A fool may seek happiness in the distance but a wise person grows it under his feet. Really, true happiness cannot be sought outside of ourselves – not in our relationships with others, the groups we belong to, or in the things around us. Unless we stand alone in our own shadow and feel happiness from within, true happiness may always elude us for external things come and go like the tide. The only constant in our life is our own self. Most of the time and the most of us seek happiness from outside because we humans are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. For a pretty good period, 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 our selves. If we rely on others for our food, shelter and other needs, why not for happiness, we should rely? Well, happiness, of course, comes through many things and our social relationships and other external factors can bring us much joy, but many of us have not connected with, as we have connected with others. The negative side is that placing all of our happiness in the hands of others will lead to a lot of pain and disappointment throughout our life.
No matter how much we love a partner, a child, or a friend, we cannot make our happiness conditional upon them. Why? Because we will have certain expectations of others and when those expectations aren’t met, we may feel hurt, betrayed, misunderstood, taken for granted, invalidated, confused. 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 one to know what we want from them.
When someone else’s actions don’t live up to our expectations you are let down. Often he other person won’t even realise they’ve done something to cause us pain because they don’t know our expectations unless we explicitly share them. Often we don’t even realise our own expectations until we feel someone has hurt or disappointed us. For example, we may unconsciously expect our partner to show their love in a particular way such as saying “I love you” regularly and when this doesn’t happen we start to wonder if they truly care for us. We may feel un-acknowledged and unloved. However our partner may feel that they are showing their love through their actions. We have one belief while our partner has another. Is there a lack of love? No, while we let our feelings build into a stressful negative state within us; our partner would probably be very surprised to know we feel that way.
It’s unrealistic to expect another person to know what’s in our head – our 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 ourselves in the other person’s shoes. They see we 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 us 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 our needs, we must begin by looking within ourselves. When we feel a sense of disappointment in someone, we should use it as an opportunity to analyse our own expectations. The only person who should truly be able to disappoint us is ourselves – when we are not being true to ourselves in some way. We may take that disappointment and turn it into a positive – a pledge; an action that we should take to better ourselves. We must analyse why we are disappointed or hurt. We may find our initial thoughts or statements begin with “because he did” or “Because she didn’t; now we may look deeper to the true reason for our disappointment. Such statements will start with “Because I expected”, “Because I wanted” or “Because I thought he or she should”.
If we truly ever have control over ourselves and realising, this can save us a lot pain. Of course we can be disappointed in others but we have no control over their actions and reactions. We can share the reasons for our disappointment but we cannot expect the other person or situation to change because the other person has free will.
When we realize that we are responsible for our thinking and expectations, we will start to see that we had placed much of our happiness in the hands of others. We can now take our power back by recognizing that we have the choice to react to something either negatively or positively. By making our happiness conditional upon another person, we hand our power over to them. We feel a ‘victim’ whenever things don’t go as we want or expect. In doing this we set ourselves up for pain, but we can now turn this around and instead set ourselves up for happiness.
We are all humans and we are designed to make mistakes as they are our greatest opportunities to learn. All seasons are beautiful for the person who carries happiness within. Be happy by recognizing that the true happiness is within us. Just we need to take action accordingly.