Anecdotes to get happier from Mindy Fuchs – The Happy Therapist
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Last week I met with “Sam.” (For privacy name and circumstances are changed.) Sam is a gentle, hardworking, compassionate, family man. He had some horrific things happen to him in the past that weren’t his fault. And, while he has forgiven those who caused him great pain and suffering, he still suffers from anxiety and depression.
Early in our work together, Sam stated, “I just want to be happy.” For clarification, I had Sam define happy. He wants to have joy, peace, love, freedom, satisfaction, and contentment. (The elements of true happiness.)
Sam has made good progress overcoming his trauma associated beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors. When he came to session last week, Sam was excited to tell me about something good that happened to him. His face lit up as he shared his good news. Then, he immediately stole and killed his joy and satisfaction with a, “but….”
Sam’s declaration was, “I want to tell you… I got… am so excited! I’m happy, but….” With hope, Sam had set himself up to be happy, invited me into his happiness, and then extinguished it with one word. By saying, “but,” Sam replaced his hope with doubt and destroyed his happiness by shifting focus on all the things that could go wrong, might be bad, and won’t work out. He ended up wondering if his good fortune really was a good thing. And, he took back my invitation.
Before I responded to Sam, I got some paper towels and laid them on the table. Then I asked Sam if he would put his hand down on the table and cut off his fingertips with my Swiss Army knife. I reminded him of the benefits – no fingernails to cut and no fingerprints should he choose to beef up his pilfering.
Alarmed and confused, Sam refused my request. He said, “Why would I want to hurt and torture myself?”
“Exactly!” I replied. “So, why do you hurt and torture yourself by stealing and killing your joy and satisfaction?”
I asked Sam if he was afraid to be truly happy. Stunned, he looked at me with watery eyes and said, “I guess I am.”
Sam felt fear, anger, contempt, and guilt for so many years, he became “happy” (comfortable) with those feelings. To be the kind of happy he wanted, Sam had to make himself think in a happier direction.
You can be untruly happy like Sam if you experienced too much fear, anger, sadness, guilt, or shame in your life. And, you will continue to torture yourself by stealing and killing your joy, peace, love, freedom, and satisfaction unless you redefine the kind of happy you want and are willing to do what you need to do to get it.
No buts about it… You will never be truly happy if you constantly focus on what is bad and what you think is wrong, criticize and complain how someone is doing a job you clearly don’t want or aren’t capable of doing yourself, judge people you don’t know, expect the worst, and make your self-ambition a priority.
You will be truly happy if you: acknowledge what is bad, but focus on what is good; point out what you think is wrong only if you have a workable solution to correct it; put yourself in other people’s shoes and view their jobs in a broader way while also recognizing their successes; don’t judge others – period; expect the best and choose to believe the best; know that your ambition is not a priority, but your priority is to serve God and others.
We visited our daughter and her family last Sunday. During our initial exchange of pleasantries upon entering their house, we asked about their church’s status regarding the current Corona restrictions. Our son-in-law said he went to church that morning and brought communion home to our daughter and the kids. “Brought communion home” stuck with me.
Our son-in-law was referring specifically to bringing home the Eucharist. But, Eucharist comes from the Latin and Greek words that mean favor, grace, and gratitude. Communion means to share intimate thoughts and feelings. It is akin to fellowship.
How many of us bring communion home to our families?
Currently, families are forced to be together. This is an opportunity to spend time together – to share thoughts and feelings; to make eye contact and read each other’s faces instead of the latest Internet posts. It’s a time to build intimacy and trust with each other.
This pause in extracurricular activities gives us an opportunity to reconnect with each other in more meaningful ways. It’s an opportunity to put pen to paper and write someone a letter or thank you note; maybe just thanking him or her for being a friend. I don’t care what millennium it is, people still enjoy receiving handwritten notes and letters.
Maybe now that we are forced to be together, we can relearn how to use our time to have more fellowship in our families and with our friends. It’s a time when families can practice favor, grace, and gratitude and turn to God instead of their electronic devices.
