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Happiness: How do we know when we have found it?

By Joyce Alexander, RNP (retired)

We frequently talk on Lovefraud about finding healing and being “happy” again. We discuss the words “forgiveness” and other emotionally charged words that have individual meanings and try to come to some conclusion that we have a definition of these words for ourselves.

I got to thinking about the meaning of “happiness,” and how I will know when I have reached it. What is happiness to me? For me?

After my husband died, there was a period of time when in my profound sadness and grief, that I thought “happiness” could be found in finding another mate and husband. I went seeking that “happiness,” and instead of a life mate and loving relationship with a new man, I found a psychopath who was seeking a new “respectable wife” to cheat on. My feeling of “happiness” was very short lived when I realized he was still “carrying on” with his former mistresses, which essentially amounted to a harem of needy women hoping he would “choose me.”

I elected to get out of that relationship. I found a great deal of sadness in my life at that time, but the “happiness” I had sought was not in view. I later realized that it could not be provided to me by someone else, but was something I had to provide for myself.

Wanting to be happier

Recently I read a great article entitled, The dark side of happiness, by Gareth Cook. A couple of short paragraphs in particular of this long article stuck out:

It is not so unreasonable to want to be happier. Are we really just supposed to stand by and let life have its way with us?

Well, yes and no. One of the most powerful ways to boost happiness ironically is to learn acceptance. Instead of viewing negative emotions as a failure, learn to see them as a healthy, natural part of the human drama. Negative feelings are often there to tell us something, an invitation to reflect, to make a new plan, or examine an issue more slowly and carefully. This basic notion can play an important role not just in therapy, but also in a balanced and meaningful life.

Who among us doesn’t want to be “happier?” But what is going to “make me happy?” That is the big question.

I hear people say, “I will be so happy when I get out of college and can get a real job.” I’ve said such things myself. When I do, I remember my grandmother telling me, “Don’t wish you life away, child,” to remind me to savor the todays of my life, not live in the future when thus and such may happen to “make me happy.” I’ve found that when things happening are the things that “make me happy,” the feeling of “happiness” it engenders doesn’t last long, but is a fleeting joy.

Today I dropped a heavy glass lid out of the top of my cabinet when I was trying to rearrange it and broke a glass canister that sits on the counter and held my oatmeal as well as a glass of water I had sitting there ready to drink. It made quite a sound as it broke. My son helped me clean up the mess and he said, “Well at least it wasn’t your grandmother’s serving dish.” I laughed and said, “Honey, I broke those a long time ago, but it wouldn’t matter if it was my grandma’s serving dish, because things are not that important to me any more. I’m not going to be unhappy because something is lost or broken.” (Though I admit I recently got angry when I realized that a former friend had also stolen an emergency stove I had stored in my barn!)

Joy and happiness

I also look at the difference between Joy and Happiness. Joy to me is getting a new puppy or a new car, or making a great dish for my friends and me to enjoy. Joy seeing the pleasure in someone when I give him or her a gift. It isn’t “happiness,” but the accumulation of joy builds to create happiness.

What is the difference though in “happiness” and in “joy?” The definitions below may give us some guidance.

From the Free Dictionary

joy (joi) n.

1. a. Intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness.

b. The expression or manifestation of such feeling.

2. A source or an object of pleasure or satisfaction: their only child, their pride and joy.

v.joyed, joy·ing, joys

v.intr.

To take great pleasure; rejoice.

v.tr.Archaic

1. To fill with ecstatic happiness, pleasure, or satisfaction.

2. To enjoy. 

According to Dictionary.com the definition of happiness is:

1. the quality or state of being happy.

2. good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.

Don’t know about you, but I can’t say I totally agree with these definitions! Let’s see what others think. A definition of happiness, actually several definitions, are listed on the web site Happy Life.

What the sages say

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Mahatma Gandhi

“Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.” Eleanor Roosevelt

“Getting what you go after is success; but liking it while you are getting it is happiness.”  Bertha Damon

“Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them.” Leo Tolstoy

The “definition” of happiness in the dictionary is sort of a self-defining word, “happiness is being happy” and still leaves us wondering what it means. The above website’s quotes from several sages seem more to define what “happiness” is, though I think each of us can and should define what “happiness” is to us as individuals, how we can build that happiness with the smaller joys of life, while realizing that our feelings of sadness at times, or remorse, guilt, or even shame, are signs that we might need to reflect inwardly for guidance in our lives.

I personally agree with Eleanor Roosevelt’s definition: “Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.” To me, happiness is the culmination of the smaller joys of life, from the enjoyment of a well cooked meal, to sharing a laugh with a friend. The personal satisfaction I experience at the end of a day when I have done my best and lay my head down on my pillow in peace.


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236 Comments on "Happiness: How do we know when we have found it?"

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I think it was The Dalai Lhama who said (something like this anyway) that it is possible to be despairing and experience happiness too.

I remember how angry I was when I read this. Because I felt horrible and despondent I just hated any mention of happiness. It seemed so not part of my reality, which completely stunk, that I resented any mention of happiness. I felt I didn’t deserve to be happy, given the complete state of chaos my life was in. I felt guilty for placing my whole life in jeopardy.

Plus, I didn’t WANT any more despair. I wanted happiness. Period. And I couldn’t even seem to muster one second of it.

Lots of these feelings eased up as I learned ‘what’ I was dealing with. Psychopathy. I began to accept my ‘bad’ feelings, rather than rejecting them. Rather than rejecting myself, for feeling wretched, I started babying my feelings…exploring them. Validating my immediate experience. Being nice to myself, like I was hospitalized with a terrible illness.

I think of turning my face to the sun- to those experiences of ‘warmth’, to self-care, to healthy loving choices, to people who are trustable, as a practice. And the more I practice, the more moments of happiness and joy.

The more I love myself, accept where I am, the easier it is to place my attention on a delicious moment. The more I practice, the more I love myself.

Namaste all….
Slim

Dearest Oxy, you said….

