How important is your happiness?

Afternoon in a Gallery 1

Social and cultural expectations are killers. We have our accepted notions of what it is to be a certain type of person (male or female for instance) and we are happiest when people live up to our expectations, not necessarily their’s.

We think, and often say, things like:

  • I wish he would get a real job,
  • I wish he would get a haircut,
  • I wish he would dress better, or
  • I wish he would tidy his room

and have thoughts like:

  • why doesn’t he have any friends?
  • why didn’t he get the promotion?
  • why didn’t he get picked for the team?
  • he needs to get off his lazy fat arse and go get a job.
  • he has no motivation, no drive.

We think we know what he wants, what he needs and what will make him happy:

  • he wants a better job so he can earn more money,
  • he needs a better girlfriend that will make him more successful,
  • he should be a lawyer, an accountant or an investment banker
  • he needs to become more independent.

All of these thoughts and questions are about how we feel, how he makes us feel and our own sense of shame.. Its about our expectations and our fears.

  • I wish that he had a better job because that would make me look like I have been a better parent.
  • I wish he would get a hair cut because I feel better about myself when I have had my hair done.
  • I wish he had more friends because I feel unworthy when I don’t have friends. I fear that I am not liked.
  • When he wears those old clothes it looks like I cant afford to buy him new stuff and says that I am a failure.
  • I am hurting and full of my own insecurities. I cannot deal with his problems as well.

Rather than focus on these symptoms we need to be thinking more about the shame that we are feeling and why we are feeling it.

What does it really matter if he is in a dead-end job that we wouldn’t like, doesn’t have a girlfriend that we approve of or he doesn’t contribute around the house as we wish he would in order to keep us looking all flash and respectable?

I will tell you something for free; none of this is going to matter to you either, when one day you get a knock on your door and the cops are there to tell you that your depressed, emotionally repressed son has just killed himself.

All of a sudden the messy room, the long hair and untidy clothes won’t matter. All of a sudden you will hope that that girl friend that he chose to be with, but you didn’t like, was able to make him happy.

Instead of telling him that he should tidy his room, cut his hair and get a job. Instead of telling him to stop crying or trying to cheer him up so that he will. Maybe you need to be asking yourself:

  • why is he not meeting my expectations,
  • why am I feeling this shame,
  • why does he cry like a girl,
  • why is this all so important to me and will it all still seem so important tomorrow, next week or next year,
  • why does none of this seem important to him,
  • what is it that is important to him,
  • why don’t I really know what he is feeling or thinking?

If we are happiest when others meet our expectations and then we are saddest when they don’t.

What is most important, your happiness or his?


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It is time …..

o-male-suicide-facebookIn 2 days time I will be doing a speech (more of a mini speech) that I have been wanting to do for a few years now. I have held back because it deals with suicide and male suppressed emotions, a hard topic. There is still a bit of a taboo around the subject of suicide, no one talks about male suppressed emotions and it is a topic that has great personal relevance for me.

I have decided to do it because I now realise that people listen and learn the best when they are feeling pain. That by pussy-footing around these subjects, by not talking about them we are not being forced to confront them and therefore deal with them. When I refer to ‘we’ I mean each of us individually, but also our families, communities and nations.

I am not certain that this culture of always having to feel good, to concentrate only on happiness is doing any of us any good. We will celebrate a person’s live instead of acknowledging the pain and the grief. Losing someone hurts. It hurts so that we can learn to love ourselves as well as others more intensely. If we celebrate when someones dies, how do we learn the difference between love and grief? We should celebrate someone’s life while they are with us and grieve when they die.

I have also retreated from this speech in the past because nerves have gotten the better of me. In answer to this I now take the approach that being nervous presents exactly the same physical symptoms as being excited. So those butterflies that I feel, the increased heart rate, the sweats, all of those things that tell me that I’m nervous, I am now taking as a sign that I am excited about giving this speech.

I am excited to have this opportunity. I am excited that finally I have the right words, the courage, the format and the forum to be able to deliver this speech. From it being frightening, the opportunity to do this speech is now for me, a privilege.

The level of male suicide in this country is an appalling travesty. We can talk all we like about how bad it is and we can talk all we can about depression, but we need to understand what is really behind all of this.

Researchers, scientists and mental health professionals can give us all of the theory and evidence they like. We can tell men how they ought and ought not behave but until we address the real issues and actually do something about it, as people, families, communities, cultures and nations, nothing is going to change and each year hundreds of New Zealand males will die by suicide.

The plan for me in the foreseeable future, is to continue to read, think and talk more about the dangers of Male Suppressed Emotions. To generate discussion and to change the world one conversation at a time.

