A Small Shrine and Ritual for My Happiness

by Sue Barclay, licensed Dynamic Emotional Integration® Professional

I never used to think I had a problem with happiness, or that my relationship with happiness needed to heal or change. However, reading about happiness from a Dynamic Emotional Integration®(also known as DEI) perspective has helped me realise how often I have asked my happiness to come forward as a distraction – from my discomfort of not being able to consciously feel (or know how to identify and work with) my other emotions.

I think from quite an early age this habitual way of responding with happiness had helped me navigate difficult or challenging situations I did not know how to deal with in other ways. The downside has been that focusing so much on my happiness meant I was unable to access to the intelligence and energies of my other emotions as they arose.

The idea of creating a small shrine for my happiness began with a growing sense that I needed to create a container for my happiness, and also for the part of me that feels she always needs to be happy and funny and sunny … Sunny Sue!

Creating the container

I sensed this container needed to have some solidity and weight so I used some air-dry clay to make a pot with a lift off lid. This little clay container sat around for a week or so as I didn’t know what to put inside it to represent my happiness.

The image of concertinaed paper bursting out of its container when the lid was taken off came to me; and I chose yellow and orange to paint and decorate both the clay container and the concertinaed paper with circles and suns and simple shapes.

I put some clear varnish on the pot for protection, and in a bit of rush I also put some varnish on the paper which didn’t work well, as it took some of the paint off and made the paper a bit sticky.

A day or two later I used some yellow wool to add some softness to the inside of the box, and I wrapped strips of yellow cotton fabric round the concertinaed paper to stop it bursting out of the box. The next day it felt important to somehow secure the lid on the box, and I came up with the idea of using yellow and orange wool to make a braided cord that would go around the box a few times.

Discovering my happiness habit

My ritual has helped me more deeply sense the limiting consequences of my ‘Happiness Habit.’ By asking my happiness to continually dance to the tune of what increasingly feels like an outdated ‘Sunny Sue’ persona, I am unable to fully access the deeper parts of myself, which ask me to slow down and feel, respond, and act in more conscious and considered ways.

I think my happiness is tired. I think I am tired and that I need and want more access to my other emotions.

As I wrapped the concertinaed paper in the strips of yellow cotton fabric, I felt I was carefully bandaging my happiness so that it could rest and heal its wounds and dis-regulation, brought about by too much activation.

I felt soothed and slowed as I bandaged my happiness, and my sadness came forward to help me let go of my old belief that I should be happy … always.


“Forcing my happiness forward disconnects me from parts of myself, my other emotions, and aspects of my creative soul and ‘inner artist,’ all of which ask for time and space to develop and mature.”

Orange and yellow were the only colours I used to decorate my Happiness Shrine. I felt constrained and sensed my anger coming forward; I wanted to use other colours but I didn’t feel I could. I wondered how often I had felt this way in my life … constrained by my need to put on a happy face.

My happiness, represented by one long flat strip of paper that divided into two thinner strips, was very two-dimensional. I was reminded of the flat paper dolls I played with as a child; my happiness had little weight, and it could not lie flat unless it was wrapped in its bandage.

I wondered:

Do I get ungrounded when my happiness is active, and if so how?
Do I get jumpy and want to make everyone else happy too?
Could my Happiness be working with my Panic in some way?

When I get happy, do I tend to start to whizz around without much thought as to what I’m doing and why?
Do I find it hard to settle to slower tasks?
Do I find it challenging to make clear plans for my day, my week, my year … my life in general?

Do I expect myself to feel ‘full of fun’ and happy all the time?
Does habitual activation of my happiness make me feel physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually somewhat two-dimensional?

There was a childlike feeling to the way my shrine developed

The braided wool reminded me of braiding my hair as a young girl.
The simple shapes of the decoration made me think of children’s toys and books.
The handmade clay box reminded of hours spent playing with plasticine and play-doh.
The concertinaed paper was like a jack-in-a-box.
The smallness of the box reminded me of little boxes I would place my ‘treasures’ in as a child.

And I could only use simple shapes as decoration; no other images were allowed. I asked myself, Does my over-reliance on my happiness prevent me also accessing older, wiser parts of myself?

As I worked to make this shrine I increasingly found myself under some kind of pressure to work quickly and get my shrine finished. This meant I could not fully enjoy the painting process and I felt my anger and frustration make me question why I need to rush my work.

I chose not to listen to my fear alerting me to the fact that varnishing the painted paper might not be a good idea; it wasn’t, and the folded paper ended up being a bit sticky and some of the decorative painting lifted off with the varnish.

Forcing my happiness forward disconnects me from parts of myself, my other emotions, and aspects of my creative soul and ‘inner artist,’ which ask for time and space to develop and mature.

A few days passed as these and many other thoughts came to me … and still come to me. Gradually my anger quietened as I realised that my happiness is not to blame for the constraints I have felt when I forced it forward. I thank it for working so hard. I started to feel compassion and love for my happiness.

I held my small shrine in my hand and reassured my happiness that it can now rest and heal, and find it’s own rhythm and ‘way.’ A mixture of feelings and emotions come forward, helping me let go of my old relationship with my happiness …

Some days later …

I have now wrapped my Happiness Shrine in yellow boiled wool from an old worn out yellow jumper I used to love to wear (I used to think of it as my happiness jumper and I wore it till it was in tatters). My small Happiness Shrine now sits on a shelf beside a shrine that I made for the depressed, shamed, and grieving part of myself.

I can see how these parts of me may well have worked together; one balancing the other …

Perhaps writing and sharing my shrine-making process is also a way to end and complete my ritual. I thought I needed to tidy up the yellow boiled-wool I wrapped my shrine in, but I realise that it needs to stay as it is to remind me that when I force my happiness forward I am unable to ground myself enough to successfully settle to slower tasks like sewing and embroidering.


Sue Barclay

Sue Barclay is a dual-licensed Dynamic Emotional Integration® professional living in Glasgow, Scotland. She offers DEI trainings, workshops, and consultations in person and online. Sue has a BA degree in Drawing and Painting from Edinburgh College of Art and is a qualified Alexander Technique teacher and Yoga teacher. Her expertise in DEI includes: feeling and identifying your emotions, learning about the specific skills and gifts each one of your emotions brings you, finding out how emotions work, and learning to work with them rather than for or against them, and the empathic mindfulness and self-care practices.

Visit Sue’s profile: Sue Barclay.

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