I hear people say, “I will be so happy when I get out of college and can get a real job.” I’ve said such things myself. When I do, I remember my grandmother telling me, “Don’t wish you life away, child,” to remind me to savor the todays of my life, not live in the future when thus and such may happen to “make me happy.”

I love this ethos. Present moment living. No more what ifs or I should haves. Just living in the present moment and basking in the joy of the here and now.

Great post, thank you for reminding me of the importance of realising that life is for living!

Thank you Oxy,
It’s always good to be reminded.

You’re welcome guys, and remember….we learn best what we teach. I have to remind myself as well and seek happiness in the accumulation of joys!

Dear Oxy,

Thank you for the reminder that happiness comes from within. I know this and was rediscovering this internal sense of peace/happiness over the summer and fall however I’ve been slipping back into the abyss since November. The holidays were difficult. I spent Christmas morning alone while my son was opening gifts with his Dad and his Dad’s girlfriend. My son had to go to work shortly after rising on Christmas Day but still it hurt. Also, it was the first Christmas without my Mom and my Dad had died shortly before Christmas a number of years ago. I haven’t been able to rebound from this and could not muster the motivation to continue with updating my home and even going through more of my mother’s items so mine could be put away instead of packed in boxes in the basement.

Today, after reading your post I thought to myself it is time to focus on making this house a home. One that is based on my personality. I made some progress with it today! No one can make me happy but me. Thank you.

~New

Dear New,

My goodness you have had a LOT of stress and loss, and it is understandable why the holidays would be “sad” for you with that many losses.

Nothing is constant but change however, and so we must move on to new changes…and make NEW traditions….enjoy new things. And Remember older times with fondness not regret!

I’m glad you are motivated to move on and make your home your HOME not just a house…good for you! Today I cleaned out my “junk drawers” in the kitchen! Washed the dishes and rearranged and cleaned my pantry and I felt like a QUEEN for having done so (two weeks on crutches and now able to get off them is heaven on earth!)

Amazing what joy we can find in the most mundane of things!

Oxy, I think we appreciate the mundane after being limited by an injury. Glad you had a good day!

Dear New, Yes, just being able to do your own “activities of daily living” or ADLs as we call it…we don’t appreciate until we can no longer do them for ourselves….wash and feed ourselves,, take care of our homes, drive ourselves. It’s amazing how satisfying it is do do those things when we have been deprived of doing them even for a few days. (I’m not a patient patient either!) LOL

Neither am I, Oxy!

“Happiness is the culmination of the smaller joys of life, from the enjoyment of a well cooked meal, to sharing a laugh with a friend. The personal satisfaction I experience at the end of a day when I have done my best and lay my head down on my pillow in peace.”

Ox;

Thanks, I should print this and tape it to my refrigerator.

The Happiness Trap is a great book. It explains how life is NOT always happiness and joy. Its a mix of sorrow and joy.
Once we accept this…we are happier! Good read.

I need advice. I rented the room I built in my garage..which is a matter of survival for me. I interviewed people for months and finally met someone I feel comfortable with. She is great.

I told my oldest daughter…who I built the room for and she is a mess…crying…angry..etc.

I plan to move her into my middle daughter’s room, because she only sleeps in it . The youngest has her own room and just painted it and decorated it.

I was going to give her my master b/r, but I NEED my own space and have lots of closests for my stuff …needed.

She comes home and isolates herself in her room everyday…(has been very unhappy with her “family” since she met her b/f….another story~)

So, I told her she could have the middle daugter’s room and even put her piano in it….its down the hall at the opposite end of the house…so she can have her privacy. Her sister merely sleeps in the room.

She is angry, says she “hates” me…etc.

I don’t know what to do. Bring her to family counselling?

tobehappy, did your eldest daughter know you were interviewing people for months and intended to rent the garage room? Or did she only learn when you found the ideal person?

I think family counseling seems a bit drastic from the bit you tell. It seems to me she’s being a typical teen: bit narcistic, need of her own privacy to feel she has more control over her own life. She probably looked forward to having her own room, where she’d have the freedom to decide where to put her stuff and put up some posters. If she didn’t know you intended to rent it out, this info came to her with such a surprise that she feels her “ultimate chance” to have her own space to have control over has been taken away and resents you for it. I’m not saying this because I think she has a right to that room, or even the right to her own room. She must learn that you can’t always get what you want because of finances, and have to made do with what you got. But there are ways to let her have a feeling of starting to have control over her own life. You’re probably used to making decisions for the family by yourself now, without explanation. Your daughter though is getting at an age where decisions made above her head without even knowing it is going to make her feel resentful. While of course she’s too young to make financial decisions for you, her sisters and for herself… she’s getting old enough to be included in the process, or informed about it, so that she has time to readjust the plans she’s making in her own head about her life.

A minor example would be: let’s say she made some plans to see a friend or bf within the appropriate times she’s allowed to have to herself. And then all of a sudden you inform her you planned to go somewhere with the whole family and she must go too. This plan crosses her own plans. More, you’ve been planning this family outing for say a month already but kept it quite to keep it a surprise. She feels trapped and unable to make use of her time the way she would like to and resents you for it. She comes along on the trip, but spoils the whole surprise day by being snappy, moody, pouting and reclusive.

The way to avoid such an incident is by informing her of your plans much earlier, include her in the surprise. It gives her the room to adjust her agenda and plan things without interfering with each other.

I think getting her involved more will solve more than dragging her to family counseling for having feelings that are pretty normal for her age. You don’t need to defend yourself or even give her a decision power. But just by giving her info ahead, before the other children, might give her enough sense of self-control over her time and plans to not making her resentful about it anymore. For the garage it would have helped if you told her that you intended to rent it out after you decided you needed to do it. You might even got her involved in the renting process of meeting the possible renters. She might not have initially liked it at all, but she’d have time to get over the feeling and even feel some control by being part of the process in selecting who gets to have ‘her’ room.

What’s going on with the bf?

2B,

I can’t remember how old this daughter is….and she obviously feels that the space you rented was “hers” (or is using this as an excuse if you don’t like the BF)

I think there is more going on with her than just you renting out the room.

You can’t appease her if she doesn’t want to be appeased…no matter what room you give her.