This time of seclusion can benefit all of us in a way that brings us back to what is really important in our lives – fellowship. By being together, we can learn how to appreciate each other again. We can learn how to love better; how to be more patient, kind, and cooperative, and how to believe the best in each other. We can laugh, play, and pray as a family.
After this restriction is over and we return to our day to day routines and are confronted with the stresses of everyday life, how many of us will continue to bring communion home to our families?
Have you ever told someone or had someone tell you to, “Get over it!”?
When we say or hear that demand, we are not usually in a receptive mindset. The sender doesn’t want to hear “it” anymore and the receiver isn’t ready to give “it” up – whatever “it” is. So, what purpose does the command really serve?
A precursor to “Get over it” was “Quit your bellyaching!” This was a common edict in days passed and one my parents subscribed to when I complained about an issue they thought I carried too long or too far.
Does anyone say, “Quit bellyaching” anymore? Maybe it became politically incorrect because it infringed on the rights of the super-civilized faction’s freedom of speech. Even though it’s a kinder way of telling someone to, “Shut-up,” which has been redefined to be an expression of disbelief, “Quit your bellyaching” doesn’t sound as civil as, “Get over it.”
Telling someone to stop complaining is more direct and abrupt than suggesting someone move on from an issue. But, isn’t the goal to move on from the issue?
When you tell someone to stop complaining (Quit bellyaching) about something, you’re telling the person how to move on, but when you tell someone to “Get over it,” you’re telling the person what he already knows he needs to do.
Bellyaching is synonymous with complaining and grumbling. Complaining is defined as an expression of dissatisfaction; dissatisfaction with one’s lot in life. When we complain, we focus on what we don’t have, how unfairly we were treated, the pain others caused us, or how wrong other people are.
Clearly, complaining does not make way for happiness. It doesn’t change the outcome, doesn’t teach any life-enriching lessons, and doesn’t add to one’s good health. Scripture makes several references about the detriments of grumbling and complaining. Even Jesus told the Jews to, “Stop complaining.”
A simple way to, “get over it” is to stop complaining. So, if you are serious about moving on to be happy, quit your bellyaching.
How many times have you asked yourself, “What was I thinking?” or asked someone else, “What were you thinking?”
We ask that when we’ve experienced a bad outcome and we are replete with regret. The question is directed to others when they’ve experienced a bad outcome that has some bad effect on us. The outcomes may or may not be severe. We usually describe those situations as crazy, senseless, ridiculous, or stupid because they make no sense to us, and often cause more problems.
If you can’t make sense out of an outcome, it’s because the motivation behind it didn’t make sense; meaning the decision was made based on emotions. So, the answer to “What was I thinking?” or “What were you thinking?” is, “I don’t know” because there wasn’t enough thinking involved.
No one wants to make bad decisions or have bad outcomes because they are so costly. They cost time, money, careers, relationships, and reputation. Unfortunately, at some point, we all do it because we all have emotions, and it’s easy to let them overpower us. After all, our emotions were here well before our thinking skills developed. Plus, we need emotions for survival.
Our survival emotions are negative and include fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt. They are powerful since they play a serious role in ensuring our survival, and they are always at the ready. Therefore, they are always right on the surface and easily accessible. Our positive emotions run deeper, down into our souls. Their role is ensuring we live life to the full. They require more effort to attain and occur when we feel safe and secure.
Our emotions are necessary for us to connect with each other, but they are transient, fickle, and contradictory. You can feel elated and ten minutes later feel disappointed. You can feel angry while the person you are with feels peaceful. If you base a decision on how you feel at the time, regret could come as quickly as ten minutes!
When you make decisions based solely on how you feel, you are being impulsive. A decision based on impulse is usually followed by a long line of regrets.
Outcomes are proportional to feelings. The bigger the decision, the greater the outcome, and the more intense are your emotions. Minor decisions where the outcomes have minimal effects are usually less intense. For example, the consequence of choosing Rocky Road ice cream instead of vanilla because you feel like it will be less serious than if you choose to buy a car because you feel like it.
Emotions are important in our decision making, but they must be balanced with logic. When making decisions, we must think, then feel. God put our thinking brains in front of our heads and our emotional brains behind them perhaps as His way of telling us to, “Think first!”
