Tag Archives: Happiness

Why Forgive?

Why forgive someone?

It’s equally in our natures to harbor revenge as it is to nurture forgiveness. In fact, last week I explored how forgiveness and revenge are evolutionary bedfellows.

So why does a person choose one of these over another?

Why might you?

For this month’s exploration of forgiveness I am hugely indebted to, and thrilled to have discovered, the scholars of forgiveness at  The Greater Good Science Center, at the University of California, Berkeley. In their own words, the center is ~

unique in its commitment to both science and practice: not only do we sponsor groundbreaking scientific research into social and emotional well-being, we help people apply this research to their personal and professional lives.

So, for the “Why?” of forgiveness, here are five good reasons, compiled by Fred Luskin, Ph.D.

  1. Forgiveness makes us happier: Research suggests not only that happy people are more likely to forgive but that forgiving others can make people feel happy, especially when they forgive someone to whom they feel close.
  2. Forgiveness improves our health: When we dwell on grudges, our blood pressure and heart rate spike—signs of stress which damage the body; when we forgive, our stress levels drop, and people who are more forgiving are protected from the negative health effects of stress. Studies also suggest that holding grudges might compromise our immune system, making us less resistant to illness.
  3. Forgiveness sustains relationships: When our friends inevitably hurt or disappoint us, holding a grudge makes us less likely to sacrifice or cooperate with them, which undermines feelings of trust and commitment, driving us further apart. Studies suggest that forgiveness can stop this downward spiral and repair our relationship before it dissolves.
  4. Forgiveness is good for marriages (most of the time): Spouses who are more forgiving and less vindictive are better at resolving conflicts effectively in their marriage. A long-term study of newlyweds found that more forgiving spouses had stronger, more satisfying relationships. However, when more forgiving spouses were frequently mistreated by their husband or wife, they became less satisfied with their marriage.
  5. Forgiveness boosts kindness and connectedness: People who feel forgiving don’t only feel more positive toward someone who hurt them. They are also more likely to want to volunteer and donate money to charity, and they feel more connected to other people in general.

And, anticipating the coming together of families that takes place each year in the United States on the last Thursday of November every year, and how fraught these times can be as relatives long on sanguinary but short on compassion rub egos and elbows at the dinner table, I thought this wee video by Fred Luskin might provide some interesting fodder for a transformed experience of one another.

Here is the full article, and below are some highlights of this video.

I’ve been teaching forgiveness for more than a decade, and the simple definition of forgiveness that I work with now is that it’s the ability to make peace with the word “no.”

People have come to me with a whole host of problems, and the essence of all of them is: I didn’t get something I wanted. I got “no.” I wanted my partner to be faithful; they weren’t faithful. I got “no.” I wanted somebody to tell the truth; they told a lie. I got “no.” I wanted to be loved as a child; I wasn‘t loved in a way that I felt good about. I got “no.”

It’s so important to be able to understand the universal experience of this—of objecting to the way life is and trying to substitute the way you want it to be, then getting upset when your substitution doesn’t take.

The essence of forgiveness is being resilient when things don’t go the way you want—to be at peace with “no,” be at peace with what is, be at peace with the vulnerability inherent in human life. Then you have to move forward and live your life without prejudice.

It’s the absence of prejudice that informs forgiveness. You realize that nobody owes you, that you don’t have to take the hurt you suffered and pay it forward to someone else. Just because your last partner was unkind to you doesn’t mean you always have to give your new partner the third degree. With an open heart, you move forward and accept what is, without prejudice.

You don’t just accept it because life sucks and there’s nothing you can do about it—though that may be true—but you accept it in a way that leaves you willing to give the next moment a chance.

Come back next week for some more good stuff about forgiveness.

FIRST TIME HERE?

This is the latest article in a year-long series on the “12-most-important-relationship-skills-no-one-ever-taught-me-in-school-but-I-sure-wish-they-had.”

Click the box for the full list.  →Top 12 Relationship Skills

If you’re interested in reading this blog in sequence, below are links to the series to date, beginning with the first posting at the top.

OVERVIEW

SKILLS FOR UNDERSTANDING

SKILL ONE ~ Recognize (and get to know) the many “yous.”

SKILL TWO ~ Learn how to be pro-active: choose how y’all show up.

SKILL THREE ~ Accept (and get curious about) other peoples’ complexity

SKILLS FOR CONNECTING

SKILL FOUR ~ Master the Art of Conversation

SKILL FIVE ~ Learn How To Listen With Your Whole Self

SKILL SIX ~ Crack The Empathy Nut

SKILL SEVEN ~ Practice Kindness

SKILL EIGHT ~ Negotiate with a Win-Win Mentality

SKILLS FOR RE-CONNECTING

SKILL NINE ~ Build (or rebuild) trust.