You might point out to her that if you lose the house because you couldn’t rent the room that the SHELTER wouldn’t give her much option on what bed they’d let her sleep in.

I do think some family counseling might be a good idea…your kids have been through a lot and with the teenage stuff going on I think maybe it might help. Doubt it would hurt. Might give you some support. And Yes, you deserve and Need the master suite…and by the way, the MOM and the HOME OWNER’S mantra

MY HOUSE, MY RULES.

“The happiest people dont necessarily have the best of everything: they just make the best of everything they have.”

Hens,
I remember a post you made a while ago. It made an impact on me. I told my older sister, my friend on the blog I’m on said “I have gas in my truck and ice cream in the fridge, I’m happy” So simple, yet soooo true. I’m content like that too.

Hens, you are so right my friend! Making the BEST of what we have is so true…I just finished reading a book about people who scrap the iron out of old ships, they live in a place in India called Alang. They are on SLOW STARVATION because the work they do burns so many calories and the wages they get is not enough to fund as many calories as they burn up each day working so they get thinner and thinner and eventually so weak they can’t work, then finish starving to death.

I got to thinking as I was reading this book, and these conditions are recent, not last century, how fortunate I am…here I sit in my warm robe, after a dinner of more calories than I needed even after a day of pretty hard work, with two sides of meat hanging in the shed ready to be cut up tomorrow and I am so wealthy compared to those unfortunate men, and yet, as awful as their work is, without it they would starve sooner. Greenpeace and other organizations are trying to stop this ship breaking because these men are exposed to toxins etc. but without it, they would die sooner of starvation. What a catch 22 they are in.

How fortunate I am,, how fortunate we all are…so I vote we all appreciate the wonderful blessings that we have and find joy in the smallest things that make our lives wonderful. TOWANDA!!!!

Ana ~! I have a full tank of gas but no icecream, well I better get to the store before it closes, hmmm homemade vanilla or milk chocolate?
Yes Ox the world is full of tragedy, specially for that poor little critter hangin in your shed.

Hens!
ANY type of chocolate chip!! Go get it!

Regarding happiness, I really felt like I was turning a corner when a few different things started happening. The main thing was that I started really caring for people – and not in a people-pleasing way but in a genuine way. And feeling like I wanted to do more to help people. This change has occurred in the last few years, but especially in the last 6 months. When I started even caring for people I didn’t care for very much like some people at work. When I’m feeling down, and I’m able to feel happy just be thinking happy thoughts. And most recently, when I didn’t feel the need for therapy anymore, and I’d rather be at the gym doing Zumba than going to a counseling appointment. When little annoying things people do don’t bother me so much, or when I can let go of them pretty quickly. And when I am suddenly attracting a lot of really really nice people into my life.

Sounds good to me, Star…if that ain’t happiness I’m not sure what would be.

Hens, you know we all gotta go some time or other, and I would like to go as quickly and painlessly as that critter went, without expecting it, without suffering and still being useful.

Oh, the next time you are laying down and someone says “are you sleeping?” Say to them “No, I’m practicing being dead.” LOLROTFLMAO 😀

Ox, my granny used to say ‘No, I am just checkin my eyelid’s for holes”…

I still feel like I’m not at a place of really going after everything I want out of life. But I’m definitely coming out of my shell. Even though I’m just a staff assistant at work, I created a customer service initiative for the entire department, and I presented it at three committees and a staff meeting. And now we are implementing it. Potentially, it could have big results. I’m very excited about the fact that such a small person in my organization can do something like that and have the support of the department.

In my personal life, I took the biggest risk I’ve taken in years by writing to the neighbor boy. We are supposed to have lunch tomorrow, but he’s been initiating meeting up with me at the gym this past week. He seems to be happy we’ve reconnected. So I’m just staying in the moment and staying positive and will enjoy his company for what it is. And I will be completely honest with him no matter what. Though I’m really guarded, I’m excited and a little nervous about the lunch.

Hens, yea, that “checking eye lids for holes” is one we’ve used here as well…I just heard the “practicing being dead” today and thought it was cute!

Well, I’m about ready for bed…catch you guys on the flip side.

Star,
good job on your initiative. I think that is just the ground floor of what you are capable of. When you are dealing with real people who value your input, you will always prevail. You have the capability.

Spaths on the other hand… you can’t play the honesty game with them. I hope your friendship with the boy works out. If not, it’s just another learning experience on the road to becoming the best US we can be.

Oxy and Darwin..
Thank you for your responses! I have been SO busy cleaning out the room for my new renter. I am EXHAUSTED physically and MORE emotionally.
My 17 yr old daughter stayed by a friend’s last night. She came in today, packed a bag of clothes and left.
I texted her that I need to know where she is or I will have to contact the police and I will shut her cell phone off tomorrow.
She is either by her friends house behind me or by her boyfriend’s house.
Let me brief you in on the whole dynamic of this situation.

She told me, the day before I told her I rented the room…which she is was WELL aware of that I was interviewing people for several weeks now. She even cleaned up the room prior to them coming to see it!

Well, this is the daughter that I had to pull from school last year when her boyfriend broke up with her because she had a nervous breakdown and threatened suicide.
They got back together.

Now, three days ago she told me that she broke up with him. He is going to be 19, very “different”…non conformist, grew up with “no love” as he told me…with a mom who didn’t care about him…etc. I picked him up at the airport last month…he backpacked thru Europe alone…which costed me 50 dollars with parking, gas and tolls…while his mother sat home. Lots of dysfunction in that family…

So, he works for minimum wage since he graduated from HS and doesn’t see the value in a college education…etc. Get the picture?

So, my daughter said she’s done with him…which she has said a zillion times before…because he hangs out with all girls. He is a musician and a “vegan” …so is my daughter.

They cook together ..expensive foods…which I supplied for a while. etc..

I told her I didn’t want him sleeping over and she refused to obey my order…over and over. He sleeps in her bed with her and disrespects my rule and she does too.

She sleeps over his house on weekends and even during the week.

I lost control of her.