Thinking through, not over-thinking, a situation is done by gathering information, targeting an outcome that will bring you satisfaction, joy, and peace, and considering possibilities. This process initiates use of your deeper emotions – the ones within your conscience. When you make decisions using your thinking brain and your deep intuitive (soulful) emotions, you set yourself up for much better outcomes.
Over-thinking leads to “What if…” thinking and initiates worry. It produces anxiety. Making a decision based on anxiety does not lead to a good outcome.
If you want to stop asking yourself, “What was I thinking?” take a minute to think first and consider your deeper emotions. You’ll have an outcome you will be happier with.
Be Happier point: Don’t make decisions on how you feel at the time, but on how you want to feel with the outcome.
Restrictive Cardiomyopathy is a chronic disease of the heart where the lower chambers of the heart become rigid and cannot expand when filled with blood. Therefore, it cannot pump blood properly. In other words, you have a hardened heart.
It is an uncommon disease caused by things out of one’s control, such as genetics and other diseases. Symptoms include chest pain, pain in arms and legs, shortness of breath, fatigue, confusion, muscle weakness, lightheadedness, and weight gain.
Reluctant Cardiomyopathy is a term I made up. It means a chronic disease of the emotional heart where all chambers have been walled off and cannot expand when filled with love. Therefore, it cannot pump love out properly.
It is more common than we would like to think and caused by unhealed hurt, damaged self-worth, unmanaged trauma, anxiety, and unprocessed grief inflicted by another infected person. Symptoms include muscle aches, feeling like you can’t breathe, fatigue, confusion, high blood pressure, trouble sleeping, and gastrointestinal issues in addition to fear, anger, contempt, shame, guilt, worry, depression, resentment, and pride.
Unlike Restrictive Cardiomyopathy, people choose to have Reluctant Cardiomyopathy. They can bring it on themselves, maintain it, make it worse, or cure it. Everyone is susceptible but can choose how ill or well he/she wants to be. The more reluctant a person is to do what he needs to do to feel better, the more severe Reluctant Cardiomyopathy becomes.
No one goes through life without getting hurt by someone else. While we are more inclined to seek medical attention for relief of our physical pain, too many of us try to self-treat our emotional pain. Often times, we do this with the same skill set we got from the people who hurt us. The result is chronic pain.
If we don’t relieve our pain, we resort to what is natural to us — we harden our hearts as a way to prevent additional pain. But, as you can see from the list of symptoms, hardening our hearts creates more issues for us and others.
Treatment for Reluctant Cardiomyopathy is compassion and forgiveness.
Many people have the wrong impression about compassion and forgiveness. People think compassion means you must relieve someone of his/her pain and suffering. Compassion is an awareness of one’s pain and suffering with an urge to help provide relief. It does not mean you fix someone’s problem.
Here are some beliefs people have about forgiveness:
• If I forgive, it means the offender wins and I lose
• To forgive means I tell the person what he did is okay
• If I forgive, I’m no longer a victim and must be responsible for my actions, including my mistakes
• If I forgive, I might get hurt again
Forgiveness is not any of these. It is true when we forgive we risk getting hurt again. But, that could happen even if we don’t forgive.
Forgiveness means to “let go” or “to release.” However, since we subconsciously remember pain as a way to maintain our existence, letting go is easier said than done. Just like it takes time for physical injuries to heal, it can take time to heal through forgiveness. We often have to let go of the same pain over and over because reminders of the hurt and associations with the perpetrator can continue to occur for days.
We forgive through self-talk and through prayer. The best way to let go is to ask God for help. He’ll guide you through it. Don’t be surprised if He tells you to pray for the one who hurt you. When you can do that, you’ll be free and healthy.
Are you a people pleaser?
If you answered, “yes” to this question. My next question is, how is that position working for you? If it doesn’t bring you joy, keep reading. If you are happy with that position. No need to read.
People pleasing is a learned behavior. Many people learn it from their parents. Others learn it as a means for survival.
