Things happen and then we each react according to our belief systems.
Things happen and we each react based on our background, upbringing, beliefs, and practiced ways of thinking and reacting.
So your happiness depends on your thinking.
And it's the same for your partner, your child, your parents, and your friends. Their thinking determines their experience. This is why happiness is an "inside" job – for everyone. There is no exception to this rule.
Many people mistakenly think or fear that their choices and behavior will displease others and be the cause of another person's displeasure or unhappiness. It could be their partner, their parents, their children, their friends. Again, the list of possible people we believe our words and actions might displease is endless! But it all comes down to the fear that if you or I do what feels best to us – it might make someone else unhappy.
But once we understand the mechanism of mind – that each person's thinking and belief systems are what determine their experience – we can see that our choices cannot actually make another person unhappy. It's just not possible.
Different People React In Different Ways To The Exact Same Situation
Let’s look at how the exact same situation can elicit very different reactions from people, depending on how they look at the situation. Here are some concrete examples:
Two people get divorced: Now what does this mean?
The reality is a divorce is when two people who once lived together now go their separate ways. That’s a divorce. But getting divorced can, and does, mean different things to different people. For one person, a divorce can feel like a tragedy, like the end of the world, so this person may be deeply depressed. For another person, a divorce is a celebration, a liberation, because now this person is finally free from having to deal with a relationship that wasn’t working, so this person is happy, joyful. In both cases, the event was the same – two people who were together are no longer together. But because they had very different interpretations of the event, they also had very different experiences of the same event.
Your boss asks you to head a task force to deal with a challenging situation at your workplace: Now what does this mean?
The reality is that this is a work assignment. But again, getting an assignment like this can, and does, mean different things to different people. For one person, the assignment will seem overwhelming and the person will experience a lot of stress. For another person, the assignment will feel like a great honor and challenge, and the person will experience renewed energy and joy at work. In both cases, the event was the same – a work assignment. But because they had very different interpretations of the event, they also had very different experiences of the same event.
* Your children are grown-up and move away from home: Now what does this mean?
The reality is children who once lived at home now no longer live at home. They aren’t there anymore. But this again can, and does, mean different things to different people. So again, it depends. One person will experience their children moving away from home as a great loss and feel a sense of emptiness in their life. So for many, this can be a time of real crisis and soul searching, while others may enjoy their newfound freedom and having more time to focus on the things they never found time for when the children lived at home. But again, the event was the same – the children are no longer living with their parents. But because they had very different interpretations of the event, they also had very different experiences of the same event.
In all the examples above, there is an event – something happens – and then, as we have seen, different people have different ideas about what these events mean for them and their lives. And it is always our interpretations of events that determine our experience and how we get to live. So if you think divorce is terrible, that’s what you experience. If you think divorce is a true liberation, then that’s your experience. And the same goes for the new assignment at work. If you think it’s more than you can handle, you’ll experience stress, and if you are delighted at being given the challenge, you’ll experience renewed energy. And so on…
The important point to understand here is that in and of themselves, the various events have no meaning. They are just the things that happen in life. But we give them meaning by the way we interpret them. And this is true of everything that is happening in our lives. Everything.
Our Thinking Determines Our Experience
The same holds true when you decide to follow your Inner Compass and someone gets upset. Let's say spending some time on your own this weekend feels good to you, but your partner gets upset because he, or she, had other plans for the two of you.
Is this the only way your partner could react to your decision? Probably not. Just think about it. If 10 different people in 10 different relationships tell their 10 different partners they want some alone time this weekend, would each one of these 10 partners react in exactly the same way? No, of course not. Maybe some would get upset, but others wouldn't. Some might even be happy to have some time on their own too! But in every case, the reaction of each person depends on their belief systems and their beliefs about relationships, the world, and themselves.
So when we understand the nature of this thing called Life, and understand that our thinking determines our experience, we also understand that the idea that you, or I, could possibly be responsible for another person's happiness, or unhappiness, is a flawed premise. It is a flawed premise because it has nothing to do with reality. Because the reality is, it is completely impossible to get inside another person's head and think for that person. Which means we cannot possibly be responsible for the way another person thinks, or for the way that person experiences Life.
But unfortunately, most people do not yet understand this basic mechanism. They do not yet understand that the experience of each individual person is completely – 100% - determined by that person's thoughts and belief systems.
And because most people do not yet understand the basic principle that a person's thinking determines his or her experience, most people continue to mistakenly believe that the happiness of other people must in some way depend on what they say or do. Moreover, they also believe the reverse is true, too – that their own happiness depends on what other people say and do.
Unfortunately, this misunderstanding can make it very difficult, if not impossible, for many of us to listen to the signals we are getting from our Inner Compass. Because – God forbid – what if the Inner Compass guides you in the direction of something your partner, or parents, or children don't like, or disapprove of!
