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Remember To Be Unhappy!: The Unnecessary Root of Human Misery

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By Adam J. Pearson

We Have To Remember To Be Unhappy

Have you ever experienced a state of deep peace, serenity, joy, and loving attunement to what is?


Did you ever notice how, in that state, we’re not remembering the unsatisfied, fluctuating, unstable, sense of “me” that we otherwise take ourselves to be?


This point is so crucial to explain much of the unnecessary suffering we experience on a daily basis, yet so easily missed because it’s so obvious!

The Storytelling About the Unhappy “Me:” A Mental Process of Remembering
The dissatisfied self, the unhappy self needs to be remembered. Did you get that? The anxious, fearful, depressed, unhappy, or otherwise dissatisfied self needs to be remembered to be summoned up in the spaciousness of the present moment.

Why? Because the sense of the unhappy self is generated by a mental process of storytelling about “me,” and all of the units that make of its stories, all of the content of its stories, and all of the words it uses to tell them are stored in memory. Thus, the sense of being a dissatisfied self is remembered, actively remembered in the present moment.

The brain can’t tell the difference between a remembered experience and a present experience; its neurons fire similarly either way–ever notice how a sad memory can evoke as much sadness as something experienced as sad happening in front of you right now? The brain can’t tell the difference and it generates the same emotional responses either way.
So, when the unhappy self is remembered, the brain generates a sense of unhappiness in the present moment. Do you see the link? The remembering of the ‘self’ you take yourself to be is what gives rise to the overwhelming majority of the suffering that arises throughout the day. 

We remember ourselves into unhappiness! As they say in Vietnam, ối trời ơi! (Oh my Buddha!)
Remembering What Is Already Over Makes Us Suffer As If It Were Happening Now
Were you ever having a great day when suddenly, something triggered a memory of an event that happened to “you” many years ago, and you immediately felt overcome with waves of sadness or regret?

Consider what happened there: without the remembering? Peace and joy.

With the remembering? misery.

What happened? You remembered to be unhappy! You remembered a past sense of ‘self’ into the present and experienced sadness as a result. And then, in the mother of all ironies, you forgot you were remembering and took yourself to presently be what you just remembered. It’s so subtle and quick. It snaps on us like a mouse trap and stings when it does. Ow!

Can the remembered sense of “me” be what you really are in any meaningful sense? Of course not!

Why not? Because  you were here before it showed up! You were at the party of this moment first and the sense of an unhappy “self” showed up late, as it always does. 

Because the remembering mental process that produces the sense of the unhappy “self” relies on memory, it’s based on what’s not happening now, not on what is.

Because the remembered sense of being an unhappy ‘self’ comes and goes while you remain to see it come and go, the unhappy self can’t be you. You’re prior to it; you come first, then it shows up later. And when it isn’t arising, you remain.

Thus, there is no need to get out of the unhappy self because you were never in it! You are the present reality in which the memory of the unhappy you shows up and wreaks havoc in the body-mind like an uninvited guest that trashes a party while shouting “YEAHHH BREAK STUFF!! WOOOHOO!” and then feeling guilty about it later.

The reality is that there is no unhappy guest apart from the remembering. All the mayhem the unhappy “me” seems to cause is all in your head; you’re prior to all of it. The party of your living presence never gets interrupted! It only seems to do so. But you remain whether the remembering is going on or not, so you are not dependent on it. You are free from the need to be liberated. And that is the greatest freedom of all. 

You Are Still Here When You’re Not Remembering Your Story Of An Unhappy “Me” 

Your true nature doesn’t need to be remembered to be here; it is always present. You’re not defined by all the rememberings; you’re prior to them. All the baggage you think you are carrying needs to be remembered since the past is long gone and only the living present remains. When we’re not actively remembering the unhappy “me” through the mental process of the mind telling itself stories about “me,” what remains? The a natural harmony with what is. All of the conflict  with reality that the story of “me” gives rise to is absent, so a natural peacefulness abides.


In that state, which is our natural state, “I,” “me,” and “mine” aren’t claiming the content of this moment as “me” or using it to weave stories about “what it all means about me.” In the absence of the movement of claiming and having, getting and avoiding, a natural peace of resting presence shines through. It is that which illuminates all of the thoughts that we take ourselves to be; it is more deeply and intimately you than the story of “you.” It alone is constant while the ever-unfolding chapters of the remembered story of you arise and fall. So the stories cannot be you. You come first. The stories come and go; you remain. 