I really do hope that I have the courage to see this through. If I happen to offend you along the way, I don’t apologise. This is not about your happiness or sensitivities because none of that is going to help anyway. This is also not about LGBT issues, its not about depression, or sexism, racism or PTSD. Its not about religion, human rights or political correctness. Its not about the latest research and understanding. None of that has offered any solutions (my brother committed suicide nearly 25 years ago and the rates of male suicide in New Zealand have hardly changed since then).

It doesn’t just affect those who have been ‘affected by suicide’. This is about all of us. Its about social and cultural expectations. Its about misconceptions around masculinity. Its about isolation and confusions. Its about those men who never have the courage to commit suicide but are forced to endure a ‘tortured’ life.

Its about, while it is socially acceptable (and often encouraged) to numb our emotions and torments, society still frowns upon those for whom even the numbing doesn’t provide a solution.

I don’t have the answers, I just know that something real needs to be done.

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Falling in love again?

I have always wondered why some people keep repeating that same cycle of failed relationship, after failed relationship.
The article below answers some of those questions and offers a few very good insights.
It is natural to blame other people and circumstances for what we experience but the truth is that these cycles repeat around certain people because they, themselves are the problem. They carry the problem with them, from relationship to relationship. Blaming others is therefore, not dealing to the underlying issue.
If you are one of these people, you may need to take the hard step and ask yourself, “what did I do wrong?.” Ultimately you may not be to blame for the break up of your relationships (whether they be romantic relationships, your family, your social groups or at your jobs), but you will never know, unless you are willing to accept that maybe you are.
And then take the advice below and begin the process of learning to love yourself before trying again to love someone else.

The Two Biggest Mistakes Newly Single People Make

By Michelle D’Avella

When we’re truly single we have a chance to transform like never before. We have the opportunity to face into our pain, transmute it, and turn our heartbreak into our greatest lesson.

Two of the biggest mistakes newly single people make are these:

  • Jumping back into a relationship without healing, reflecting, and working on themselves
  • Staying single but numbing the pain with distractions like drugs, food, alcohol, or TV

Read more …


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Maintaining Positive Relationships

ghandiWhen our relationships begin to feel uncomfortable, struggle or fall apart, its a very clear sign that the relationship we have with our self is in trouble. That’s not to say that we should blame our self for the break up of a relationship. However, if we experience a pattern of failed relationships then perhaps we do have to accept that we may be the common cause.

Humans are literally “hard-wired” with the desire and need to connect. We are social beings who thrive on healthy relationships. And yet, the importance of positive relationships is often overlooked.

Because of our need for connection we gravitate towards kindred spirits, people with the same outlook on life, the same beliefs that we have. Yet these are often the wrong people for us to be with. When we are feeling down or negative, they keep us down and negative, because they have the same outlook on life as we have (that’s why we gel as friends). They see things the way that we see them.

When we are down it is hard to be around positive, Continue reading

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More about envy …

people-will-talk-about-you-when-they-envy-you-and-the-life-you-lead-let-them-you-affected-their-lifeTime for a little story (I haven’t done one of these for quite a while).

Colin is a Team Leader in a company. He has a very authoritarian style of management, focused more on managing activities than the staff employed to do them.

He also has a reputation for ‘bagging’ his staff members to each other and is not shy of dobbing-in anyone to the executive management of the company. He really seems to enjoy watching people fail.

Colin recently told the owner of the company that he works for, how poorly a staff member was performing and that he knew that he could do the job way better himself. Continue reading

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Life is easy for some people

envyIts easy to sit back and watch some people and think’ “its easy for them because they are rich”, or “its easy for them because they don’t have to endure what I get to face every day”.

But the simple fact is that this attitude is exactly what is stopping us from being ‘just like them’.

If you see someone enjoying greater fortune than you, you have got to stop thinking that life is so much easier for them. It only looks easier, because you haven’t seen the work they have put in and the struggles that they have faced to get into that position.

If we were willing to put-in the hard work and make the sacrifices, life would probably be a little easier for us too. Continue reading

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You are not special!

business man shrugWe really do have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.

One thing we do share is this tendency to over-estimate ourselves. Most consider that we are better than most at at least one thing. We can also believe that we are worse at something than most.

Seldom do we ever genuinely believe that we are better than everyone else at everything we do but we are willing to believe that others are. Likewise, few of us think that we are the worst people ever, but we are willing to believe that someone else might be.

The simple fact is that we are all just pretty average at most things, maybe even below average. Continue reading

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Be an Orange

It’s an interesting thought, and not totally my own thought ….

If you were an orange and someone squeezed you, what would come out?

In my recent speech I spoke about discovering how the hate and frustration that you may feel towards someone or something will dissipate from your body if you will simply acknowledge that that person is simply doing their best.

The Orange analogy is very similar.

Think for a moment how you are feeling right now.