Parents teach children how to be pleasers by example or by putting children in a parental role, where the children learn to take on the role of caretaker because they must take care of their parents or other family members. From this, children develop the need to prove they are worthy of existence by pleasing others and grow up to be pleasers.
We also learn to please others for our survival. Happy people are helpful, not hurtful. So, we believe if we make people happy, we’ll be safe.
Why people pleasing doesn’t work:
1. You cannot make anyone happy. Each individual determines how happy he /she wants to be. Therefore, when you try to make someone happy, you force that person to make a decision that agrees with what you want. You take away his freedom of choice.
2. If you’re working to please a group of people, each person has particular needs and wants. It’s impossible to anticipate people’s these then meet them to the degree each person requires at that time. This results in everyone’s dissatisfaction.
3. When you try to please someone, you…
a. Do things you don’t want to do. This creates expectations and builds resentment, which yield disappointment. You set yourself up to be unhappy.
b. Often spend more money than you have. This creates financial issues and stress for you, limiting your ability to help in the future.
c. Can’t disappointment anyone, so you say, “Yes” when you really mean, “No.” This makes you a liar and demonstrates your lack of trust in the other person. You cheat the person out of learning how to handle disappointment and out of the truth.
d. Take away what doesn’t belong to you, i.e. other people’s problems, choices, and ability to solve their issues. When you feel like you have to fix someone’s problem, you takeover and give the person what you think is best. You overpower the person, making you more of a dictator than a helper.
If you find yourself in a situation where you feel the urge to fix or please, stop and think of the overall outcome. Instead of pleasing someone, help someone be happy.
Do what helps people be happier:
1. Value the person with compassion and empathy. Validate him by letting him know you are aware or understand his pain and suffering. (For example you might say, “I see you are really having a tough time right now.”)
2. Respect him. Like a good sales rep, uncover the person’s needs. Ask him what he needs right now. (You could ask, “What can I do that would make this better for you?”)
3. Love the person: Be kind, patient, and truthful. Consider what the person needs at the time, not what you think he needs – remember it’s not about you when you help someone. Provide him with what he needs if you can. If not, offer what you can provide. Be encouraging and persevere.
We want to be happy, but often set ourselves up to be miserable. Here’s how you can reset yourself.
How many times have you jockeyed for a position at the check-out line? You know…when there are more customers than cashiers and a cascade of people pushing carts.
From the faces of customers in the queues, very few seem to enjoy the wait. I was one of those who waited joylessly. Here’s my story: I get to the grocery store and realize I forgot my list. This sends me into a fury because now I have to scour each aisle, which I find have just been rearranged. To comfort myself, I sashay my way to the bakery department and buy an emotionally based dessert – the kind that raises your blood sugar and your guilt. But, it is justified! I continue to peruse the store until I have a cart crammed with things that were and were not on my list. Taking way too much time and buying more than I came for, I scurry to check-out. Like a hunter stalking his prey, I look for the shortest and fastest line, assessing the efficiency of the cashiers vs. the amount of items in customers’ carts. I make a discreet beeline (meaning I act unaware of the customers heading in the same direction) to the winning lane – ah, just one customer waiting in line. Then it happens. The customer, who is currently checking-out, has two different orders, realizes his bag of flour is leaking, has items with no bar codes and a stack of coupons that make the scanner beep more than a snooze alarm. The coup de grace – he can’t get his credit card to work! Temptation to leave the line washes over me, but I’m trapped because people are now behind me. As I look towards my goal, the exit, I see the customers I vaulted ahead of pushing their neatly packed carts out the door.
I am not proud of it, but here is how I used to be while waiting in that line. I would crouch over the handle of my unsanitized cart and in my mind criticize and judge the cashier, customer, store manager, store franchise, and town. My thought bubbles would have read things like, “Geez, could that cashier get any slower?” “This isn’t a social call, so why don’t the cashier and customer stop conversing?” “If this guy has so much time to cut coupons, he should shop when there aren’t so many people here.” “This is a giant store with 20 cashier stations and only 3 are open. What a cheap company.” “The manager isn’t doing a very good job running this store.” “If we had more stores in the town, we would have more choices and less wait.”
