Other People and Personal Happiness

Nov. 12th, 2018

Other people changing will not result in our own happiness.

This is a statement I live by, in every way I can. I believe it in the deepest parts of my soul. This knowledge has been hard fought and won, by me. It is still knowledge, however, which is related to thinking and logic. My emotions don’t care all that much, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.

Since this is at once a simple and complex statement, let me elaborate a little about what I mean by it.

We’ve all wished others would change. I think this is a constant state for some people. There are those of us on this planet who seem to spend their whole lives waiting and wishing for others to change in order for things to get better. I believe their patience is wasted.

I’ve often asked my husband to alter the way he does things. A lot of us do this in relationships, even if we don’t realize it. “Could you use a different towel for that?” “Could you put your socks here instead of there?” “Could you use this word instead of that word?” And after a little while, particularly when I was most upset, I’d ask him to change in some way and he would respond “But you asked me to do it this other way.” I would ask him to do something this time that was contradictory to a previous request. It was about the 40th time this happened that I started to clue in: the only way for someone to change to make me happy would be to read my mind. (And to read it correctly, because I don’t know about anyone else but there are usually multiple layers and contours to my thoughts, with conflicting needs, desires, and goals.)

There are times when others are doing things that harm us. This is unavoidable in life.

That was an important sentence so I’m going to repeat it:

Others harming us is unavoidable in life.

It does not mean we deserve pain. It does not mean we are bad. It does not even mean they are bad. It’s just the nature of life. We, all of us, are all capable of causing others pain, all the time.

I’ve been in many situations where the behavior of others was causing me so much pain that it was nigh on impossible for me to build a happy life. They were not to blame. I was not to blame. The proximity of my sensitivities to their behavior was resulting in pain. And I spent a lot of time wishing the other person in the situation would change, sometimes without ever communicating that fact to them. The solution in all of those situations was for me to remove myself.

Think of it like a math problem:

Person A + Behaviour 2 = Situation A2

Situation A2 + Colleen = Pain

What I wanted was to subtract the behavior, thereby changing the equation. The problem is that I am not in control of the first equation. Therefore, I had to subtract myself from the second equation.

Some people and some situations are also subject to change. I don’t believe the solution to all painful situations is to subtract ourselves. Eventually, this leads to running out of planet on which to live. There are some times when even if the behavior was changed, the trust necessary for that relationship is irretrievable, as a result of the aforementioned behavior. In that case, subtracting the behavior would still result in pain.

We are only ever in control of ourselves. This is a common phrase that I also believe in. And I am on a never-ending quest to change and better myself and my life. I am asking myself to change. And even I am unable to create my own happiness a lot of the time.


How can I expect other people to change, and thereby create my happiness?