Jacqueline Berg

Lecture 1 – Happiness as a choice

Symposium The Healing power of happiness – 12 January 1991 at the Free University, Amsterdam
Happiness as a choice, a lecture by Jacqueline Berg (journalist and founder of the Workgroup Spiritual Health).



He is the archetype of a young manager.  A dynamic young man. Theo. Short sleeves in the winter.  If anybody asks him how he is, his steadfast answer is “Perfect, everything is under control”.  The whole company rests on his shoulders. The directors utilize his bubbling creativity.

When he sends faxes, it can be seen on the left-hand corner that he is also working in the evening.  He has a weekend marriage and recently got a baby who is great.  From his car he phones his secretary to ring his wife to tell her that he will be slightly delayed. He comes home two hours later with a broad grin and his arms full of paperwork.

It started with a slight flu.  The tiling of his bathroom one Sunday afternoon suddenly becomes too much for him. At his work they say “you can ring him at home”.  A week later, he is  back at  his work again.  He is not completely better but his work will pile up otherwise.  The second flu, according to him, stems from the air-conditioning in his car.  He has started to get heart palpitations as well.

For the first time he expresses his worries: “There are too many mistakes made here.  Everything is put on my shoulders.  I cannot work like this on my own any more”.  The personnel whisper that Theo has stress.


She gets up in a hurry and goes to bed likewise.  Anneke’s mother.  She is constantly running and has the feeling that time slips through her fingers; a half hour at the grocers, quarter in the traffic, an hour at the dentist. This has been the case since her husband traded her in for a younger woman.

One morning, her knee gives way and she collapses.  The homeopath advises her not to wear a watch any more so that she makes time for herself.  She is astonished. “What has that got to do with a bad knee”?  She hobbles along to do her shopping.  Bewildered: “What time is it?”

A Japanese acupuncturist once wrote to a good friend what signs our bodies give to us.  A friend that asks. “What is going on?  Is there something on your mind?”

Am I being lived?

“What’s the sense in being sick?” asks a cancer patient who realizes  that she went too far.  She could never say “no”.  She never defended herself enough and did not choose for herself.  The cancer came as a sort of relief.  She learned her lesson. “I can do things for others but I don’t have to”.

And the aids patient who rediscovered himself on his death bed:  He wrote that the last months of his life were the most beautiful.  “It is of the utmost importance”, he said, “to learn who you are.  This asks of you to make an inner journey through your outer shell and find out who you really are.  You experience a lot of pain and sorrow but it’s worth it. I said to a lot of people that if everybody imagined for a moment that they had three months to live and lived every moment as intensely as I did, they would see life in a whole different light.  I have that privilege now and am very happy.”

Is this reality that we have to get sick first before we experience our lives and the quality of them?  Before we ask ourselves the question: am I living for myself or am I being lived?


A nurse from an Arnhem’s hospital once asked the businessman – Theo – who happened to be on a monitor in the intensive care, how often he was planning to crash into a tree before he would understand that he had to take it easy.

Theo, at first responded/acted as if he did not understand the question but a few days later admitted that he was glad that he was freed of his commitments for a while.  He could not go on any more.  He had too much work.  His wife wanted a divorce because she thought he was a workaholic.  He was never at home and had no time for her or his child.  He was too busy to enjoy life and be happy.

As a colleague of a journalist from a well-known newspaper so nicely put it: He was interested in happiness but after the deadline was met!

Running away

Why are so many of us more like human doings than human beings?

“We are running away”, said a brave gentlemen during a positive thinking course where there happened to be 50 people present.  He had just recovered from a heart attack and had been seeing a psychologist.  “Running away from what?” asked an interested woman.  He, without embarrassment read out a list which included a bad marriage, boredom, emptiness, a negative self image, a broken heart, lack of self respect, dependence, fear of rejection and loneliness.

Glances of recognition and fidgeting in the hall.



Recognizable. Also for the mother of Anneke.  Suppressed sorrow, the pain of being rejected, feeling inferior…. These were the feelings that she came across when she couldn’t walk anymore and had to sit in a chair for weeks on end.  Alone.  Her children were too busy to visit her on a daily basis.  In the solitude of her flat she was confronted with herself.

She became depressed.  She didn’t understand why she kept on crying.  Weak and stupid.  She was reminded again and again of her divorce.  She tried to suppress the painful scenes but they kept on recurring over and over again.  When she finally found the courage to face the battle, she began to see where she was in the picture.  She began to stop giving her husband the blame for her sorrow and began to realize that all her energies had been put into others and she had never invested time in herself.  But who was she?

The detained drug addict from the Bijlmerbajes began to understand why he was an addict.  Why he numbed himself with drugs?  He was not such a hard and unfeeling young man but a man with feelings and desires.  He also understood that whilst he was physically off drugs, his inner self needed to be healed.  To be healed mentally and emotionally.

Other than that, if he did not change he would end up (for the third time) for 8 months again in prison.  “But”, he said “If I really should choose for myself then I would choose for happiness and that is for me the same as life itself.  However, I don’t know whether I can take that on board yet”.