She said , the day before the news of the rental…that I always yell at her…which I just CONSTANTLY tell her to take care of her dogs which poop all over my house! She told me she wants to get rid of them. I think its cruel, so I am left with the responsibility of her two dogs and cat. My other two daughters complain about her dogs pooping in their rooms and her boyfriend when he was always here. I told him months ago that I can’t have this and he can’t “live” here. He got mad but then started coming over again a few months ago.

Anyway, I texted her now..that I am responsible for her and she needs to let me know where she is.

I just can’t believe the things she said to me the day before the news….
“I hate you…you are bipolar and need help…when I am 18 I am leaving and will never talk to you again in my life”

OMG…does she have her father’s sociopath genes???

I gave her MUCH more than the others…sent her away on vacations with her friends…spent hundreds of dollars running her to NYC on auditions…as she sat on the bus or car and didn’t talk to me!

I limped through NYC streets in cold rain..with my painful knee as she ran ahead of me and yelled at me for ruining her career.

Yes, I know I took too much crap from her…but she would act all sweet to me at times..usually when she wanted a favor.

She has a sense of “entitlement” like no other!! I seriously think that it must be in her genes. She is highly gifted, read on 11th grade level in Kindergarten and was found to be a “mozart” on the piano…(has an absolute ear) by a Julliard teacher!

She is involved in the Drama club and other activities..just sang the National Anthem at a basketball game at school and played piano on stage for the National Honor Society.

She is petit and gorgeous, yet says she is getting breast reduction when she is 18…She is a double D and has the tiniest waist and frame..

Get the picture?

She wanted to go to NYU to the Tish program for acting.

Now, since she met this guy, she doesn’t have ambition to go to college…UGH!

I don’t know what to do! She is not on drugs and doesnt smoke or drink.

What is happenning to her? She HATES her father and said that she will kill him someday!

HELP!

Dear ToBeHappy, I am sorry this is happening to your family, but you are enabling her…..she has shown she has no respect for you, she has no respect for your rules, yet you keep “doing things” for her…..because sometimes she is nice and sweetsie to you.

Well, can we say LOVE BOMB? Then devalue and discard?

Your daughter has shown that she is IRRESPONSIBLE, taking in dogs and not properly caring for or house breaking them.

Get rid of the dogs. Find them new homes, that is better for them and for you and your other children. Who wants to live in a house with dog poop on the floor. It is not fair to the dogs, or your other children or you.

Let the daughter go. Cut off her phone. At 17 if you have lost control over her there’s not much you can do, but you don’t have to keep on providing her a cell phone. Call the police and turn her in as a run away. When Patrick took off at age 17 I turned him in as a run away and it saved my bacon when he stole a motorcycle….because I had turned him in as a run away I was no longer responsible financially for damages he did. She said she hates you and doesn’t want anything to do with you….well that means to me that she also doesn’t want your support and since she is so smart, let her support herself.

My guess is she’ll be back before long. But YOU MUST SET THE BOUNDARIES, MAKE THE RULES.

YOUR HOUSE, YOUR RULES. PERIOD. NO APPEAL.
Gonna be very hard to do at this stage since she has obviously been “out of control” for years, and you have been enabling her to be the one driving the rules and making them.

I suggest that she get counseling and you as well…this isn’t something that is going to go away over night. I think she needs some serious help. Professional help. I also guess she is not going to be willing to get it. At the same time, I know you want to help her, but you can ONLY LEAD A HORSE TO WATER, BUT YOU CAN’T MAKE IT DRINK. Unless you want to end up like Milo, raising the child of a daughter who hates you, and spending every dime trying to protect that child from her….I suggest that you do some SERIOUS self evaluation as well. Where are your boundaries? Living in a WAR zone with a family member is not living well. Hang in there kiddo! (((hugs))) God bless.

You are enabling her

I know I enabled her to stay with her b/f overnight. If I told her she couldn’t she would leave anyway. I didn’t know what to do.
I just texted her and said “I want you to come home right now” She said..”I’m not coming home tonight”

What are my rights???? Do I report her as incorrigable?

Tobehappy,

I’m not sure what the rights of a parent of a 17 year old or the responsibilities either in your state. Remember WitsEnd? Her son was out of control at age 17 and he ended up going to live with some friend’s parents that he had put a pity ploy on that mommy was a meanie….but of course the friend’s parents had rules he didn’t want to abide by either so he ended up going to live with his dead P-father’s enabling parents who had NO rules for him to obey and he turned 18 and is there still the last time I heard.

You might as well realize though that no matter what you do YOU CAN NOT “control” her. You can’t stop her from dropping out of school, or flunking out, or not going to college.

Right now she feels entitled to whatever she wants and in the past you have provided these things for her, by taking responsiblity for the pets she no longer wants and actually for continually nagging her without having any consequences for her behavior.

I would call the police and notify them that she has left your home against your will and that you are not sure where she is. When she is found or comes home, I think she needs to be placed in an inpatient facility (locked) because she obviously has no respect for you and is unwilling to follow your rules or your wishes. Barring that…you can only start now to take back your territory and claim some boundaries. Not let her continue to walk all over you.

I have been there, done that and have a closet full of Tee shirts…you actually sound like I did in my terror that Patrick would not finish high school or go to college. But there was no way I could get control of him…but I did call the police so that when he got into trouble I wasn’t financially responsible or liable for “neglect.” If you don’t call the cops and report her as a run away, then you may be zinged for “neglect” of a minor.

Right now, 2B, I’d start to realize what is actually possible versus what you are afraid of being the case. Sorry I am sort of “Boinking” you with a lot of shiat, but from what you are saying, I think the girl has all the power in this relationship, you care about what happens to her, but she could give a flying fark about you.

She just texted me “you told me to move out and that you werent going to take care of me anymore” and I recorded you. The police won’t like to hear that”.

When she told me how she hated me a few days ago and that she wasn’t happy living here, I told her that maybe she should go live with her b/f or her best friend, since they wrote on facebook that she was welcome to live with them…(because she wrote”someone adopt me” on FB a few weeks ago when she got mad at me)!
I told her that I won’t support her anymore if she leaves.

