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When Your Happiness "Hurts" Others

Dear Friend,

You have heard many times, from me and from others, that happiness is a choice. And it is. You can be happy as soon as you choose to be.

But is that all there is to it? Sometimes it is. But most of the time the choice that you are making is to take action and change the direction of your life. So choosing is often just the first step in the process of achieving the life that you deserve.

When most folks talk about the process of choosing to pursue happiness in their life, it sounds fairly easy. I mean, once you overcome your resistance to making this choice, your life will be well on it’s way to the kind of life that you really want. You will be in charge of your life, your destiny, right?

Well, yes. But this is where the process can get dicey. Challenges that involve some task that you must solve or something that you need to achieve to get where you really want to be in life (such as the need to graduate from college, for example) can be tough, but such challenges are also pretty straight forward. It’s really you against you. Can you accomplish this thing or not?

However, things can get dicey when the challenge that seems to stand between you and your true life’s path is another person.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone but a sadist would intentionally try to keep anyone else from being happy. And I think that few people do this intentionally. However, making a change in your life often means changing the nature of your relationship with the people around you. It can mean pushing some people away from you who you know are holding you back. These may be people who rely on you, reasonably or not.

I am thinking of people that I have known through the years who stayed in bad marriages rather than leave and pursue their dreams. Some of them would drown their sorrows in drink, and ultimately ruin their lives. I never understood why they were so afraid to just stand up for themselves and make decisions that they knew they had to make in order to be happy.

It seems that there are many people in this world who grow up with the idea that they have less of a right to personal happiness than others do. That they must sacrifice their happiness for the sake of others.

Now I’m not saying that life cannot reasonably require sacrifice. And giving of yourself to others freely can be the greatest route to happiness that there is. What I am saying, however, is that no one who truly loves or respects you would ever ask you or expect you to sacrifice your life’s happiness on their behalf. To expect such a thing from another is the height of selfishness.

And, generally speaking, nobody does ask for this. It just sort of happens. A relationship forms, and somewhere along the way, expectations develop. Eventually, you find yourself in a relationship that takes more than it gives. Or that simply does not fit into the lifestyle that you truly want to live.

Codependent relationships are a classic example of this. There is the parasitic or needy partner and there is the caregiver. The caregiver feels compelled by a misplaced sense of duty to enable the needy partner’s behavior – to give them what they want. The caregiver feels that to put their own desires ahead of those of the needy friend would be selfish. They feel guilt. Yet as I have already pointed out, it is the needy partner who is the selfish one.

Giving is not really giving unless it is done voluntarily. Without coercion. And without guilt. Giving that is motivated by guilt is not an act of love, but is instead an attempt by the giver to satisfy the obligations that the giver imagines she has.

I have talked on this subject before and I return to it now because I want you to understand that it is quite possible that you will have to commit some of the most selfish acts of your life once you decide to follow your own path to happiness. And you need to steel yourself for this challenge.

You will disappoint some. You will anger others. And you may even abandon a few. You may find that your new life choice has alienated you from people whose affections have surrounded you your whole life.

This fact can come as a shock to someone who is flush with feelings of excitement after finally deciding to take charge of their life. They feel good, and full of love for everyone at such a moment. The idea of going from that emotional state to taking actions that seem to hurt others so close to them seems incongruous. It doesn’t feel right. It sounds screwy.

But it is right. Follow your heart. Remember, you have a right to be happy. And nobody’s happiness is more important than yours.

Even if others in your life believe that they have had a more difficult life than you have had up until now, you do not owe them your life, my friend. You owe them honest friendship. And that is all that they can reasonably expect from anyone.

If others feel hurt as a result of your decisions, their hurt comes from within. Not from your actions. If they had expectations of you that turned out to be unreasonable because they interfere with your ability to pursue happiness, then they will have to adjust those expectations, whether they want to or not.

It is important to me that people who are beginning their journey onto their life’s true and natural path not be blindsided by obsticles, especially early in the process. I do not want you to lose confidence so early in your efforts.

I cannot make this process easier for you. And I cannot predict how much, if any, of this kind of trouble you may face on your road to a creative family lifestyle. However, I do want you to be looking out for it, and be ready if it comes.

I wish you blessings and all of the love that you deserve in this world. You deserve happiness. I, for one, am rooting for you!

All the best,

Hugh

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