 SKILL TEN ~ Apologize & “Do Over” When You’ve Blown It

SKILL ELEVEN ~ Forgive and Move On When They’ve Blown It

A Happier World

What if we could all emulate Bhutan, where they measure Gross National Happiness? Apparently the United Nations agrees and in support of this “emerging shift in priorities, the very first United Nations International Day of Happiness is being held on 20th March this year.”

You can read a fuller article by Dr. Mark Williamson in The Daily Good.org. In continued celebration of my March 20th Birthday (since it’s now March 20th all the other time zones!), I’m reprinting Mark’s Manifesto for a Happier World. Enjoy!

PS: Fun to note he advocates prioritizing relationships and happy homes.

For our political leaders:

Ensure a Stable Economy. A healthy economy is the foundation for happiness and wellbeing. We need an equitable economic system which puts long-term stability and high levels of employment ahead of “growth at all costs”.

Focus on Wellbeing. What we measure is what we get. In addition to conventional financial indicators, we need our governments to measure people’s wellbeing and consider the impact on wellbeing – for both current and future generations – in all policy decisions.

Support the Disadvantaged. Priority should be given to improving the wellbeing of those who are most in need, not just through financial support but also by empowering people and helping them to help themselves.

Prioritise Human Relationships. Relationships are central to our wellbeing. We need to prioritise healthy relationships in all policy areas, especially through support for troubled families and children in their early years.

For our institutions:

Healthcare for Mind And Body. Mental health is just as vital as physical health. We need a healthcare system that prioritises both mental and physical health and provides high quality support for all those struggling with anxiety, depression or other mental illness.

Education For Life. Education is about learning for life, not just gaining academic qualifications. We need schools that help children develop character and learn essential life skills, like emotional intelligence, mindfulness and resilience.

Responsible Business. Truly successful businesses have happy employees and a purpose beyond profit. We need workplaces where people feel valued and trusted and where sustainable and ethical behaviour is at the heart of all decision-making.

Balanced Media. The way we perceive the world affects what we do and how we treat each other. We need a media that portrays a balanced view of what’s good as well as bad in our world, not a constant diet of cynicism and negativity.

For each of us as individuals:

Family Values. Happy homes are the bedrock of a happy society and, above all, we need to cultivate warm and loving family relationships. For our children, our priority should be their emotional health and helping them to develop positive values and attitudes.

Contributing In The Community. When we connect with and help others around us, everyone benefits. We need to get involved in our local communities, be good neighbours and support those in need. Our actions can help to build trust and reduce isolation.

Making A Difference. Our working lives should be about more than just earning a living. Whatever job we do, we should aim to make a meaningful contribution – and help create a workplace culture which is trusting, friendly and responsible.

Taking Care of Ourselves. We can’t contribute to a happier society unless we take care of our own well-being too. We all need to look after our health, both physical and mental, and develop within us the life skills and attitudes needed for a happy and fulfilling life.

Together our actions make a profound difference. We can call for change from our leaders but we can also “be the change” in the way we approach our lives and the way we treat others. So if you share this vision for a happier and more caring world, please take the pledge to create more happiness and do whatever you can to support the Day of Happiness on 20 March.


 

Separate Honeymoon Anyone?

Part 1 – The Problem

As my fiancée and I started planning our honeymoon (and life) together, we pretty quickly came to the conclusion that we both wanted to include some activities and adventures that the other wasn’t so interested in.

Mark’s got reasonable German and wanted to stride about the Austrian alps – “Macht schnell“.  I fancied strolling through the Ardèche river valley in SE France sampling baguettes, local wine and cheese – “Bon appetit!”

Before I tell you what happened to us on our separate honeymoons (yes we did marry, we did separate on our Honeymoon and we are still together), it occurs to me now that this is a universal problem all families must face. As Mark and I discovered before we got married and started a family, just because you love one another doesn’t mean you actually will want to do everything together all the time.

Can this be OK?

If so, how?

This question is alive and well as a small sample of some recent issues from my therapy office shows:

  • A long-married couple is struggling to adapt as the wife finally admits she actually dislikes sitting with her husband every night watching TV: she is longing for more intellectual pursuits;
  • Two partners (one from NZ and one from the USA) are trying to understand what each means by “let’s party!”
  • The assumption “when we’re a team we do everything together” is getting a challenge as a couple can’t agree over how to design and build a planter box and they wonder if this is a slippery slope toward some fundamental incompatibility.