I would go on and on getting myself more frustrated and dissatisfied. Finally, when m turn came to check-out, I would struggle to be friendly with the cashier and chances are I would be so frustrated that something would go wrong, e.g. my flour would be leaking or I’d struggle with my credit card in the chip machine.
I would leave the store irritated and ashamed. So, now I have to recover. I have to atone for my evil thoughts and insolent behaviors. I had just set myself up to be miserable.
We must learn how to set ourselves up to be happy. I learned how to do this with just one easy decree. It has allowed me to have more peace, joy, satisfaction, and freedom in aggravating situations. Even if I forget my list, I enjoy shopping. I don’t have any injurious thoughts and behaviors from which I have to recover. In addition, I am not compelled to buy unnecessary baked goods for comfort so am free of guilt.
Set yourself up to be happy by keeping your expectations real, giving yourself flexibility, and reminding yourself your happiness is your responsibility instead of putting the onus on others. Do this by telling yourself, “I’m going to make this the best possible experience (day) I can.”
You can do this in any situation and first thing in the morning. When I do this, I become creative in what I can do to maintain my peace and I find joy – I am patient and expect more good than bad.
Do this for yourself and you’ll find your creativity and attitude lead to happier outcomes.
Our nature is to be competitive and we want to win. Therefore, it is easy to compete in everyday life.
One of the most common complaints I hear from couples is they don’t “communicate” well. In truth, this communication problem isn’t confined to couples. It’s everywhere.
Have you ever been with someone who just droned on and on about him or herself? These folks are competitors. They seem to have incredible lung capacity, since they barely stop to take in a breath. However, that pause would give us an opportunity to overthrow their monologue. So, we find that people who talk incessantly about themselves want to “win” or are trying to be “winners.” This makes them poor listeners, and to be a good communicator and have good communication we must be good speakers and good listeners.
Communication requires a sender and a receiver – a speaker and a listener. Both positions have equal responsibility. However, it seems we’ve put more responsibility on the sender than the receiver. Think how often people get offended by what someone has said. When that happens, it takes communication to a competitive level. Therefore, someone will be a winner and someone will be a loser.
Does your telephone carrier guarantee the calls or texts you make will be clear, but cannot guarantee the person you call / text will hear you? Of course not! So, why have we put more responsibility on the sender when we communicate?
Both sender and receiver have equal responsibility in communication. The sender must send his/her information in a way he wants it to be received using words, body language, and tone of voice. This is where sarcasm messes up communication. It’s like static on the phone line. Receivers don’t understand what the sender is really saying. Another way senders send confusing information is when their words don’t match their body language or tone of voice. In that instance, receivers will interpret the body language and tone. This also creates static in the line [of communication]. — An aside to this is text messaging. Since there is no way to read body language and tone of voice, receivers will interpret the information based on their own feelings at the time. This can be dangerous.
The receiver has equal responsibility in making sure he received the information correctly. Even if the sender sent rude comments, instead of the receiver getting offended, he should first get clarification. For example, if someone said to me, “Wow! You really put on the weight!” The sender not knowing if I was taking medication, had a “glandular problem,” or was just on an eating marathon that caused me to gain weight really should have thought this through a little more. But, he didn’t. I can easily be offended by his comment and compete with him, thereby putting me in fight or flight mode, or I can ask for clarification. I might reply, “Are you saying you think I look unhealthy?” or “Are you politely calling me fat?” This diffuses any ill feelings I have and checks the sender for his intent. Chances are he will back pedal and restate his intent.
Competition does not create a happy relationship. Clarifying what you don’t understand with the sender before you compete keeps peace within the relationship and sets you up to be happier.
Do you worry too much about what “the neighbors will think?” I grew up under that edict and know many people who shared the same principle. The idea of being the way you think other people think you should be is silly, but even more illogical.
Where do these illogical notions come from? Illogical notions come from our illogical mind – namely our emotions. Since emotions are illogical, any time we make a decision or behave according to how we feel, we usually regret the outcome.
