Leslie Tourish, LPC
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The young woman sitting on my couch, cradling her very pregnant belly, had that special glow about her. However, she was glowing not from being with child, but from wishing to string up the biological father of the baby from the highest tree. For about fifteen minutes she ran down the list of his many faults, each one more grievous than the next. Before she sailed into the next page of his list of his faults, I stopped her and asked what he could do to make her happy. She thought for a moment, and then said, “He could buy me a stroller, the kind that has the car seat attachment.”
Surprised by the short solution for his cornucopia of character flaws, I asked, “That’s it? All it’s going to take for you to be happy in this relationship is for him to buy you a stroller?”
Thinking a bit, she said, “Yeah. At least for now.”
Ah. Therein lies the rub of attempting to find happiness from outside ourselves. It’s just so darn elusive, as it glimmers seductatively just over our next personal horizon. Happiness this week lies in the purchase of a baby stroller, next week it may find its way into our desire for the next, new shiny bauble. But whatever we may obtain, if we’re not happy within ourselves, after awhile, that old familiar hollow feeling returns, urging us to fill up the void.
When we try to find happiness outside of ourselves, we’re being outer-directed. Taking personal responsibility for our happiness means we’re being inner-directed, and we don’t use the copout of blaming others for our miseries. When we’re outer-directed we’ve chosen to allow ourselves to be batted about by the whimsies, behaviors, and opinions of others. Being inner-directed means to look only as far as our own thoughts and actions, and learning how to trust our intuition for what is best for us. The power of being inner-directed is not to allow others to control your emotions.
Dr. Richard Carlson, a California therapist, writes about taking control of our happiness: “The first step in becoming a genuinely happy person is to make a lifetime commitment to becoming more inner-directed than you already are. Each of us has experienced a great deal of disapproval in our lives. For many of us, a vast majority of this disapproval has come from the people we love the most – our family and friends. Unfortunately there is no way to please everyone all the time. In fact, it’s difficult to please almost anyone very much of the time. Disapproval is as predictable as the sun coming up in the morning.
Inner-directed people know that disapproval is inevitable. Far more important to an inner-directed person is to feel good about himself or herself and the decisions he or she makes. Inner-directed people ask themselves many times a day, ‘How do I feel about this decision?’ ‘Is this what I really want to be doing?’”
By taking control of our thoughts, and learning to truly trust ourselves, we lower the chaos our insecurities can rain down on us. After all, only we can allow others to rent space in our head for free, and drain away our confidence, self-esteem and sense of peace. And if need be, we can take responsibility for ourselves by buying our own strollers with the car seat attachment, and not relying upon the kindness of others. The money spent could be well worth the self-esteem saved.