, manages to inspire a young boy to get into the water with her on a surfboard, thereby causing tears to well up in Christopher’s eyes.

“What are these?”  I think to myself.  “Tears?”

“Stop crying you sissy” says Lea, my ten-year-old sister.  Just kidding, she didn’t say that.  But she might as well have said it because of her eyes.  They were judging me.

The Monk Who Eats Sugar

A young mom went with her son to visit a monk.

The mom asked the monk, “Please tell my son to stop eating sugar.”

The monk replied, “Come back in 3 weeks.”

The young mom returned with her son three weeks later.

The monk told the son, “Stop eating sugar.”

“You couldn’t just tell my son that three weeks ago?”

The monk replied, “I was still eating sugar then.  It took me three weeks to stop.”

Moral of the story: You wouldn’t take medical advice from an obese medical doctor with diabetes, would you?

The Happy Doctor Who Isn’t Happy

My goal in life is to be a source of inspiration for health, happiness, and living the life of your dreams.

But I’ve been struggling to write for a few months.

I’ve had the faint sensation that a mild episode of depression has hit me, noticeable by the apathy to take action.

  • Writing a blog post … out of the question.
  • Send a thank you card in the mail … I want to but can’t get myself to.
  • Get out of bed … Don’t want to.

As I struggle, the thought is “How can I write about happiness when I’ve been struggling so much lately?  I have to stop eating sugar like the monk did.”

Breathing in the face of the heavy air weighing on my shoulders, I became aware of reality in a way I hadn’t observed in a while.

The goal of happiness is not to experience it 24/7.

The goal of happiness to respect the duality of life.

Day and night.  Hot and cold.  Up and down.  Happy and sad.  Puppy dogs and hippopotami.

The research in happiness says there will always be “ups” and “downs”.  The goal is not to experience only “ups”, but to amplify the “ups” and accept and be inspired in the “downs”.  It is to understand that your path must have valleys and mountains, or else you’d end up in outer space or in a hole in the center of Earth.

How would you know how good the sun felt on your skin if you didn’t experience the frigidness of winter.  Have you ever noticed how people who live in Florida don’t appreciate the warm weather as much as those who live in the Northern states?

This observation taught me that I could be unhappy at times and still be able to write about happiness from a place of integrity, like to monk who didn’t eat sugar anymore.

Surfing In The Valley or How To Surf Out Of It

Two take home lessons.

1.  Your reality is duality.

Your nature is happiness AND unhappiness.

Appreciate duality.  Ying and yang.  Male and female.  Peanut butter and jelly.

Accept and observe it.  Grow from it.

Neither side of the coin of duality lasts forever.

2.  When “down”, notice the “ups”, and “up” they will carry you.

When you find yourself in the more negative aspect of any duality, the inspiration to flip the coin is everywhere.

Like with Soul Surfer.

Because a good cry is soul liberating.  Even if you’re a manly man.  Even if your ten-year-old sister judges the bejeesus out of you.

Remember the quote, “What goes down, must come up.” (I think that’s how the quote goes.) <wink>

Dr. Christopher Stepien is a chiropractor, chronic pain specialist, and A.R.T. provider, and clinic director of the Barefoot Rehabilitation Clinic in Northern NJ.  He has been trained under the Integrative Diagnosis system for “clinical excellence”.  He loves to help people in ANY way he can. Please reach out to him if he can be of a service in any way. It doesnt hurt to ask.


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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

DK June 15, 2012 at 9:49 pm

HI Chris,

I haven’t talked to you in a while! Well written post. Is it not funny though that you don’t notice when your happy at all. Being happy seems to be a by product of whatever your doing, who your with, the day, etc. From a couple people I’ve been around lately or speaking too, even when they are down, they can’t force themselves up and to be happy, then something comes along and distracts them from the down and brings them up, and happy again (slowly or quick at times) . I do believe that’s why people develop hobbies that distract them from other things and make them feel happy, even if its just for a short time the effects can be lasting.

Love you

Victoria June 17, 2012 at 11:04 am

I really appreciate this post- thank you for writing.