It’s as if, after showing up late, the aforementioned drunk guy from the party showed up and claimed to be you, the host of your party. “YEAH, THIS WAS ALL ME, BRO! THIS IS MY PARTY! I’M THE GUY! I PLANNED IT! THIS IS MY HOUSE! DO YOU LIKE MY DECORATING?” but you know it’s your house and your party. Before the drunk guy (the story of the unhappy “me”) showed up, you were here first. And after the police dragged him off to jail, you remained. What a relief that he wasn’t you after all!

You Are What Shines Through The Gaps In The Remembered Story of “You”

When we believe the stories the mind concocts by remembering a sense of “me” rooted in the past right now, we seemingly become at the mercy of its constant ups and downs and volatile fluctuations. But what shines through the gaps in the stories and the movements of the emotions that follow them like a dog chasing its master?

What is present in between the rememberings of the story of an unhappy “me”?

This question does not need to be settled by thinking; the answer can be seen simply by looking directly, becoming aware of the gaps between the stories when you seem to forget the dissatisfied “self” and feeling the sense of deep presence that shines through in their absence.

You illuminate all the stories and shine through them without ever being bound by them. Your presence remains even when the mind isn’t actively remembering the story of the unhappy “me.”  You’re prior to and beyond all of the stories. They never bound you in the first place, so you don’t even need to be freed from them; you’re free even from the need to be freed!

As Paul Hedderman says, “you don’t need to get out of what you were never in. It’s enough to see you were never in it. That’s being out of it!”

In other words, it’s sufficient to see that the stories that generate the sense of being an unhappy “me” are not you; they come and go, but you remain. When we’re not trying to run the show by misconstruing life as “my life,” life takes over and flows through very naturally. It takes the wheel and begins to steer it very gently without us having to do anything.

We are not hopelessly bound to the remembering of the unhappy “me.” We never were and we aren’t now. We only seemed to be. The more we turn our attention back to where we’re seeing from rather than the stories that we are seeing arise and fall away, the more we can rest in the reality of our true nature rather than in the fictional stories about “me” that the mind generates by processing its stored representations of the past. 

You do not need to be remembered to be; you are.

Conclusion: Who Are You Before You Remember Your Story About “Yourself”?

In short, the story of “me” and the sense of being an unhappy, restless “self” that it generates needs to be remembered because it’s never a present reality. Before the remembering, we are at peace. When we remember the story and believe it to be “me,” we suffer. It’s very simple. We don’t need to learn a whole bunch of fancy Sanskrit words or go to a thousand yoga retreats to understand this. If you observe the way the mind works with a relaxed an amused curiosity, it quickly becomes all too obvious. 


Believing we were the remembered stories of “me” and taking ourselves to be the sense of an unhappy “me” that the mind generates from the stories is an innocent mistake. We learned to make it only because we didn’t know better.The imaginary separate self we take ourselves to be is utterly harmless in reality; it’s just a constellation of remembered thoughts that collectively generate the illusion of being a solid entity.


As we’ve seen, the sense of “self,” of being a separate entity, is full of intermittent gaps between the rememberings. All of its threads fall apart when examined closely and are found to be empty of you. You’re not the story of you; you’re what shines through the gaps between your rememberings of your story.


The more we see that the story of “me” has nothing to do with my true nature, the more we begin to lose interest and withdraw our attention from it. As we lose interest and withdraw our attention from it, we cease to reinforce it. The gaps between the rememberings grow wider. The artificial sense of separation begins to dissolve. Life flows through more and more unimpeded, freed from the burden of being “my life” and swept up in a story of “me.” Reality remains in the absence of all stories and you are it.

I invite you to look and see what lies beyond the story of “you.” There’s nothing to lose except what you’re not, an unhappy “self,” which never really was in the first place.

What are you before you remember your story about “yourself”?

What are you even when you forget to remember it?
What shines through the gaps in the mind’s story about “you”?


What remains when the story isn’t here?

You are what you’re looking for.

Related articles on Nonduality:

Read More from Adam Pearson at


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