Then, everything was fine for a few days until I told her I rented the room out.

So, now, she said she recorded it! And she is threatening to tell the police that I told her she could leave!!

OMG…she is really a sick girl! She is throwing me under the bus.
Tomorrow, I will contact the police to cover myself. I am going to report that she left home. She could say whatever she wants.
I can’t believe that she is doing this. And, the mother’s of her friend and boyfriend should be ashamed of themselves!
Let’s see if they will pay for her cell phone and spend 100 dollars a shot to run her to NY for auditions!
Truthfully, I think she is a monster and I don’t want her here anymore.

Well Sky,
I had lunch with the neighbor boy today. He was charming and personable, gave me a hug and would not let me pay for the meal. And he did not put out the slightest romantic/sexual vibe. Yet he still wanted to go to the gym with me later. So I’m just as confused as I was before. But I noticed my own feelings. I woke up anxious this morning about the lunch and felt a lot of fear and anxiety during the lunch (fear of rejection, of him being out of my league, etc). At one point he mentioned he went to Bangkok last year and had a fantastic time. I mentioned prostitutes and he smirked and said yeah, he had a great time there. This triggered all kinds of fears and insecurities in me. But at the same time, he is very sensitive and really takes an interest in the other person – he asked me all kinds of questions about my life and seemed genuinely happy for my trip to Costa Rica. He also mentioned that I should come with him to a recital he’s teaching (guitar) for on Friday. It’s his first and he’s nervous. He is treating me like a good friend. I can’t tell if he just feels guilty for how he’s hurt me, or if he genuinely likes me, or if he’s just being polite. Time will tell. Musicians are so weird.

I feel very very guarded and scared to open up to him. I don’t know if I ever will. Being with him triggered me into some old pain. I have an appointment with a healer tomorrow to see if I can clear some of this. He is such a teacher for me – he has no idea. But the lesson is very painful. I feel very drawn to his energy but painfully and neurotically scared of being vulnerable with him and letting him see my pain. He reminds me of all the guys I used to like when I was in high school whom I thought I’d never had a chance with. I felt so much shame back then because of the family I came from. One day at a time. I am going to the gym alone tonight. I won’t call him like he asked me to.

2B,

You sound very angry now, and I understand why you would be angry at her threats….

Even if she recorded you don’t let her threats scare you. I would call the police this evening but be sure that you are more calm when you call them….it is important that you don’t come off like “the crazy mom” but let her appear like the “crazy” kid….which she will I have no doubt.

Also you might point out to the parents of these other kids that they are not allowed to take over your child at will.

I would cut off her cell service as soon as possible….immediately if possible. You are not obliged to provide your daughter with cell phone service…only a place to sleep, clothing, and other necessary items….and that doesn’t include rides to NYC for auditions….or a college education for her to blow off partying or cutting classes.

Again though I strongly suggest that you get some professional counseling for yourself and for your daughter if she will cooperate at all. If not, get some for yourself. Going through such a time right now is going to make you “crazy” without some good support…believe me I’ve been there with Patrick and I WAS as CRAZYEEEEEEE as a sheet house rat! I didn’t get professional counseling and I know in hind sight I should have. ((hugs)))

Star , I am gonna stick my big nose in here.. Personally I think you desire an intimate relationship with him because you have been somewhat obsessed with him for so long, and you do fear rejection. I think this guy like’s you and finds you interesting and fun but does not want anything more than friendship. I would keep the friendship lite and fun and save the heavy stuff for a therapist. Dont scare him off by exposing your raw emotions and fears..I have done that in the past and people just dont want to hear it when there is really nothing they can do other than being there and being a friend. Stimulating conversation is great, but if you enjoy his company ‘ as a friend ‘ dont spill your guts…

2bhappy – HUGZ – I am so happy my son’s are 34 and 36…I remember some ruff times when they were teenage assholes, but it has all worked out…

Star,
I agree with Hens but for different reasons.

It’s a great thing that you are observing YOURSELF and you own emotions here. Because in the end we cannot control anyone else but ourselves.

He still makes you nervous. That means he still has power over how you feel. Your goal is to be the only one who has power over how you feel. I think that, as victims of spaths, that is the goal we are all striving for here, so being intuned to our reactions and observing our emotions is critical.

I know that your wish is to be yourself, and to be authentic. That will come in time, when your “self” is less vulnerable and less afraid. When your self is more solidified. Meanwhile, as Henry said, it is also our responsibility to respect other people’s boundaries. If he doesn’t want to be emotionally intimate, then you can’t force it or make him feel bad about it. He may just be someone for whom sex is not about emotions at all. That’s his problem and not your responsibility.

As good looking as he is, you are way out of his league in the looks+brains department. (you know that’s true or you wouldn’t keep referring to him as “the neighbor BOY”.) His previous behavior makes me think that he wanted to bring you down a peg. Don’t let him.

I like that you see him as a teacher – that’s awesome.

From Travis Vinings post on gratitude and miracles
http://www.lovefraud.com/blog/2012/01/25/gratitude-miracles/

James 1:2-12

Trials and Temptations

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Oxy,
I AM angry. She is threatening to have my other two children taken away from me now!
I cannot wait until she is 18 in November.
She is a sociopath like her father!
He SHOCKED me when he called Dyfs and the police on me three times!
I noticed a change in her when she was 13! She is a selfish lying manipulative little [email protected]!
I cannot believe that this cute little girl grew up to be just like her father!
I mentioned it a few years back when I first found LF…that I was worried about her being a sociopath.
I was right.
Her sisters hate her and she has very little close friends. She uses people and isn’t a true friend.
Her bf walks into my home and doesn’t even say hello to anyone…goes straight to her room and closes the door.
NO friggin respect. And I was afraid to say anything!
I wish she would move out. She has my permission.
Do I still have to support her?