I share your goals of living by example: having a happy, healthy, and FUN life. Like you, I’ve recently felt like I wasn’t the glowing example that I wish to be. Sadly, where I am with my education, I do not have the chance to do all the things that make me happy, healthy, and full of fun. That is something about my education that I find torturous and, to be honest, is something I really resent about the path I have chosen. I recognize it is temporary, and I see my future as one where I have the time and resources to again embrace the things that I love. Until then, I make do with what I can- living as healthily as I can, and finding the happiness and joy in new places (and perhaps in smaller doses).

Being outside is very important to me. Spending time in the sun (especially during this time of year) in beautiful places is incredibly healing for me. I definitely find happiness, health, and joy when I am in nature. Spending time with the right people is also incredibly important, though our modern lives seem to make this increasingly difficult (though sometimes the internet makes it easier to find like-minds with shared values!).

Thanks for the post.

Dr. Christopher June 17, 2012 at 9:45 pm


I miss you. Have you heard of “Flow” by Mihaly Cheeksentmehighee? What you bring up is what the book is about. Very famous psychology book. It changed my life. Come home soon. I love you.


No, thank you for being you and for commenting. No matter what our path is, we always have the power to humbly observe, learn, grow, and change paths if needed. But it sounds like you know why you chose the current path. I know that your perspective is the right one though, so you know what you’re doing. Love you too!

Katie June 19, 2012 at 11:56 am

Chriiis! It’s been a while! I absolutely respect you for writing this down. I have made a conscious effort to keep a running list of things that make me happy (and they range from eating lunch with a spork to job interviews that went well), but what has really made a difference is to actively remind myself when I feel like I’m in the valley, that hills can’t exist without them. That, and to reidentify ‘discomfort’ as ‘growing pain.’

Anne June 19, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Your writings are inspirational. Don’t stop!
I like your quote today: “We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”
Living life. Becoming empowered. I’m getting stronger and better. Thank you:)

Dr. Christopher June 19, 2012 at 10:20 pm

KATIE! How are you? I miss you. In the book “Positivity”, they say to maintain a ratio of 3:1 … 3 positive thoughts for every negative one. I find this helpful on occasion, seems like you have this down. The image of you eating with a spork makes me happy too. LOL. And I like your reframe. Isn’t that the purpose of all this anyway, “to grow through life?”

Anne! I miss you too although I only saw you yesterday. And your being is inspirational to me. I’ll keep telling you that. I got that quote from the documentary “Finding Joe.” I’ll make you watch it soon. You already are stronger and better Anne. You’re just realizing it now.

Thank YOU.

Debbie October 16, 2012 at 10:12 am

I need help… I am not use to reaching out to anyone…. dont know how to start dont know what to say.. I am all over the place more negative than positive …more reclusive than outgoing more sadness than smiles Not asking for a response just felt good and crying while i am able to let someone know that I feel like I am losing my battle and ability to FIX it or survive yet again another struggle …..

Dr. Christopher October 16, 2012 at 9:19 pm

Debbie, email me? (cstepiendc [at] gmail [dot] com)

I’m proud of you for reaching out. You deserve help. You don’t have to start or say anything really, just open the channel for communication. I WANT to talk to you. Please let me?

Please email me?

A Salty Monk August 13, 2013 at 12:31 pm

Chris, as a person who has lived their life generally devoid of self esteem and possessing an almost Zen-like ability to deflect positivity, I would hate to see you suffer that. I don’t think you take enough pride in how good you are at what you do and how much you inspire your co-workers and clients. You offer an amazing amount of positivity and help people every day. Even if you aren’t happy with some of the things going on in your life, take pride and pleasure in the work you do and the help you give, it’s more than the vast majority will ever do. Peace.

Dr. Christopher August 13, 2013 at 5:56 pm

A Salty Monk,

You are very appreciated today. This was needed today.

Peace back to you.

AM August 14, 2013 at 10:00 pm

I love this article about the reality of duality… I have read it many times. Thank you for reminding us that our path must have valleys and mountains. Your words are very healing and your presence in our lives feels amazing. Thanks for inspiring us, soothing our achy-breaky bones/fascia/muscles/tendons/joints etc., coaching and leading, and for all these articles which provoke thought and reflection. Love you!

Dr. Christopher August 17, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Thank you back AM. Its makes my previous valleys, worthwhile.

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