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By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and grief and have lived in Silicon Valley since 1969. I'm the president of Connect2 Marriage Counseling. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in ...  (More)

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Couples: 10 Happiness Skills that are not Taught

Uploaded: May 4, 2018
Happiness, that elusive beast, may be closer than you think. The June 2018 issue of Psychology Today has an excellent article for the 10 lessons for happiness that are never taught: Lessons You Won't Learn in School.

I’ll provide an overview of the 10 and some of my thoughts on their 10, but go to their site to read the article:

1. Understanding that not everything that happens to you is about you.
a. Most of what people around you are doing, thinking, saying (or not saying) is about them. It’s about their inner state, needs, wants, fears, joys, etc. Hopefully you’re not just an extra in their movie (especially if it’s your partner). Understanding this will help you not take things so personally and let you figure out who you are and what you want and need. Given that, work to not treat your beloved as part of your movie.

2. Focusing on other people without dwelling on how they view you.
a. Be yourself. Be authentic. Back to #1, most people are caught in their own issues in their own lives and are not paying close attention to you. I used to be a manager in high-tech before becoming a therapist and starting Connect2 Marriage Counseling. I always felt I had an image to maintain; it was exhausting. Maybe I had to, maybe I didn’t. But in everyday life I sure didn’t need to.

3. Realizing that you don’t have to act the way you feel.
a. Feelings are like road signs; they’re there to let you know something--a boundary has been crossed, you need to regroup, you’re tired or hungry, you’re disappointed or let down, etc. When you’re driving and about to get on the freeway and there’s a merge sign, you use that information to get carefully on the freeway; if you stop there’s going to be a crash. Same thing with feelings. Notice them, observe them. Take time (food, a walk, etc.) and let yourself know what the message is that you need to acquire from your feelings. Then you can decide what to do about them. Once you’re clear, you can talk kindly with your partner about whatever happened. “I’m sure you didn’t intend to ___________ (hurt my feelings, etc.), but when I heard _________, it upset (other feeling words here) me. I wish you had __________.”

4. Being able to reframe (and manage) disappointment and adversity.
a. Disappointment and adversity are part and parcel of being alive. Being kind to yourself is a big part of getting through these times, as is not blowing it out of proportion. Have good self-talk: “Maybe I blew it here, but it’s actually something I can address.” Don’t say to yourself, “What a big F@ckup I am!” Some things are small issues that you may have a habit of making bigger than necessary. Others are big and painful. I’ve had a lot of adversity and disappointment in my life (you know my daughter died of Trisomy 13-and there have been many other things too). It’s what I chose to do with it all that lets me be happy and allows me to drop a pebble of hope in the ponds of my clients. My uncle is a retired judge and he saw many people who came from adversity. Some had a very rough life and succumbed to it and others who had a rough life and rose above it. The latter are what he calls “transcenders.” Be a transcender.

5. Knowing how to solicit honest feedback.
a. You see yourself from the inside while others see you from the outside. In order to get those more aligned you need feedback from caring and critical (as in important) people. When I want feedback on my novel, I’m not asking for something to make me feel better about being a writer; I want honest feedback: what works, what doesn’t work, what to add, what to leave out. If I don’t get honest, caring feedback from a reader I won’t ask them again. One of my good friends just told me my novel needs to be twice as long. Groan. But true. Pick people from all over your life to give you feedback. Create good questions before going to them: What bothers you about me? What do I do that I should do more of? What am I not asking you that I should be?

6. Staying true to your own values despite what others expect of you.
a. I sure wish I knew this when I was younger, especially as a woman. I thought I was supposed to take on my boyfriends’/husband’s values. That led me down some places I didn’t want to be and then digging out of that usually meant an end to the relationship. As I’ve gotten older (and hopefully wiser) I know my values and needs. And while I do a lot for my husband, he does a lot for me too. We know each others’ values and share them. Where we don’t, there’s a lot of discussion.

7. Being open to new information or revised thinking.
a. Whatever worked for you earlier in life is sure to continue working for you now, right? Maybe, maybe not. Being open or revising your thinking could bring you aliveness and happiness that has seeped away without you even noticing it.

8. Mastering a fail-safe way to motivate yourself, one that works when interest flags.
a. That never happens to me! It’s work to write a book. We all have to find intrinsic motivation. No one can give that to us. I started what one of my staff ended up naming the “power hour.” First hour at work was time to delve into the most important projects-before checking email, VM, getting involved in meetings, etc. Once that hour had passed, some important work had gotten done, providing feelings of pride, accomplishment, and of being energized for the rest of the day. In turn, that gives further motivation.

9. Zoning in on your purpose in a zoning-out world.
a. Life with purpose is more fulfilling than life without a purpose. Ask anyone who has had someone they love die. It’s easy to sucked into devices, games, FB (where people show their best self and others end up with low self-esteem), YouTube, etc. These are all great mediums-in small quantities; in large, they’re addictive and were designed to be addictive. Work can either be purpose or a way to avoid your life; or both. You really have to choose to stay present in your life. Please don’t be a sheep, following along. What’s your path? Look at your feet. This is where you are on your path right now. If it’s where you want to be, excellent. If not, start taking steps to change it. I worked in tech for a long time. After a bunch of people in my family died I didn’t want to make any more widgets (even if they were cool). I needed to do work of the heart. So here I am, writing to you. This is my purpose.

10. Tolerating ambiguity.
a. Wouldn’t it be nice if things were all clear, cut and dry, black and white? Life is actually so many shades of grey I couldn’t count them. There are choices to be made; outcomes are fuzzy and not truly seen clearly until down the road (sometimes years later). At times you hold two truths or two feelings that don’t seem possible to hold simultaneously; yet you do. Learning to settle into the not knowing and letting life unfold can be challenging to say the least, but perhaps more satisfying in the end. Some of life’s surprises are pretty damn incredible. That doesn’t mean you do nothing. Think of it like this: you’re in the boat, rowing; but you may not know the intermediate destination. Notice the beauty all around you. Smell the fresh air. Listen to the water against the boat. It’s okay not to know everything. You may not even know what’s up with your partner. That you can do something about. Ask. Listen. Give empathy. Be okay with ambiguity there, too. Both yours and hers/his.

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