Thanks, hens and sky, I gleaned a lot of wisdom from both your posts. I feel like I walked into a fire. I got all kinds of things triggered. But it’s all good. I’m going to get through it and learn something from it. I think just having the imaginary conversations with him helps me to process the feelings. But you’re right, henry, I’m not gonna do it with him. I don’t think it will have any good outcome. He is not interested in this stuff. It’s just odd how he keeps reaching out to me. I wonder if he feels some guilt that he hurt me last year, so he’s trying to backtrack and be a good friend? I was supposed to take him to lunch today. But he would not let me touch the check. We fought over the check, but he insisted on paying. Another act of kindness.

I feel a little discouraged that I have been doing so well for such a long time. Then this happens, and I feel this dark, horrible pain like I did growing up. I sometimes wonder if I will ever plod through all of it. It seems so endless at times. Relationships are such great mirrors. I really do regard him as a very powerful teacher for me.

Star,
the biggest mistake I ever made was projecting my own feelings onto other people’s behavior. It SEEMS like it would work, but it never does. People have all kinds of reasons for what they do.

I think a lot of it is fear. I just read a book called “Fear of Life”, recommended to me by a friend. I think you would get so much out of it. The bioenergetics society sells it but they are non-profit, so you might be able to get it for free if you ask.

Star, I dropped in last night and read your post. Then fell asleep writing an answer. (Too long as usual.)

Have you ever noticed that, whenever we think we’ve learned a lesson, life sends us a test? Just to see if we really got it. Maybe the occasional test through the years, just to make sure. Because we can always make that same old mistake again, and learn the darned lesson again.

That’s what this sounded like to me. A test. And actually, you’re coming through it with flying colors, because you have strong feelings and you’re listening to them.

The problem, if there is one, is that you’re thinking about him, and trying to understand WHY you’re feeling this way. Instead of starting with trusting the one thing that is absolutely true.

You don’t feel good about this encounter. In fact, you feel afraid in its aftermath. (Anxiety is a form of fear.)

In reading your letter, I can see good reasons why you’d feel that way. And I don’t even know your history with this guy, which both hens and skylar mentioned in their excellent comments. If he actually did go to Thailand to play with the sex workers, that says a lot about his attitude toward sex and women. The fact that he introduced this topic (even indirectly) in a conversation with you suggests that he’s inclined to treat you as one of the boys, or that he’s testing you for interest in casual sex.

And I know that this is pretty blurry. You’re reading things into his expressions, that may or may not be there. But on the other hand, you really don’t understand why he treats you the way he does in other ways. Why does he want to be with you at the gym? Why is he making an effort to build a relationship with you, either casual or not? Frankly, I wondered why he was paying for your lunch. Did he owe you something? Was he trying to get on your good side for some reason?

I know I sound too suspicious. But I don’t like it when people make an effort to get closer to me, and I don’t understand their motives. I think that “good” people are open and honest, or at least try to be. I don’t imagine that I’m on the same wave length as everyone else. There are always going to be things I don’t understand. And in a way, relationships, especially early relationships, are about getting to understanding what makes each other tick and why each of us is making the effort. So we can figure out if we have some potential to be real friends or more.

All of this is me “after the sociopath.” I’m not like I used to be, showing all my feelings, telling everything about myself, and wearing my vulnerability like a badge of honor. Now I tend to go into “meetings,” whether it’s a date or a business meeting, with a sense of what I want to get out of it. Often, especially in early relationships, I simply want to walk out of that meeting with a sense of whether or not I want to spend more time with that person. I’m testing them. Not in an ugly, cold way. But I’m paying attention to see if I like what I hear, if I feel good about it, and possibly more important, if there is something that enriches my life. (And I expect them to be doing the same thing, so we’re both making an effort to be authentic and also entertaining.)

I want to know if we could have fun together. Do they make me laugh? Do they make me think about new things, or offer conversation that enables me to talk about what I care about? Are they interested in what I have to say? Is there potential to do things together that we both enjoy, or better yet, share our interests in ways that open doors for each other to new activities? Do we both like chess or scrabble, or dog training, or long drives in the country, or antiquing, or running marathons, or building businesses, or fixing social injustice? And probably most important of all, does it feel like there’s a spark of connection, of similarity on a deep level, that relates to values, emotional structure, view of the world?

It’s not that I’m looking for an identical twin. Far from it. Most of my closest friends are much more evolved than me, in some way that I deeply admire. The fact that I learn from them, that seeing the world through their eyes make me a better, stronger or smarter person, is a big part of my relationships. I’m not less than them in these relationships, because they also see something in me that they love and admire. But that mutual warmth and respect is something that keeps us valuing each other, and thus keeps the relationships going through the years.

I’m telling you all this because I want you to feel what I’m telling you. I want you to feel how it feels to have relationships based on a sense of yourself as a person with moment-by-moment judgments and choices. And those judgments and choices are based on what’s good for you.

You walked away from this encounter “triggered” with fears and raised issues. That’s what you’re focused on and that’s why you wrote your post. And that focus tells me that you are in the process of judging and choosing.

I think the big question here is how much tolerance you have for living with these feelings.

As we move through the learnings after dealing with a sociopath, or recovering from other abusive relationships, one of the big things we come to understand is that our tolerance for living with fear or discomfort was the enemy inside ourselves. Not the feelings. But our failure to recognize that we already knew this wasn’t good for us, and we were treating ourselves as though we couldn’t be trusted to have accurate emotional responses.

It’s true that people with PSTD (or however you may describe living with unresolved issues) may have overblown reactions. But just because they’re overblown doesn’t mean they’re wrong. It just means they’re noisy. It just means that your normal emotional reactivity is trying to get through to you.

And sometimes it’s talking to you about danger in the world. But sometimes it’s talking to you about you. It’s telling you not to make the same darned mistake again, because it already knows the signals of danger, even if you can’t quite see them in your conscious brain.

I’m not trying to turn you into a scaredy cat. Afraid of dealing with anyone who makes you the least bit nervous. Actually I’m suggesting something else. That you use your emotional sonar to look for what you want. Or maybe to look for paths where there is smooth sailing. And when you run into something that is clearly not what you want, you say to yourself “nope, that’s not it” and look elsewhere. Especially, when you run into something that actually turns the emotional sirens on that warn you that you really, really, really don’t want to get close to something out there.