Will to be well

Total healing can only take place when one has accepted one’s illness and is absolutely willing to become better and also if you feel responsible for your own healing.  It is after all ‘my headache’, ‘my cancer’, ‘my bad knee’, ‘my stress’ and ‘my addiction’ etc.

Sometimes, you see people giving their doctor, therapist or specialist the responsibility to make them better.  They behave as a patient, a victim.  The disease has happened to them and so the cure will also happen to them.  But the will to be well is of the utmost importance.

Curing goes much further than taking medicines, being operated, undergoing therapies or a healthy diet.

Healing goes one step further than curing.  A physiotherapist who worked with a lot of very sick people called it: Understanding the lesson of disharmony.  The disharmony that exists in yourself can be so big that cancer can grow from this.  It is of paramount importance to understand the lesson and learn from it.  Then you can give it a new formation.  That is healing the body and mind.  That is healing.

Healing is a do-it-yourself project.  It asks for inner mirroring.  It is looking at your sorrow and disappointment, at your desperation and obsession, at your unfulfilled desires.  It is looking at your sadness behind the bad knee and the fear of failure behind the stress and to learn from it.

What is behind the fear and stress?

Inner mirroring goes much further than your experience of pain and sadness.  Further than anger, revenge or negativity.  Behind it are ideas about yourself.


You are what you think

Behind every feeling and every sign is an idea or thought.  It is self created or implanted, understood or misunderstood,  conscious or sub-conscious.

Miep from Amsterdam was married to a retired fireman and told an inspiring story before a  group of 500 at a  Positive Thinking Course.  Her husband paved the way by saying “My wife would like to tell you something that she has  kept to herself for a long time”. Everybody waited in anticipation.  Brave Miep proceeded to tell that all her life she had been depressed because she was abandoned as a child.

Her silence said a lot. Then she said “my  husband and children never made me feel bad about it.. It was in my very being and I thought about it constantly.  Everywhere that I went, I felt I was not wanted or welcomed.  Through this positive thinking course I am beginning to understand that I am allowed just to be me. I am and deserve to be me”.

Miep understood that one idea had controlled her whole life and that made her feel that she didn’t deserve to be. She understood that just because she was abandoned as a baby did not make her a lesser or more inferior human being.

Lola Verkuil, founder of the Foundation for Eating Disorders, says that the deeply rooted thought   ‘I am not worthy to be’ sits behind every form of eating disorder, both anorexia and bulimia.



One needs rest and silence to be able to differentiate between who you really are and your ideas.  In silence you distance yourself from ideas which give you sorrow and stop the flow of life. You realize that you have ideas but they are not the real you. You just use them. Through self identification with negative ideas it seems as if you have come to be them and have to stay like that for the rest of your life. This is what I am.

In silence you can distance yourself from your own ideas and the ideas that people have about you. Through silence one learns to discover what ideas are appropriate and inappropriate for oneself. What really belongs to you and what isn’t yours.



Herman van Veen once said in an interview that he often says to himself: “That is a load of rubbish and the ideas are not even from myself or created by me.  Every time somebody wants to take over and project a fear or an expectation on you, just say “Listen you have hit the nail but I don’t want to be the wall where you can hang your stuff”.  He added: “I have said farewell to a lot of things, especially from myself.”

Only when you let go, you can begin the healing process.  In your silence, you get to know yourself and can come in contact with your own pure self.  The origin of peace, the origin of love and the origin of power.  And the more that you recognize these original qualities in yourself, the more you will choose for happiness.  To choose happiness is your conscious decision to have the potential to be happy.

Happiness is just a smile away.



Choosing for happiness is choosing for total healing.  To be yourself in a complete form: body and spirit; wisdom and feeling in balance. Total healing from both the male and female in one person.

Choosing for happiness is the willingness to be happy.  It is the idea to accept that you deserve to be happy.  It is the confidence to realize that you are worthy to be happy.  Despite all your present and past problems, weaknesses or flaws, you do not limit yourself through your present or past baggage.

I have the right to happiness, happiness is my birthright



Besides your conscious choice to be happy, it is very important to deflect the threatening factors to your happiness.   Otherwise you will run the risk, just like the police officer from Amsterdam experienced in the hall.  He sat there lounging, yawning and shouted: “Happiness, how boring!”

One of the most threatening factors to happiness is using projection and reflection. The origins of your happiness or suffering are sought after outside yourself.  That is why the age-old guilt question exists: “It is because of … ‘dependence’: If you don’t do this then I cannot ..”

We surrender our happiness.



Another threatening factor to happiness is our identification with our outside image: “I am not beautiful enough, so I will never be happy…  I am a man and so I think that I should seduce every woman…  I am a woman and so I have to conform to every man”.  We become addicted to relationships.

And what about the lack of future prospects? Somebody recently said that after being confronted with the identity crisis we are now confronted with a destination crisis. By lacking a vision of the future we concentrate on the past and project that into our future. Then, that becomes our future.

And finally disease.


Getting better

How often do we not think that illness and disease makes us unhappy and sad, that it is a sign of weakness.  It nibbles away at our happiness. It has become clearer that illness is actually the beginning of our healing, the illness gives us a chance to get better.

A chance for happiness.

You may lose your body, but never lose your happiness.