Lawrence Kagan PhD PC
Lincoln, Nebraska
Phone: 402-489-7722
HomeAbout MeTips for LivingComing SoonComing Soon

Your Happiness is Your Own Responsibility
by Larry Kagan, PhD
  • Breaking Up (coming soon)
     We all have things that we know would be good for us to do that we avoid doing. Each of us lives within a restrictive set of rules, often which we're unaware of. When we live within these rules we feel safe. When we violate these rules we experience anxiety, discomfort, and uncertainty. However, growing and changing involves challenging our usual ways of behaving and taking risks to behave differently.  
     One thing that I really like to do is folkdance. I used to belong to a club that danced once a week, and periodically I would invite a friend to try it. A number of times I would get a response something like, "I'd like to, but I don't dance." What's striking to me is the volition and permanence with which such statements are made. As if on that person's berth certificate it was stamped "DOESN'T DANCE." Now admittedly, everyone isn't a Fed Astaire or Ginger Rogers, but I would like to suggest that the reasons people avoid new and different things are psychological and have little to do with ability.  
     Let me try to demonstrate how avoiding occurs and is maintained. One of the most common fears in our society is public speaking. Most people are petrified by the thought of getting up in front of a group of people to speak. The individual's thinking usually goes something like this. "If I get up in front of the group to speak, I'll forget what I'm supposed to say or I'll say something stupid or they'll laugh at me or I'll sweat or..." The person thinks of all the horrible things that could happen.
     Not wanting all the horrible things that are imagined to happen, the person avoids speaking in front of the group. The really terrible thing is that it works. That is, all the horrible things that were imagined doesn't happen. And, the person feels better and believes erroneously that the avoidance was the thing to do. The avoiding is learned and maintained. 
     However, if you take the risk to do something that you're afraid of, but that you know is in your own best interests, a valuable lesson occurs. First, the horrible things that you imagine probably won’t happen anyway. Second, if they do, they’re much less horrible than you imagined. Third, that you’re not so fragile
                        and won’t melt if things don’t go just so. You can handle things. Fourth, that your participation
                        in life is expanded. Fifth, that there is joy in doing new things. And sixth, that you feel better
                        about yourself when fears are faced.  
                            Why am I telling you this? Because to grow and change we must take risks to step outside
                        the boxes that we live in. Risk involves challenging the very rules by which we live our lives
                        and finding the courage to behave differently. When people do this, they’re usually amazed
                        that it’s far less difficult than they imagined.
                            What I’m encouraging you to do is take risk to do things that you know are in your own
                        best interests. Not things that are physically dangerous, but things that are emotionally
                        challenging. Things in the interests of your own growth. So take the class you’ve always
                        wanted to, or try fixing your car yourself, or go to a dance, or initiate a conversation, or dress
                        a little differently, or ask someone out, or say what you don’t like, or send that steak back, or
                       go to a movie by yourself, or… Do this out of a sense of self caring and worth. Trust yourself. 
     Many people believe that they can only be happy if they are in a relationship 
or married. Nonsense. Not only does such a belief contribute to a great deal of 
unhappiness if you are uninvolved, but it also sabotages relationships. Your 
happiness is your own responsibility and it is a cumbersome burden to place 
upon another individual. Recognizing this is a big step towards taking control 
of your life and finding happiness in a relationship or otherwise.    
     We expect a marriage or primary relationship to represent the epitome of 
intimacy to which attach all those things associated with closeness and sharing. 
Such things as affection, commitment, sexuality, honesty and trust, sharing, safety, support, children, growing old together, struggles, finances, fears, hemorrhoids, and so on. No argument here. But this idea is taken a step further and here's the problem. Many people assume that if a relationship is the height of intimacy, then the two individuals' lives should revolve around each other. 
     As a result  people in relationships tend to give up things which do not involve the other person.  For example, friendships (especially with the opposite sex), contact with family, individual interests and even time alone.  Such interests are often misinterpreted as a lack of love or betrayal by one party with feelings of guilt by the other.  In such relationships, the two individuals' lives become engulfed in each other and each sees it as the other's job to make them happy.  Then when they are not happy, they blame the other person and the only way to feel better is for the other person to change.  This feeling of powerlessness is associated with depression anger and feeling trapped.
​     Your happiness, whether in a relationship or not is your responsibility.  People do make each other happy but not because it's their job.  No one person can be everything to another person, and relationships with such expectancies tend to be stifling and destructive.  Healthy relationships allow each other seperate friendships, activities, and time alone.  The partners are supportive of each other growth and uniqueness.  Such relationships endear people to each other and are more likely to be interesting, monogomous, and loyal.  On the other hand, possessive and jealous relationships tend to bring about the opposite.
     It appears that most people with successful relationships have had some time in their life when they he or she was on their own, during which a number of important things were learned.  And, it is coming to terms with these issues that is critical towards well being whether one enters into a primary relationship or not.  In other words the importance of being a single adult at some time in a persons life.
     Singleness is learning that you don't always have love in your life, or at least from a primary relationship.  But because you don't have it now doesn't mean that you won't have it six months or a year from now.  It is learning to feel worthy of love and to have a sense of self love.  Singleness is learning that you can survive lonliness at timesand even though it hurts, it is not the end of the world and can be dealt with.  Singleness is learning that you have power to make yourself happy by enjoying your own company, through friendships and through activities.  It is learnig to feel powerful to affect your life and to take risks which are in your best interests.
     Of special importance, singleness is learning a sense of your own identity seperate from another person.  One cannot expect to be emotionally intimate with another person if not so with one's self. It's learning what you like, dislike, want, need, value and cherish.  It's learning who you are and having the courage to be who you are and what you are capable of being.
    Successful singleness means that one may seek a successful relationship based on fussiness and not desperation.  Tohave a good relationship you have to be able to walk away from the bad ones.  And. if a relationship is not in the cards or not wanted, one equally perceives life as meaningful and challenging.  In either case the person participates with vitality and uniqueness.
Tips for Living
Please explore my articles 
using the links below.  

Taking Risks
by Larry Kagan, PhD

 © 2012         Larry Kagan, Ph.D, Clinical Psychologist         1001 S. 70th Street Suite 107 Lincoln, NE 68150         Phone: 402.489.7722