Coming to you here: One truth about happiness per week for the next four weeks. If you are already as happy as you want to be, go read the newspaper or do the crossword puzzle. Moving right along – the first truth is, “You are responsible.”
One of the most difficult challenges to face in being happier, is to realize that no one makes you happy or unhappy. You do that to yourself. Yes, other people sometimes do things that you don’t like. But your responses to those things are always your own. You see, we’re talking about the one human freedom that can’t be taken away; your freedom to choose your response.
In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor, tells the story of a few people in the concentration camp where he was held during WWII. They chose to be positive and to assist their fellow prisoners. They helped other people survive by demonstrating that, although the Nazi’s could lock them up and take everything from them, there was one thing they could not take; their freedom to choose the way they responded.
If someone can choose their response in a Nazi concentration camp, how difficult can it be for you? Okay, yes, it’s not easy. It takes practice. But you can do it. The question is, “is the effort worth the trouble?” If not, you will remain at the effect of others in your life. What does that mean; “to remain at the effect of others?”
It means to give control of your emotions to someone else. It’s like putting yourself on automatic and giving the remote control to everyone else. Here’s an example: When the phone rings what’s your automatic response? No matter what you are doing at the time, you will probably answer the phone. You’ve just put yourself at the effect of the person calling you. He or she, has just determined how you will spend the next few seconds of your life. But you made the choice to let that happen. You weren’t required to answer the phone. Nor are you required to emotionally respond to any other actions that someone takes or fails to take.
Like a ringing phone, some events are even more difficult to ignore. When we are emotionally attached and vulnerable it’s tough to say, “oh well” and not respond. When another person’s actions have a tangible negative effect on you, it’s even more difficult to let go. When someone in your life is a continual source of negativity, it gets even tougher. The answer is not to give over your power to respond. You might need to remove yourself from the close company of certain people. But before you do that, consider this:
There are many unhappy people in relationships because they have convinced themselves that their partner should make them happy. It doesn’t work that way. Each individual has a personal responsibility for his or her own happiness. The worst thing you can do to your relationship is to make your partner responsible for your emotions. That’s not a healthy relationship. It’s more like taking a hostage. And who wants to be held hostage in what should be but isn’t a happy state?
You have power to take the actions necessary to make yourself happier. No one can do that for you. But no one can stop you either. So claim your power. Take your responsibility for yourself. Don’t depend on others to make you happy. And remember, you are never responsible for making others happy. They have their own responsibility to themselves, just like you.
Happiness is about your ownership of you. That’s your power to choose your happiness or unhappiness. The rest is an illusion – someone else’s story. The next time you are feeling unhappy, remember, no one is making you feel that way but you.