Wednesday, 31 December 2008



Placing your happiness in the hands of others will lead to a lot of pain and disappointment, says Donna Thomson

The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet,” said James Oppenheim. True happiness cannot be sought outside of yourself — not in your relationships with others, the groups you belong to, or in the things around you. Unless you can stand alone in your own shadow and feel happiness from within, true happiness may always elude you for external things come and go like the tide. The only constant in your life is you. Love you, admire you, value you and be happy to be you.

Why do we seek happiness from outside of ourselves? From His Holiness The Dalai Lama: “Consider the following. We humans are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others' activities. For this reason it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.”

So we learn from a young age to rely on others rather than on ourselves. If we rely on others for our food, shelter and other needs, why not happiness? Well happiness of course does come from many things and our social relationships and other external factors can bring us much joy, but many of us have not connected with ourselves as we have connected with others. The negative side is that placing all of your happiness in the hands of others will lead to a lot of pain and disappointment throughout your life.

No matter how much you love a partner, a child, or a friend, you cannot make your happiness conditional upon them. Why? Because you will have certain expectations of others and when those expectations aren’t met, you may feel hurt, betrayed, misunderstood, taken for granted, invalidated, confused and so on. Everyone is individual. We have each grown to develop our own sets of values, beliefs, attitudes and ways of looking at the world. Our views may not be exactly the same as our loved ones. However, we often expect those loved ones to know what we want from them.

When someone else’s actions don't live up to your expectations you are let down. Often the other person won’t even realise they’ve done something to cause you pain because they don’t know your expectations unless you have explicitly shared them. Often we don’t even realise our own expectations until we feel someone has hurt or disappointed us.
For example
, you may unconsciously expect your partner to show their love in a particular way such as saying “I love you” regularly and when this doesn’t hap
pen you start to wonder if they truly care for you. You may feel unacknowledged and unloved. However your partner may feel that they are showing their love through their actions. You have one belief while your partner has another. Is there a lack of love? No. While you let your feelings build into a stressful negative state within you, your partner would probably be very surprised to know you feel that way.

It’s unrealistic to expect another person to know what's in your head — your values, beliefs and expectations. Thinking “Well they should know!” is not good enough, yet most of us would have thought this of someone else at some stage. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. They see you become sad, angry, unresponsive to them, or upset and don’t know what they’ve done, or if it’s even them who has made you unhappy. This leads to negative feelings from both sides and possibly arguments that could be avoided through open communication.

Rather than looking to others for your needs, begin by looking within yourself. When you feel a sense of disappointment in someone, use it as an opportunity to analyse your own expectations. The only person who should truly be able to disappoint you is yourself — when you are not being true to yourself in some way. You can take that disappointment and turn it into a positive — a pledge; an action that you can take to better yourself.

Analyse why you are disappointed or hurt. You may find your initial thoughts or statements begin with “Because he did” or “Because she didn’t”. Now look deeper to the true reason for your disappointment. Such statements will start with “Because i expected”, “Because i wanted” or “Because i thought he or she should”.

You truly only ever have control over yourself and realising this can save you a lot of pain. Of course you can be disappointed in others but you have no control over their actions and reactions. You can share the reasons for your disappointment but you cannot expect the other person or situation to change because the other person has free will.

When you realise that you are responsible for your thinking and expectations, you will start to see that you’ve placed much of your happiness in the hands of others. You can now take your power back by recognising that you have the choice to react to something either negatively or positively. By making your happiness conditional upon another person, you hand your power over to them. You feel a ‘victim’ whenever things don’t go as you want or expect. In doing this, you set yourself up for pain, but you can now turn this around and instead set yourself up for happiness.

The key is to not expect a particular outcome. What happens next is up to you. You can choose to wallow in negative feelings which may further damage a relationship, or you can try to place a positive spin on the situation. Perhaps you can find your happiness in the fact that you’ve done your part in dealing with the situation by getting your issue out into the open. Realise that it may not be an issue to the other person, but ideally you will work together to reach a compromise. You can also decide to be happy for the other person and the pain they show you because it helps you to grow. There are always choices and different ways of looking at the same thing.

It puts things into perspective when you resign yourself to the fact that people do make mistakes — they forget things, they don’t think properly, they don’t always consider how others may be affected by their actions, they can act selfishly at times, and so on. We are all humans and we are designed to make mistakes as they are our greatest opportunities to learn. As Horace Friess says, “All seasons are beautiful for the person who carries happiness within.”

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