By Adam Oakley
Feb 27, 2015
Some may have noticed, and some may disagree, that often within our social or familial circles, there is a common underlying theme or assumption.
The assumption seems to be there less so with good friends or secure family members, but more so with new people, acquaintances, or family members that have becomes used to deriving their happiness or sense of self from whatever is happening with you.
There can be a common assumption that you should make someone else happy.
There is nothing wrong with spreading joy. If it is from your own joy and is natural, then this is great. But when people feel unhappy or uncomfortable within themselves, and demand that other people act a certain way or say certain things so that they can feel less uncomfortable, then it starts to get messy.
Have you ever noticed this, that when someone is talking to you or asking you things, it feels as if they want something from you, a reason to be happy, satisfied, a reason to approve or disapprove of someone else? You may feel it in the air, just a sense of neediness, that someone else’s words or reports of their life should meet a specific criteria in order to promote happiness within the group, or for the other person.
No one owes anyone else any happiness. If people expect you to act unnaturally so that they can feel accepted, then this is not your issue.
…unless you believe it is, then it will seem to be true.
It is something that we can be taught early on - that it is in some way your responsibility to make other people happy. People can often feel happier than normal as a result of your actions or results. For example, the parents are beaming with pride when the child accomplishes things, but feel much smaller and less happy if the child wishes to go a route that is not expected or is less safe. I am not saying that this is even wrong - but rather that from a young age, someone can assume that others people’s happiness or ease are their own responsibility.
Parents or grandparents in particular may come alive when their loved one gets a good promotion, but may also feel very small and worried if the same loved one walks out of their job. But whose issue is this? Does the job-leaver give his family unpleasant feelings, or are they creations of the family members’ own minds and emotional bodies?
It can be the other way around - if a child begins to equate its own happiness with the approval of its teachers or family members - then it will begin to feel trapped or in conflict.
Eventually someone can, often without knowing, feel constantly uneasy unless approved of - so something inside only gives permission for relaxation if they are praised from another human. This seems quite insane, and yet it is normal for so many of us.
If you notice any of this playing out, then it is not too difficult to exit the game. You can just notice how futile and exhausting it is to try to impress anyone or be a particular way so that people may not feel resistant towards you.
Giving Up The Game
It can help to see that whether someone approves of you, or if someone completely rejects you - it makes no difference to who you are. What difference can it make? Where exactly in yourself to you become greater through approval and less through disapproval? Can any difference actually be located?
Despite other’s possible expectations or assumptions that you must please them or give them a sense of validation, you are well within your rights to just give up. What a relief. No-one else’s sense of psychological ease or happiness are your responsibility. How could they be? Do you control whether someone becomes uncomfortable in a situation? If not, then why and how can you be at all responsible for how they feel later on?
Do not mistake - if someone is visibly uncomfortable or in some kind of pain, you may well take some action to relieve them. But if someone has become dependent on your behaviour or words so that they may feel good, if someone seeks security through the story of your Life or your plans for the future - then it is not your problem.
People are as they are. Leave them at that. The less we look to others for some kind of relief from our own burdens, and the less we feel obligated to ease the hang-ups of other people in social situations, then we can all be more authentic.
If you try to manage everyone else’s inner state, it will feel like juggling with too many objects, and you have no space to do anything else. Unless you practice for years, then you may learn to juggle whilst doing something else with your feet. But if you stop being responsible for how other people feel, you have far more space for ease and clarity. Your actions will be coming from an inner ease, rather than an inner restlessness.
It does not mean you become closed-off and harsh, it just means you become more real, and so other people will either match you with their own authenticity, or they will not be able to stand being around you. But their reaction is not up to you.
How arrogant are we to believe we can control what opinions other people hold of us? And how deluded are we to believe that they are important? How ridiculous is it that any of us expect someone else to make us happy with their own Life?
Take things lightly, even your own nonsense.