What is it, in life, that each of us is looking for? Is it our destiny? Our purpose? Something meaningful? Power? Happiness? Contentment? Wealth, or, at least enough money to not have to worry? Stuff?
If we look at the way Society is structured, we see that power and wealth are probably the main things we, as humans, are looking for. Our revered institutions are designed to teach us how to get power and wealth (education), and how to maintain and build our power and wealth (government and religion), if we discern the way we should use them to get what we want. As we know, that happens, but not for the majority.
Regardless of the above, what is it that each of us is looking for? When asked, people seem to always arrive at the common denominator, no matter what their other circumstances; happiness.
What is happiness? There are many definitions. However, I think “happiness” is different for each of us. We are separate, living beings, brought into the world alone and we are separate dying beings, leaving the world alone. So, what will we do while here, to find our happiness? Will we learn about the world and do what we need to do to find out how to achieve happiness?
Every culture and social group has values and beliefs that it uses to help its members achieve happiness, as the group defines it. For example, we live in the United States of America, a country that is known for the entrepreneurial spirit and helping its citizens achieve wealth, health, and happiness; at least, that is the myth we live by. But there seem to be contradictions. For example, we are encouraged to be individualists by our political parties, media, and advertisers. Yet, when it comes down to it, we have the highest prison/jail population of any first world country. So, if we are supposed to be individualists, why are so many of us winding up in the slammer? Why are our lower and middle socioeconomic classes losing resources while our upper classes (the 2% of us that hold most of the wealth) gaining in resources? Are we really living in a contradictory Society that encourages us to be Individualists, yet when we attempt to practice our “individuality” we are punished? The answer is “yes” and “no.” “Yes,” about 2% of us have figured it out (if wealth means happiness); “no,” many of us have not figured it out.
If wealth means happiness, why do the wealthy tell us that it does not mean happiness, that it just means not having to worry about everyday expenses, like the majority of us do? So, removing wealth from the equation, what about “power” bringing us happiness?
It certainly feels good to get a promotion, win an election, win a competition of some kind, gain “recognition” for our accomplishments. Even mass murderers seek their “15 minutes of fame,” even if it is inglorious. As social animals, we seem to have a need for recognition. Do we seek power for recognition? Is power over others a means to happiness? I don’t think so.
We encourage one another to succeed but we always seem to be for the underdog; unless the one in power is revered. Usually, those in power whom we revere are humble, self-effacing individuals who credit those around them, on their “team” for their success, while those in power who got their power through force or deception tend to be despised. But, as we know, even if the recognition is negative, people seem to crave it. Does recognition create happiness?
If we look for happiness among others, we seem to find it in those who enjoy healthy, fulfilling, emotionally gratifying relationships with their spouses, children, and extended families. Within those boundaries, they have achieved positive recognition.
How then, do we achieve positive recognition? In healthy families, it is a given. But what if we haven’t experienced the best of circumstances in our families of origin? Are we doomed to unhappiness? I don’t think so.
I propose that our happiness lies in our definition of being “nice.” Both recognition and power derive from being nice. People flock to those who treat them with respect and nurture their dignity.
What then is “nice?” How “nice” do we have to be to achieve positive recognition? Does nice mean always having to “nicely” defer to others? A lot of us think so; “turn the other cheek,” “do unto others,” etc. But wouldn’t being “too nice” lead to resentment, as we defer to everyone else? We often hear from those with “anger problems” that they hold everything in and then “blow up” at some point, when they can’t take being nice anymore. So, I am supposing that there must be a “tipping point” of niceness where we can no longer tolerate deferring to others and concomitantly holding in our feelings, at which point, we blow. Even though being nice is taught by our culture, it seems we must not forego our own feelings. What then, would be a good road map for being nice, and not losing ourselves in the process? Enter Boundary Management Therapy!
Boundary Management Therapy (BMT) is simply a systematic method of communication in which we use our emotional feelings as a guide in our interactions and responses to others, with the consequence of defining our authentic selves and improving our relationships with others as both we and they learn who we are, what our values and beliefs are, and what our boundaries are. In the process, we teach the people with whom we are authentically communicating how to communicate more authentically. Communicating authentically might then result in increased empathy, mutual respect and... Happiness.