I long ago gave up on “therapy” because it seemed always to center on trying to resolve the past. When I recently encountered someone from my past, with whom I had long anticipated again having a relationship grounded in the present, I was surprised not only by how far I have moved beyond my past, but by the resentment and anger that was spewed at me for having done so. As I live now, even yesterday is the past, and while I enjoy reminiscing about many daily experiences, I don’t dwell on them, and I certainly don’t wallow in whatever negative experiences I encounter.
It is difficult to explain to those who have little life experience, that many times life demands that people make a choice between 2 really awful options. While there is no escaping having to make a decision, a choice, it is possible to escape a sense of guilt, to forgive one’s self – not only for the choice, but for even being forced into having to make an impossible choice at all. Being forced into such a situation does not make a person “guilty” or even responsible for the outcome – that responsibility, the guilt, lies with those who forced the situation.
Sometimes, the reasons for a choice make no sense to anyone who hasn’t had to make that choice. I touched on this in a previous post in this blog: we cannot judge anyone else because we have not lived their life. Some people, however, are determined not just to have you explain your reasons, but are determined to extract an apology for whatever choice you made, judge you, and have you accept responsibility for the perpetual misery they insist has resulted from your reasons or your choice. I don’t accept responsibility, or make apologies, for things that are not my fault.
I have learned that we simply cannot be responsible for the happiness of others, and those who expect others to provide their happiness are doomed to a life of unhappiness. I have learned, too, that this means I can’t expect anyone else to be responsible for my own happiness. And as much as this goes against the grain of modern parenting…I have learned that parents are not responsible for their children’s happiness. For those who have not yet had children, I caution against spending extraordinary amounts of money – or time – someday trying to make your children happy….you will end up broke and exhausted, I assure you. Children can learn to be happy, but you can’t make them that way, you can’t give it to them or buy it for them – and ultimately it boils down to the fact that “no one is the reason of your happiness except you, yourself.”
It took me quite a long time to understand that, really, “What others think of you is none of your business.” You can make it your business, but then you are only making your sense of happiness, well-being, or worth dependent upon what others think. For me, this has been the toughest concept to apply to my life. I wouldn’t doubt it to be extremely difficult for any human being who doesn’t live in isolation.
So much of what people get hung up on is not only in the past, but what there is in the present that is dissatisfactory. I have learned that satisfaction – happiness – depends mostly on what a person chooses to dwell upon.