So now you can see that this basic misunderstanding about who is responsible for each person's happiness is the reason why your parents, and mine, trained us to please them. This is also the reason why we train our own children to please us. Because we mistakenly believe that other people are somehow the cause of what we are experiencing. Thus, we believe that other people are responsible for the way we feel. We believe that what other people do makes us feel the way we feel – and therefore, they are responsible for our happiness.
And we believe the reverse, too. We believe that we are responsible for the way other people feel and react too – and therefore, somehow responsible for their happiness!
But this, as we can see, is not true.
So when you find yourself falling into the trap of believing you are responsible for someone else's happiness (and I promise you, you most probably will, because we all do!) – remind yourself that there is this thing called "reality" (the events and circumstances that are happening in our lives) and then there is our thinking and interpretation of these events. And that it's our interpretation of these events and circumstances that determines our experience – not what anyone else is saying or doing!
But I know my partner will be upset!
Oh – but you say – I know if I do this or that my partner will be upset. And yes, it's true you do know your partner will be upset. You do know how your partner will react because you know what your partner's belief systems are. So yes, it's true, you do know your partner will be upset!
You know, for example, if you say to your husband I'm going away for the weekend with my girlfriends to Paris or I'm going to a silent meditation retreat for the next 10 days, he'll be upset if he's the kind of man who expects you to always be around and do all the things he wants you to do. But what does that have to do with you? All this tells us is what kind of a guy he is.
All this tells us is what his belief systems are. It really has nothing to do with you. Because he could just as well respond differently and say, "How wonderful, sweetheart, I hope you have a great time." Or he could say, "That's great, I really need some alone time, too, so I'm happy you're going away." Or he could say, "Good for you, I was planning on going fishing with my buddies anyway..." Or he could say, "Do what you like!" So there's just no end to how people can react to whatever you say or do.
And it works the other way too. If you're expecting your partner to act in a certain way so that you can be happy – well, then you're the one who is giving your power away and making other people (who you can't control) responsible for your happiness. It's kind of like taking the people you love hostage! And that never works out well!
When we know and understand that each one of us has an Inner Compass, and we understand that happiness is an "inside" job, it becomes easy to take responsibility for the only thing we can control - and that is our own choices and the ways in which we respond to what is going on in and around us.
Take Your Power Back!
So the belief that I am responsible for your happiness, or that you are responsible for my happiness, is probably one of the most disempowering beliefs in the whole wide Universe! Because it means you and I are giving our power away and making ourselves victims of other people and outer circumstances, which you and I cannot control. The same goes when someone else is trying to make you responsible for their happiness because then that person is giving his or her power away to you and making himself, or herself, a victim of outer circumstances (you), which they cannot control!
So if I believe my happiness depends on you, I am giving my power over my own life away to you! And if you believe that your happiness depends on what I say or do, you are giving your power over your own life away too. Because this faulty belief says you're not responsible for you and I'm not responsible for me! In addition, it implies that you don't have the intelligence and the resources to figure out what's best for you! And it says the same about me if I give my power away to you or anyone else.
All of this is the exact opposite of the Inner Compass principle, which in essence is all about self-empowerment. Because the Inner Compass principle says that you have an internal guidance system that is directly connected to the Great Universal Intelligence and that it is always giving you clear information as to what is in harmony with you. Which means that you can figure things out for yourself and that you can take responsibility for your own life and your own happiness!
And This Is Good News Indeed!
So take your power back and start noticing when you are disregarding your Inner Compass and the signals that are coming from within you and instead trying to figure out what you believe you need to say or do to make other people happy – and then STOP doing it!
Instead remind yourself that happiness is an "inside job", and that each human being is responsible for their own happiness, and for learning to be in alignment with the Great Universal Intelligence and what feels best and most appropriate for them – wherever they are in this thing called Life.
Then remind yourself that everyone else has an Inner Compass and a direct connection to the Great Universal Intelligence... just like you do.
And then listen, once again, to your Inner Compass!
Find and Follow Your Inner Compass: Instant Guidance in an Age of Information Overload
by Barbara Berger.
Barbara Berger maps out what the Inner Compass is and how we can read its signals. How do we use the Inner Compass in our daily lives, at work and in our relationships? What sabotages our ability to listen to and follow the Inner Compass? What do we do when the Inner Compass points us in a direction we believe other people will disapprove of?
About the Author
Barbara Berger has written over 15 self-empowerment books, including the international bestseller "The Road to Power / Fast Food for the Soul" (published in 30 languages), "Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life" (more than 20 languages) and “The Awakening Human Being – A Guide to the Power of Mind”. American-born, Barbara now lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark. In addition to her books, she offers private coaching sessions to individuals who wish to work intensely with her (in her office in Copenhagen or on Skype and telephone for people who live far away from Copenhagen). For more about Barbara Berger, see her Web site: www.beamteam.com