So, whether you are trying to agree on how to throw a dinner party, create a shared garden space, spend your evenings, plan an upcoming long weekend with the kids or design your ideal Honeymoon the fact is there are times when you’ll want one thing and your partner will want another. Throw in a few kids with different ages and interests, the in-laws or some house guests and the odds are good that you’ll never please all of the people all of the time.

In my experience people choose one of three broad approaches to try solving this issue. See if these feel familiar.

Style #1 – The Martyr

Looks like:  “Oh, I’ll just go along with what the others want. I don’t really mind. It’s OK with me. I just want everyone to get along and stop arguing. If someone won’t compromise we’ll never do anything!

Pro – If you are apparently willing to do “whatever” then the odds do improve that your “sacrifice” will take one voice out of the equation and maybe un-complicate things enough for the most persuasive person’s idea to take form.

Con – If you get into the habit of not speaking up you run the risk of disappointing yourself by doing things you don’t enjoy and disappointing the group since it’s not much fun to be around Martyr’s – they can be a bit half-hearted and self-righteous.

Upshot – Practiced frequently, you’ll start to forget what you genuinely enjoy. Every time you bring out the Martyr behaviour you will disappear a little bit. You’ll get cut off from what you genuinely feel and need. You’ll become a bit more of a stranger to yourself and your family. If you lose touch with what makes you happy (which is a big part of who you are) you run the risk (at an extreme end of these decisions over time) of living an inauthentic life and becoming angry and bitter in your later years.

Style #2 – The Bully

Looks like:  “Oh for heavens sake be quiet and listen to me. I’ve got a great idea and if someone around here doesn’t take charge we’ll never get anywhere. He’s what we’ll do. Come on!”

Pro – If you have the energy and leadership to rally the troops in this single-minded way you will most likely get them up, out and doing something.

Con – With this “lets just get on with it” approach, you run the risk of rallying troops into an activity none of them actually wants to be part of. Is this gaining maximum happiness?  Is just “doing something no matter what whilst minimizing the discussion and planning up front” preferable to a more inclusive approach?  Is this approach more or less likely to have folks looking forward to the next shared occasion?

Upshot – Your forceful enthusiasm or “bossiness” tends to do some damage along the way. Sure you all made it to the beach, mountain, boat, park, museum or zoo where you may even have had moments of fun. However, those who feel “bullied” might be making quiet resolutions to themselves to cut you out of the equation by planning an activity without you next time.

Style #3 – The Pleaser

Looks like:  “OK everyone, I want us all to be happy so is there one thing we can all enjoy? How about the beach and ice creams? Oh – you can’t sit in the sun Gran? How about we get you an umbrella? What? Tim – you’re desperate to skateboard? Could you bring it and scoot about on the footpath? Well maybe we can have a shady coffee and then some beach time and head over to the skateboard park? Oh for heaven’s sake John you can’t add fishing today as well! Honestly it’s like herding cats to get you lot to agree to anything!”

Pro – At least you are trying hard to herd those cats! You might actually come up with a pretty extensive list of activities to be squeezed into a day and a couple of folks might actually have fun. As a Pleaser you are more likely to have more people having fun than the Martyr or the Bully.

Con – If it is only you exhausting yourself in trying to make sure everyone is happy you are actually creating a blend of Martyr (since as Pleaser you often forget to think about or include what you want to do) and Bully (since when the impossibility of pleasing everyone becomes apparent you will tend to snap out a final decision) and there is an overwhelming sense of exasperation.

Upshot – With this frenetic start to a day the group tends to set off on a pretty exhaustive agenda with little buy-in from people and a general sense of how hard it is to find overlapping interests. There is often a back-lash emotion along the lines of “Lordy Me!  I’ll do something on my own next time – this was way too hard!”

If you identify (or live) with a Martyr, Bully or Pleaser you are not alone. Every week I end up having conversations with people who have been hurt – usually unintentionally – by loved ones in these sorts of unsuccessful attempts at connecting with one another. So, while each of these approaches can get a family out of the house and off doing something for a day or long weekend, each approach also takes it’s particular toll on the relationships between those involved. So, the question I’ve been asking is ~ “Is there a way that helps families figure out how to have more fun together whilst also improving relationships along the way?”

And, based upon the results of our experimental two-track Honeymoon, I’d have to say “Yes, there is!”

Check in soon for ~

Part II – The Solution For (our Honeymoon &) Your Family!