What do we need to be happy? I run into many, many unhappy people and I ponder what it would take for them to find happiness. Some live with challenging diagnosis, thus the quest for happiness requires therapy, perhaps medication and counselling. They also require understanding and patience and generosity. Still others have endured hardships and carry a grievance that is hard to shake. Reminders of said grievance can bring setbacks and heartache. Still others look around and see what others have, who others feel, how others are treated, and want that for themselves. There too a grievance can set in, “why don’t I have that?” People begin to compare and feel unfairly slighted because others are happy when they are not.
My own strategy for these encounters is straight-forward; listen, affirm authentically (that is don’t patronize by offering false praise to make others feel better – they will eventually realize what you are doing) gifts that are appreciated, include in community, be humble and share my own flaws, model being comfortable with imperfection and curiosity and remind everyone that none of us have this life figured out. I don’t find this difficult. What does challenge my patience is watching people who are unhappy and believe others are the cause of this feeling who at the same time treat others exactly in a manner they do not want to be treated. I can and do take caustic comment from people who would shrink into the fetal position if I ever said likewise to them but I find it infuriating to hear persons who call themselves victims who victimize others.
I know this happens all the time. In the playground you would see children who were bullied looking for a smaller child to bully themselves. This is common. But I guess I assume as we age and mature we become aware of the conditions that upset us and hopefully we take steps to ensure we do not do likewise to others.
I used to think advice helped the unhappy. I no longer believe this. I feel people need to try out new strategies, new approaches, themselves and through trial and error come to a place where they can hopefully feel happier. I hear a lot, a lot, of advice being given. Often this advice sounds like a lot of clichés, things we read somewhere, heard from a celebrity, and repeat. For me the best teacher of happiness is it being modelled by truly happy people. When I see authentically happy people I don’t want to “be like them” in the sense of liking what they like, rather I want to learn how they got there, what was the process followed. More often than not it is a humbling experience that led to brokenness that led to gratitude that led to simplicity that led to decluttering of one’s mind that led to the awareness of who they truly are that led to knowing one’s self and one’s passions that led to living out same. The outcomes are all different, we are all different, but that process is remarkably similar. No clichés just hard discerning work. If you come out on the other side thinking you are perfect and everyone else is a fool and the problem with the world is people just don’t get it…chances are you have more work to do.
Being a flawed person means asking other people advice. It means you know you have agency in the quest for your own happiness. There are cruel acts and cruel people and many have the scars to prove it. But for many of us happiness is not being prevented by some faceless person who wishes us ill. Most of those around us want us to be happy, they just want us to find it for ourselves.