Monday, November 07, 2005

Don't depend on others for your happiness

(OK, this is probably going to be the most personal post I have made so far. I'm not writing this for sympathy. It is more for self-exploration, and I figure if someone else can learn something useful in it, so much the better.)

About three and a half years ago, I had the most devastating emotional experience of my life. I was engaged to be married and it all suddenly came to an end. Obviously there are always two sides to every story, so I am not even going to attempt to lay the blame on someone else. The point is, the end of that relationship had a severe impact on me. It took me at least a year to get back to a somewhat normal emotional state. What I finally realized while I was coming to terms with this loss was I had been depending on someone else for my happiness rather than just being happy by myself. For the past 3 years or so since then, I've been trying to remember that lesson and just be happy on my own. I haven't even attempted to date anyone for the past 3 years. Instead, I have tried to just spend time with friends, enjoying their company.

Unfortunately, what I am beginning to realize is I am now having the same problem of depending on others for my happiness, but perhaps on a somewhat smaller scale. Even with my friends I tend to become too attached or needy and find on the days my friends are not available, I tend to get a bit melancholy. And then with my closest friends - those who mean the most to me - I tend to be totally insecure about their friendships. I am frequently thinking that I'll eventually do something annoying to drive these close friends away. So, I am always expecting the end of the friendship, reading into anything that might hint that I am wearing out my welcome. (It's a pretty stressful way to live, I must admit. And it makes me realize I am still depending on others for my happiness.)

Sometimes I wish I was the type of person that has so much confidence in themselves that I wouldn't care what other people think, that if it turns out a friend doesn't like me anymore and doesn't like something I've done, that's the friend's problem, not my own. But that's not really who I am. I am trying to always improve my character, and one of the ways I work on that is through feedback from the opinions of people I respect - i.e. my closest friends. It's not that I will do things that I don't philosophically agree with just for acceptance from my friends (I wouldn't choose them as friends in the first place if we didn't share the same values), but it's a more subtle thing. If it seems something I have done is bothering someone, I'll try to figure out what that might be and how I might avoid it in the future. But, it still seems to get back to the point that I am depending on others for my happiness. If I don't feel "accepted" by those who mean the most to me, then I end up an emotional wreck trying to figure out what I might have done wrong.

What I really need is a better way to measure my self-worth on my own rather than depending on others. At least, that's what I'm thinking right now. But, I can't live life in isolation. The interaction with people is what life is all about. I just wish I didn't get so attached to people. It reminds me of a Buddist quote: "He who loves 50 people has fifty woes. He who loves no one has no woes." But is the point of that that you shouldn't love anyone, or is it more that you should just expect to have some suffering since there will be people in your life who you will love?

Hmmmm.... I must think on this some more. In the meantime, I'll just have to get used to feeling like an emotional wreck at times. Gah!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brian,

the idea of total or constant happiness is a failure to begin with. Life is like Zebra's skin - white and black lines come one after the other. As such, everyone will ultimately have white happy lines as well as black sad lines in their lives.

Get kids. Seriously.

Mostly Torn said...

Get kids??? Seriously? I don't understand...

Henry Rhombus said...

As opposed to getting kids frivolously, then forgetting them in a shopping cart somewhere.

I think Anon is suggesting that once a person has children to care for and raise, he or she forgets about the petty woes of him- or herself and devotes every ounce of energy to bringing up that child. I've heard that idea before, sometimes from parents trying to convince me and my wife that having children will be a gracious act of charity.

To which I say, baloney. If I'm not ready or willing to devote myself to raising a child, then I would be doing that child a disservice by having or adopting it. That position is often labeled "selfish," but I fail to see how taking on responsibility for a child you don't want is doing anyone a good deed.

I love the Buddhist quote, by the way, and not simply because it echoes one of my previous sig lines: "To be happy one must pay attention, but to be unhappy one must also have paid attention."

And maybe there is no point to the quote. Looking for the point in stories and sayings can lead to self-doubt, confusion, and woe. Better to take on an air of daftness, and just say, "Cool."

Shiloh351 said...

As a mother of three, i can truly say that raising children causes you to do many sacrificial things out of love...you no longer do things to make YOURSELF happy, you do things that are best for your kid, to give them a happy life. In making THEM happy, you are happy. By focusing in a relationship on trying to make others happy, not yourself, your're never dissappointed when things aren't.No one will say raising kids is easy, but it teaches you to want someone else's happiness over your own. It's weird, but it works!!

Shiloh351 said...

"I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content." Phil.4:11

"Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding" Prov. 3:13

Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help. Whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them..." Ps. 146:5-6

:) Just some food for thought.....