How to take charge of your happiness

An acquaintance recently quoted, “‘No one can make you happy except yourself’ is another lie.”

Kids smiling in a Mumbai street. Wary adults in the background.

Most of these reactions are smiles, but some are frowns. Did the photographer, Brett Davies, make these people happy or wary, or have they made choices that make them react this way? (cc-flickr Photosightfaces)

I disagree, but I get where she’s coming from, I think.

The argument about whether or not others can make you happy/ angry/ etc. is an argument about language, not a practical argument. The idea behind the statement “no one can make you happy except yourself,” is that you are responsible for your reactions, and thus your emotions.

If you don’t like the way you react or feel around someone or because of someone’s behavior, you have to change your reactions, remove yourself from the situation, or accept it. You can’t control the other person’s behavior. Adjusting your reactions isn’t usually easy or quick, but it is something that can be worked on over time.

From a practical, everyday language standpoint, I understand that most people say someone makes them happy or angry or sad. This is fine, as long as they also recognize that the other people aren’t actually *making* them anything. We usually use language imprecisely, and doing so here isn’t all that different. Except that it kinda’ is.

Language influences us. We internalize the language we use. So when you say that someone “makes you happy,” you start to believe that it is that person that caused your happiness, rather than how you react to that person. I know it sounds like I’m splitting hairs, but there’s reason for it. When you believe that someone else is responsible for your happiness (or other emotions), you can end up in emotional trouble if that person steps out of your life. When you know that it’s how you react to that person that makes you happy, you can find other situations to react to.

It took me a long time to get out of the habit of saying that other people make me happy (sad, angry, etc.), and I’m not perfect at it. These days I tend to say things like, “I love how happy I am when I’m around you,” or “I get so frustrated when you do that.” It’s almost the same thing, but it’s also worlds apart.

And it’s amazing how good it’s been for me. This phrasing and mindset helps me recognize my power over my emotions, rather than feeling as though I’m ceding that power to someone else. It also makes me take responsibility for my emotions in a way that I never did when I was younger. And it makes me realize how easy it is to be happy.

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Or have another take altogether?

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