As there are certain social and moral standards we must adhere to in order to maintain a cooperative and productive society, we rely on each other to set the guidelines and patrol those behaviors. For example, it is good to know that your neighbors wouldn’t approve of lewd behaviors during a block party. What the neighbors think becomes important for the group’s safety. It keeps us in check.
However, somewhere along the line this concept got carried away and was used as a means to adjust our personal development. When we live our lives and develop who we are based on what we imagine the neighbors think is acceptable, we don’t develop our true selves and learn to seek approval from others. We regret the outcome.
If you spend your life seeking other people’s approval, you become who you think the person you are with at the time will find acceptable. You cheat yourself out of being your true self, you cheat God out of enjoying His unique creation, and you cheat other people out of making their own decision to like you.
Living under the “What will the neighbors think” law was okay in the days when we lived in small groups and depended on each other for safety and survival. We had to follow the group norms and laws so we could continue to exist.
Combine that with the old beliefs in some groups that God blessed those who worked hard and were good to Him. What happened when a couple had a child who was mentally challenged or physically handicapped? The rest of the group would assume the couple didn’t work hard enough and were not good enough to God so were punished, and the family would have been ostracized. Getting thrown out of the group you depended on for survival was a death sentence. So, there was genuine worry about what your neighbors thought.
We worry about what the neighbors will think because of fear – fear of not being good enough, not being valuable, and not being loveable. This is a fear we all have because for a healthy society each of us needs to believe we are good enough, valuable, and loveable.
So, the next time you worry about what the neighbors might think, remember they’re probably worrying about the same thing. Instead of worrying about the neighbors, just be yourself and be who God wants you to be. Then, you’ll know you are acceptable, you are valuable, and you are loveable.
Do you have trouble saying, “No” to people?
We all know the pain of disappointment when we lose out and don’t get what we want. Therefore, when we tell someone, “No,” we know we are causing him pain. This can make us feel guilty. Sometimes we’re afraid we’ll hurt the person’s feelings or the person will get mad if we say, “No.” So, to prevent pain, guilt, and fear, we will often lie and say, “Yes” when we really want to say, “No.” We cause more pain for ourselves and we are not happy.
Let’s look at saying, “No” in a positive way. If we lie by saying, “Yes” when we really want to say, “No,” we allow fear and guilt to override trust, honesty, and accountability. In truth, it takes courage to ask for what we want because we know we might feel disappointed. Therefore, when someone asks for something, he is courageous enough to take the risk of being disappointed. You can at least give him credit for that.
Here are some tips for how to say, “No” in a positive way:
1. Remember, when someone asks you for something, he’s giving you the option to say, “Yes” or “No.” Even before someone asks for something, he should be prepared for the answer. The onus is on him.
2. Be compassionate and acknowledge the disappointment. You might say, “Ugh… I know this is disappointing for you…”
3. Stay in the moment. This gives the person hope that you might say, “Yes” the next time. You could say, “I know this is disappointing for you, but right now, I just can’t….”
4. If you want, you can help the person problem solve or offer a suggestion. “I know this is disappointing…. What are your other options?”
5. While you can be sympathetic, there is no need to apologize for denying the person of what he wants. Instead, be encouraging. Say something like, “I’m glad you felt comfortable asking me.”
Part of our purpose in life is to help each other be the best he/she can be. When we say, “No” to someone, we don’t give the person what he wants, but we do give him, trust, empathy, respect, honor, and accountability. We are helping him practice grace in handling disappointment.
The next time you struggle with saying, “No” to someone, remember, it’s a way to encourage his spiritual growth.
Some of the best advice I ever got was from my dad – “Be yourself!”
We all want people to like us. Many of us work hard to make this happen by behaving in ways we think will make other people like us. This is frustrating, especially when the people we’re trying to impress don’t respond the way we planned. Then, we resent the fact that we didn’t get what we wanted after we worked so hard to please them into liking us.
In truth, it’s disrespectful to please someone into liking you. When you behave in ways you think will make someone like you, you are more focused on you than the other person. You are forcing that person to like you instead of allowing him to make his own choice. You are taking away his right to choose.
Let people make their own choices. Just be yourself and let people decide for themselves if they like you. You and they will be happier.