If you’re still in the healing process, you may look at this as protecting yourself. If you’re through the healing process, you are more likely to look at this as simple housekeeping. Someone once said to me, “I don’t wear crazy people’s clothes or sleep in crazy people’s beds.” It was a funny way of saying the same thing. Why get involved with people we don’t trust or even particularly like, when we think about it? Or people whose values are so different from ours, or who can’t communicate in ways that we understand, or who are pursuing us for no reason that apparently matches what we want from a relationship.

It’s not like that’s all there is out there.

Before I close this up, I probably should add that we tend to attract people who are working on the same stuff, and who are at the same emotional maturity level as we are. We understand each other in a deep way. But that also means that we attract people with the same problems that we have, often in intimacy or self-awareness or self-esteem. If we have our heads on straight — in terms of wanting our relationships to be experiences that enable us to grow together and build something together — this can be an opportunity. But if we are looking for people to complete us, this can be a problem. A big problem.

We have to take responsibility for our own development as human beings. And we have to take responsibility for shaping our own lives. Other people are the supporting players in our lives, that’s all. We are the center. And no matter what we do, what choices we make, we are creating our lives.

You are wisely considering right now whether this man is a good thing to add to your life right now. Will he make it better? Will he fit in with your normal human needs? This has less to do with whether he is a good or bad person than whether he is what you want in your life. I think you already have an answer. The question is whether you trust your feelings enough to accept it.

Love,

Kathy

Kathleen,
Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to respond to my posts. I really value your insights, too. Your post rings very true for me. I definitely realize that this is not someone I feel good and natural around, and yes, it is a clear sign that he’s not someone I’m meant to be with. I will likely always feel this way around him, and he is not the first guy I’ve had this response with. The Bangkok thing definitely triggered me because a guy I used to live with (who was very similar) went to Bangkok toward the end of our failing relationship. He claims he didn’t have sex with prostitutes but I never believed him. So it’s always been a rather sore spot for me, and it really threw me off balance when the neighbor said that. Also, when the neighbor said that, I wondered to myself if it ALL men are like that and how I’ll ever get past it without it killing my sexual confidence as a woman. I.e., my thought process is…..I seem to be attracted to these very exciting free-spirited men who have been with a lot of women. What if I don’t match up or don’t hold their interest? I realize this has nothing to do with whether they are right for me or not. It is just a trigger for my insecurities. I know there are *some* men who are not like this, but that was still my kneejerk reaction.

I do know that the way I feel around him is NOT the way I have felt around all men I’ve liked. For instance, I developed a real closeness with the Canadian guy I met in Costa Rica in 2010. I felt like I could be completely myself around him, and he accepted me for who I was, neurosis and all. Because of this experience, I can say I know the difference between someone who is compatible with me and actually wants a committed relationship. The way I felt around him was 180 degrees different from the way I felt around the neighbor. Even before you spoke it, I was starting to come to the same conclusion – that my fear, particularly how overblown it seems – is telling me something about whether he’s good for me or not.

And like you, I do wonder why he has reached out to me so much and not just blown me off. Perhaps he was checking to see if there could be another casual sexual encounter. Whatever it is, I’m thinking that my level of fear yesterday probably put an end to whatever interest he may have had. It is also probably what scared him off last year too. I never really knew for sure what happened last year. And now I think I know. I had to touch the stove one more time to find out. I’m glad to have the information so I can stop wondering about him.

I still feel heavily triggered, however, and I am going to see a healer today to see if I can clear it. I totally believe that people like him are great teachers in our lives and this is their purpose in our lives. Having said all this, though, I do think he’s a still a cool person and will think of him as an interesting person and kind neighbor to have in my life – but perhaps at a distance. He was telling me that one of his former guitar students whom he taught for 5 years went on to become famous. He is now the opening act for a band I really like this June. This is a show I’m likely to go to, because I love that band. So the neighbor is at least a very interesting person. None of our incompatibility can take that away from him. He’s probably one of the most interesting people in a neighborhood full of dull, dysfunctional people.

Thanks again for all the responses – Sky, Hens, and Kathy. They are really helping me gather my wits.

Sky, I missed your last post. I do realize I went into fear yesterday, and yes, one of the things the neighbor living his fearless life reflects back to me is my own fear of life. I actually have been very proud of myself for being relatively happy lately and coming out of my shell. Being around the neighbor, however, I realized just how much I do live in fear. This is all part of the learning, along with learning who is and is not compatible as a friend or lover.

Unfortunately, fear is not an attractive quality to a man. So it’s a catch 22, that while my real self is probably very attractive to the right man, he has never seen my real self because I go into fear around him. Oh well. It is what it is. And I believe it’s all for a reason. The outcome for me will be a positive one because I will make sure of it. I mean, for myself and my own life – not anything to do with anyone else. Even if I remain alone and unattached, I intend to live a happy and meaningful life.

Thanks again, for your caring and your friendship.

Star, You bring to mind Demi Moore, look what she is going through because of a failed relationship with a BOY…
With all due respect, your trying to hang on to your youth, you identify with men on a sexual level more than an intellectual level.
Being with much younger men can be fun, but when the fun is over you feel older and insecure and that can cause anxiety itself. I am sure you will disagree about the age difference, sure it doesnt matter if some boy is lookin for a fling but if what you want from a boy is a longterm comitted relationship your barking up the wrong tree. I speak from experience, I aint never going to be the older man in a committed relationship, I am to insecure and selfconscience about my age…Sure there are boy’s out there looking for a father figure or a sugar daddy…no thanks, I want an equal partner in age and life experience…yes young men are nice to look at, but i wear my sunglasses and hope they dont see me lookin..don’t set your self up for rejection. I think it is good that you have relieved sone tension with this neighbor, but he is not going to be your best friend..I am not sure what his motive’s are but you are the one that pursued this reconnection with him…be careful…

Hens, he is not a boy. He is 46. That’s definitely within my dating range. This is SO not about sex or chasing my youth. Trust me on that. He could be 90 and he would still be attractive.

