Saturday, September 12, 2009

Your Happiness Box

Today I went to a WONDERFUL seminar, presented by a Psychologist from LDS Family Services. Even if you are not religious this is a great bit of advice for relationships. I wanted to share some of what she said with all of you because it really hit home for me. 
Imagine that happiness is symbolized by a box, she did a demonstration with a woman and gave her a tissue box to hold. Now you probably worry about your spouse's happiness, so now you have another box to hold on to. If you have children or grandchildren, you now have their boxes. If you have siblings, you have boxes for them. Then if your parents are alive you have boxes for them... and if you have friends that you worry about their happiness you now have boxes that you are holding for them! By the time she was done listing off people this other woman may have in her life that she worries about their happiness she had a HUGE stack of tissue boxes that she was holding! 
She does this activity with clients she sees and will then tell them they have to carry all these boxes around with them everywhere for the next week. If you're cooking dinner, or doing dishes they have to be on your back, like a back pack, if you're in the shower you have to put them in a bag and take them with you, when you drive somewhere you have to have them all on your lap. Now can you imagine trying to drive around with a bunch of tissue boxes stacked up to your chin? So, how do we handle our happiness box and the happiness boxes of others to have good relationships?
Well, just so you know where this woman was coming from she lost her father in a car accident when she was 12, had 5 siblings. Her mom was pregnant and lost the child and was critically injured in the accident (and didn't even know her husband was dead until awhile later, she didn't even get to go to her husband's funeral). Her father's siblings were also in the car and later her mom married a brother-in-law whose wife was killed in the accident. Talk about crazy family dynamics! This amazing woman had cousins who then became her step siblings and then they shared a half sibling, and on top of that her uncle became her step-father! 
Later on this amazing woman got married (I think she said she was 23 at that time), at this point she said that when she got married she gave her husband her happiness box to carry, and he did, happily! She would say, "I think I'd be happier if you made more money," and he would just say, "okay, I can work on that." She had a husband that would do anything for her happiness. A few months after getting married her husband's doctor diagnosed him with Brain Cancer, however told her that it would be best not to tell him because he only had a few months to live and since he was so young (I think 25) it would be too hard for him to handle. So, she didn't and knew this secret for a few years before he died. Before he passed away they had a daughter together. After he passed away she felt as thou her happiness box fell to the ground and when this happens that's when a person starts feeling depressed. She realized that all her happiness was dependent on her husband. As a widow she went to live with her mom whose second husband had since passed away (as she put it, her mom was "an expert widow"). She began to pick up her happiness box and find satisfaction in her own accomplishments.
Then she decided to start dating again. When she did she said that the first guy she started dating she tried to hand him her happiness box to hold, but then he did what her husband never had done, he handed her his box! If he was expected to keep her happy, then she was expected to keep him happy! This was so different from what she had known and eventually her relationship with that guy ended and she met another guy who was younger and more handsome, but he did the same thing when she tried to give him her box! That relationship eventually ended as well and she felt her box drop.
She thought she was doing everything right, why wasn't God giving her the blessings she deserved? Why wouldn't God hold her box of happiness since she was doing everything she should! Well, she eventually had the idea that God does things out of love not out of control, and that is what we should do too. She was doing the "right" things expecting to get things in return (this would be control) and when we do this our happiness box can easily drop. So, she realized that God won't carry our happiness box for us, just like we shouldn't carry anyone else's happiness box. God will however support us through love and help us carry our happiness box! This is how we should go about in our relationships, we too should help others with carrying their boxes, through acts of love. We do have to be careful in the process of helping support others happiness boxes make sure they don't just hand us the whole thing! Sometimes people need to go through the challenge they are facing to help them grow. However this doesn't mean that we should just leave everyone to just deal on their own, we just need to be careful not to take on too much of the responsibility. At the same time we should not be giving our box of happiness to someone else and expect them to do things to make us happy! As parents the best thing we can do is make sure our children know we love and support them, but teach them how to be responsible for their own happiness!

I hope my thoughts from all of this make sense and can help someone, sorry if it's not very clear. Please feel free to leave your thoughts or comments! I'd love to hear what you have to say! In honor of this seminar and being responsible for our own happiness I found this great 6 day activity to create your own happiness box to help you reflect on the positive things in your life. Click here if you're interested in making your own happiness box!