If You Could Make Me Happy
Consider for a moment if it were true. Imagine you did, in fact, have that power and could make me happy. How might I behave towards you?
‘Happy‘ is one of the more enjoyable feelings so I guess I would try to keep you close so I can get some whenever I want. I may:
- get you to believe that you’re dependent on me
- show jealousy if you pay too much interest to anyone else
- keep a close eye on you and restrict your freedom if you get too far away
- demonstrate how difficult life is for me when you’re not around.
I would also want to make sure you feed me happiness when I choose either by getting you to like me or to fear me. So I may:
- tell you only the things I think you want to hear
- lie about or hide things I think you don’t want to hear
- induce guilt, make threats, punishments or rewards to manipulate your actions
- show disappointment if you don’t live up to my expectations.
I don’t want to behave towards you in this way, and I don’t want any of these from you.
Yet I notice many of these behaviours in myself whenever I’ve put my happiness in the hands of someone else.
I’m Not The Only One
The belief that we can make others happy appears all over the place. Turn on the TV, open a magazine, listen to people talk and I don’t have to go far to find it.
At the end of a romantic film I sometimes wonder what happens next, after the two protagonists have suffered in love and come through adversity to the conclusion they make each other happy. Do they really live happily ever after? Do they manage to move through romantic love and find a deeper, mutually rewarding kind of love?
I think the belief starts early in life for many of us, with our parents. As a parent myself I know how delighted and happy I am in relation to my children. I also know how challenging it is to guide them and nurture them, especially when they just won’t do what I want them to do. In those times it’s so easy (and dangerous) to take the simple route:
“You’ll make me happy if you go to bed now/clean your room/eat your vegetables/respect me/ love me/fulfill my dreams for you /________”
Or you’ll make me unhappy if they don’t do what I want!
This plants an idea that somehow my children can make me happy or unhappy and so are responsible for my emotional well-being. I put my happiness in their tiny hands before they are ready to know what to do with it.
I believe this makes much unhappiness in our world? How many people desperately and fruitlessly try to make others happy? How many parents are disappointed with their children who don’t visit or didn’t turn out the way they hoped for? How many relationships are built on a foundation of dependency?
I Can Make A Difference
I read and hear many people say we need to develop pleasure in our own company and attend to our own happiness. I agree with this up to a point. My happiness is either within me or it’s not and it’s not injected from the outside. You will always be a bystander, though sometimes you may get actively involved.
Yet we aren’t islands. We are social creatures and many of our needs are interconnected with others. Sharing, interacting, community, touch, sexual expression, belonging etc. are all things that are hard to nurture without other people.
When you freely and joyfully give to me it helps fulfil a need of mine. When I accept this gift and when I’m connected to my needs I feel the kind of happiness I’m seeking in life.
The good news, I believe, is that it’s a fundamental characteristic of human beings to enjoy doing things for other people. The pleasure of contributing to someone’s well-being is enough motivation for me to want to do it as much as I can.
I don’t enjoy giving to others, though, when I’m not completely free to do so. That means when I’m free from your expectations, demands, obligation, manipulation or threats. When I release others from the responsibility to make me happy, I find I’m much more likely to develop joyful and fulfilling relationships.
Welcome! I'm Ian Peatey and this site is one way I share Nonviolent Communication (NVC) by writing articles and sharing information about NVC materials, news and people. I hope you'll be a frequent visitor.
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