Tobehappy,

If this has been going on since she was 13 and she is now 17, I think you have had some ideas and were in denial…gosh I was there. Hoping I could do something to break the cycle, but now you have come out of denial.

So now that you are out of denial, you can ACT. Pick up the phone and call the police and report her as a run away.

Pick up the phone then and call child protective services and tell them she is out of control.

Then take a DEEP BREATH and no matter what she says or does, APPEAR CALM to anyone who comes to your door or anyone you talk to on the phone.

Yes,, your daughter is out of control, and has been for some time. You cannot appease her and you cannot get to a better place with her…she has thrown down the gauntlet and decided she is in control of herself and if you try to stop her she will punish you. Of course that does not mean you are not still obligated to give her money, a cell phone, and a ride to NYC for an audition—in her mind at least. LOL

Well, she needs a lesson in life, and it is “the golden rule”—he who has the GOLD makes the rules. She has NO GOLD and no way to get any except get a job at a McDonald’s at minimum wage.

Pack up her stuff (just the clothes and cosmetics etc. the TV, Stereo and all that STAYS at your house) and have it ready when she appears at the door or CPS comes to get her or the police. If there is an available in-patient locked adolescent unit, send her there. Tell the cops you cannot control her, tell CPS you can’t control her. Let her see that she is not the center of the universe. THEN if she comes down to earth, take her back, under YOUR rules. NO EXCEPTIONS. She behaves or leaves.

Regarding Demi Moore, it’s easy to say the age difference got them. That’s where my mind went, too. But in reality, the divorce rate is 50% and even higher among Hollywood celebrities. Also, no matter how young and beautiful the women are, a lot of rich, famous, and powerful men cheat. Remember she was also once married to Bruce Willis who is in her generation. He cheated too. I know of several May-December romances with a 15-year age difference (in both directions) that worked out. So I’m kind of on the fence about that kind of age difference. I don’t necessarily think it’s doomed to failure. But I think there needs to be a strong devotion to overcome the unique challenges.

Star,
I don’t think you are fearful at all. I’m sorry I wasn’t clear. Your neighborboy is fearful. That’s why he seems fearless.

Lots of people live their lives actively suppressing all fear and they seem fearless. But when you really look at their lives, you see that they fear everything and everyone. Fear of intimacy is a primary indicator of fear (so they cheat or have meaningless sex in thailand). Fear of commitment (to anything) is another, so they live in a perpetual Peter Pan mode.

You, my dear, are the fearless one. You allow yourself to feel your fear and face it. The neighborboy numbs himself and lives a meaningless 2-dimensional cartoon character life. It seems exciting though, huh? He skims across the surface, dabbling in this and that, experiencing everything just a bit, but never dipping his entire being into a committed experience.

EDIT:
He’s not much younger than you, yet you call him a boy. That’s your subconscious leaking out and talking to you. It sees everything clearly.

2b,

After reading up on what’s been happening now and what’s been happening since she was 13… I think Oxy, is giving you the best advice.

Star,

You know, I understand your feelings. There always have been some men I froze around, where I’d feel I’d have to act all cool and hide my attraction. I’d think myself a fool over it, and berate myself to just open, but never would. I never questioned these beratings at myself… never thought, “hmm, maybe I’m freezing up for a good reason.” Months after though they were dating or being friends to someone else, nor did I miss them. Now I think it’s either because I’m attracted to them for the wrong reasons and that they probably are not people I can be myself with. The tension isn’t there because of the attraction, but because they make me feel they’re either players (and I’m their possibe next plaything) or they have commitment issues, and because basically they themselves are too busy with being cool, rather than being authentique.

If I tense around a man, I now recognize it as a sign that I’m tense in a response to what they emmenate. There are too many men I know where I never even act tense around at all to know it’s not “me”. Some of those are hot handsome men. And some of those I may even once had a one night stand with or thought attractive. But it never bothered natural interaction and relating, never made it feel ‘forced’.

Darwin’s Mom,

Great post! I hadn’t really thought about it in that light before and agree with what you said. If we are “frozen”, nervous and on edge with someone, that IS a sign. Will definitely be keeping this in mind as I move forward with my journey. Thank you for your post and bringing that fact to my attention.

Be well.

~New

New Beginning,

Yes, it’s a reaction to someone being closed off. I don’t think it’s a sign for spathiness though. Spaths would put all the charm on you and want to have deep talks to know your likes, soft spots, etc… But I do see it as a sign that the person is not open to an emotional connection, not even as friends really. Bonding issues, but for other reasons than sociopathy.

On the other hand, I think it has a connection to falling for a spath. For example, when a spath starts to target his victim, it is kind of uneasy and strange. It stirs a gut feeling, but you can’t really describe it, and because the reaction is actually quite strong, you end up explaining it or attributing it to attraction.

The same goes for the ‘freezing’ and ‘being uncomfortable’ to someone who’s closed off. That too we easily ascribe those as feelings of attraction.

I think this explanation goes back to
a) how you feel as a teen when you’re crushing on someone
b) teen movies, and romance paperback novels pander to this type ‘attraction’ in almost every story.

Now, I’m thinking it’s what we tell ourselves to explain the unsettled feeling away, whether it’s to someone with commitment fear or a spath. Different causes, different uneasiness, but we tell ourselves the same “myth” for both of them, then ignore our ‘gut’ response and berate ourselves for it.

Thanks, Sky, for your insight. It’s true, I don’t call all the guys I date “boy”.

I had a healing session today, and it stirred up some very old pain. It’s just painful – no way around it. I am very clear that the neighbor is not interested in me except as a friend. He is not attracted to me but he does care enough about me not to want to hurt me anymore. I think he knows he hurt me. I think he is very much wanting to just have fun and doesn’t want anything serious. It threw me when I saw him on the dating site looking for a relationship, but I don’t think it’s what he wants. As much as it hurts, I finally have my answer. I don’t have to obsess about him anymore. It’s a done deal. There is some kind of connection there that is mutual, but I think it’s just the connection of friendship and possibly a little guilt on his part. I’m so glad I could intuit this on my own (finally) without having to ask him.

I am taking a sabbatical from dating until I get this part of myself healed.

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