  • happy
  • sad
  • angry
  • frustrated
  • scared
  • unworthy?

If someone was to squeeze you, what would come out?

  • anger
  • hate
  • sadness / tears
  • fear
  • happiness / a smile
  • joy
  • frustration?

For me right now it would be sadness, confusion and probably a little bit of despair.

When someone does something or says something to us, they squeeze us and whatever is inside of us at that time will come out. We will be angry or we may cry because inside of us is anger, sadness or fear.

We may laugh or forgive because inside we feel happy and content.

We feel that we are not good enough, when we have envy inside.

What we feel, whether it be love or anger, comes from within us.

These things are inside us because we allow them inside. We think them into there.

If they are hurting you then you need to get them out:

  1. acknowledge how you are feeling and what is causing it. Be honest with your self
  2. express your feelings, in words to yourself or someone else, or write it down
  3. meditate. It doesn’t have to be complicated and you don’t need to be a master at it. A simple breathing meditation will help you stay in the present and stop dwelling on what is hurting you. Feel the bad emotions as they dissipate from your body
  4. get out and feel the sun on your face or simply exercise enough to build up a sweat and a sense of achievement. Sunlight has long been known as probably the greatest disinfectant of all. It is also great for disinfecting the mind and cleansing the soul.
  5. give yourself a break. Some issues that you face cannot be resolved all at once. You need to be willing to give yourself a break from worrying about stuff
  6. remind yourself that you are enough and that you have enough to live happily right now. Ease up on your expectations of yourself and know that you have all that you need to be happy
  7. give yourself a squeeze and see what comes out. If it is still not the sweet nectar of happiness, forgiveness, and contentment repeat from step 1.

Now get out and share your happiness.


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The Good Man

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA good friend of mine seemed rather ‘down’. When we finally got to chat he told me that he and his partner had had a bit of an upset the night before.

This friend had decided that he no longer wanted to hide behind the mask of ‘being a man’. So decided to open up to his partner about what he was feeling.

Unfortunately she did not respond in the way that he had hoped that she would and he felt rather hurt by her response.

I pointed out to him that just as expressing his feelings was something new to him, hearing it and processing it was a new experience for his his partner.

He ought to have not expected that she would get it right the first time.

Besides this was what it is all about; learning to express, understand and live with our feelings, our pain.

The next morning they spoke about what had happened and are continuing their journey together.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,

who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,

so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.


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Authenticity and vulnerability at work


As soon as I got out of bed this morning I knew that I just wasn’t feeling right. I was on edge, edgy, I didn’t really want to bother going to work at all.

There was no obvious reason for this mood but it was there. Reluctantly though I did go.

When I arrived, I kept my head down and just got on with things. I didn’t understand my mood and didn’t know how I would respond to the people and situations around me. I did know that there was one work colleague that I didn’t really want to talk to today, but again I didn’t know why.

Soon enough another colleague asked me what was up, why I was being like I was?

It was only then that it hit me. That colleague that I didn’t want to speak to today, he had annoyed me about 3 weeks ago, I mean really annoyed me. I thought that I had really gotten over it, put it behind me. But then I realised that a conversation that I had had yesterday had subconsciously brought the subject to the front of my thoughts again. I must have been stewing over it since then, without even realising it.

So I told this other colleague what had happened 3 weeks ago. He empathised with me and we spoke for a while about the emotions that surrounded the betrayal that I had been feeling. I immediately felt a whole lot better about it all.

There are some wonderful lessons in here for me:

  • I am working hard to be more authentic to myself, more vulnerable. I want to let my emotions come to the surface, so that I can deal with them, not hold onto them. I had been holding onto the sense of betrayal, I hadn’t even told my wife what had happened, so consequently the feelings that it had created had gone unresolved. However, it didn’t take much to bring them back to the surface and that is what I had been feeling. Those emotions were sitting just below the surface, not buried deep, so that when my friend asked what was up, I was able to tell him exactly what and how I was feeling, having not even realised it myself before then.
  • The other thing that I have been working on, is giving voice to how I am feeling. I want be able express how I feel. I want to be able to express my frustrations. I want people to know when I am down., when I’m feeling under pressure or under the weather. I just don’t want to have to hold all of the bad energy inside of me any more. Nor do I want to keep all of the good energy inside. I want to share it. Again this is about vulnerability and authenticity. I have been letting people around me know how I am feeling (usually leaving them in absolutely no doubt). It was because of this that my colleague was able to tell that something was wrong.
  • It was because I had begun sharing my feelings and I had begun checking up on how others were feeling, that my colleague felt that he could check up on me (that’s karma).

This whole idea of vulnerability; acknowledging, feeling and expressing your feelings really does work. I had a good day in the end and even experienced some break-through successes buoyed by my own emotional freedom.

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