Bending Toward Happiness
with Davida, June 29, 2023
As the saying goes, you can’t chose your family. That resonates with many of us who have difficult familial relationships. I have one sibling, a younger brother, with whom I have struggled to get along. Until recently I hadn’t seen him for 22 years. Then last week he came to town unannounced, wanting to surprise me and for the first time meet my three children.
Fortunately I have been doing a lot of self reflection and improvement and instead of being irritated, I greeted the visit with curiosity. While I was feeling a little anxious, because we usually can’t last longer than two days without fighting, I transformed it into excitement to observe him and my children becoming acquainted.
You may have heard me proffer that the key to happiness is NO EXPECTATIONS! That’s because if you are set on a certain outcome there is a good chance you will be disappointed, thus unhappy.
Living without expectations seems difficult, but freeing. To live in such a way you need to have flexibility in your thinking. It’s something we definitely practice in yoga. Now psychology researchers are again validating what the ancient yogis already knew.
According to scientists, people who react to life’s highs and lows with robust emotions develop psychological flexibility. Simply put, embrace and explore your emotions instead of stifling and ignoring how you feel. When you face your feelings and explore different ways of coping, you develop this flexible mindset and fixate less on the negative.
The researchers also add that exposing yourself to different and new situations is another way to develop this bending mindset. By learning and reacting to different stimuli you can’t help but widen your view.
I could see this in the case of my brother who is more rigid in his thinking and expectations as he told me the many things I should do differently with my kids. He felt they should do this or be that way. Not criticisms necessarily, but what he, a single childless male thought my sons should be like.
Usually when he starts pontificating about how things should be, I am triggered and snap back sarcastically. This time, wanting to avoid a confrontation, I didn’t respond. While I do often nag my children about something they need to improve, I am very proud of each for their individuality and personality. I felt very confident that they would shine, be unintimidated and my brother would realize the wonderful people they’re becoming.
On the second day my brother and I did have it out (about something he demanded I should do). He then refused to talk to me for the rest of the day. I didn’t retreat and tried to keep a positive outlook. At least he was still friendly toward his niece and nephews. I think it was my oldest son who was able to soften his heart and we ended our visit with a hug and I invited him to come back for Thanksgiving. I’m still hopeful that we can make it past two days without arguing.
No matter what twists and turns your life offers you, your ability to be adaptable and flexible will help you to stay open to all of the hidden gifts that difficulty may offer. –Mandy Ingber (actress)