Making Choices for Yourself: Doing What Please You
We spend lots of time trying to make others happy or preventing their unhappiness. This requires one to: chose to stop doing what is unnecessary and do something constructive by living on your own terms in the present. This may involve stopping what we “should” do and making a choice on our own behalf.
Specifically, we can catch ourselves wanting to give someone what we are sure is good advice: “This is what I would do” or “This is what you should do.” We do not give advice. We find out what is preventing the individual from taking appropriate action in his own behalf.
Instead of giving well-intentioned advice, their homework is to find out for themselves what please them and then do it, perhaps for the first time in their lives.
1. What Pleases Me?
The first difficulty in carrying out this homework is that people do not know what pleases themselves. They have been so busy living up to others standards of good or bad, they have not had the confidence to develop standards of their own. I tell my clients to choose to do something that they would have passed up for concern of what others might think. We can decide that we have as much right to do it as anyone else. We can catch ourselves about to discount it as “scary,” “pointless” or “frivolous.” These are obstacles from our past, which prevents us from changing for the better. We can also catch ourselves about to reject this opportunity, because it might not turn out perfectly. Instead, we can agree it doesn’t have to.
2. I Have To Choose
Now we come to a second difficulty. Performing this task requires a choice. If we doesn’t make choices for our own happiness, who will? Many people are not used to making choices because they do not trust their own judgment (it is not good enough). Many people feel obligated to depend on the “superior” judgment of others. The necessity of making choices on our own behalf is an act of control. This is not merely reacting anymore, this is initiating an action. That can be scary for some. What if we make a mistake? That’s where courage comes in. Courage is the willingness to take a risk by doing what is hard and doing it anyways. This includes the risk of making a mistake. By making a choice anyways and using their courage it is a success. Success comes from doing what is hard. Making a choice for ourselves for the first time is hard and that is why it is a success regardless of the outcomes.
3. What Doesn’t Please Me?
A third function of this homework is that it requires people to ask themselves for the first time, “What doesn’t please me?” If worrying about what other people think is pleasing to us, we can choose to continue. If it doesn’t please us, we can make another choice. We can choose to stop! If bad-mouthing our spouse gives us pleasure, we can continue. But if it makes us unhappy, we can choose not to do it.
As the process continues, it occurs to many that the simplest choice is to stop doing what makes them unhappy. For instance, if nagging our partner about leaving their shoes in the hall pleases us, we are free to continue. If it turns out that we hate doing this, we are free to stop. Instead we can choose to say, “It makes me angry when you do that, I would prefer that you pick up after yourself.” When we start to please ourselves, we use our adult judgment to make the appropriate choice as to when, where and how much we need to say.
Tags: Anger Management, Archive