Have It Your Way!

Have It Your Way!

As if you could do anything else.
Posted by Timothy Carey Ph.D. on 11 Aug, 2018

Have you ever had anyone snap at you “OK! Have it your way” and then perhaps storm off in a colloquial “huff”? Maybe you’ve even had the experience of firing off such a retort yourself.

If we think about the situations where decrees like this one are usually proclaimed, it’s often the case that, at the time the instruction is issued, the person making the statement is not having things their way and they have been singularly unsuccessful in persuading you to adopt their stance. Perhaps it’s something as mundane as which movie you’ll see on Saturday night. You’ve been excitedly and impatiently waiting for the sequel to your favourite superhero movie to come out and it’s just been released. Your partner, however, wants to see a documentary drama based on real-life events.

After an extended and increasingly inflexible exchange, you’re told “OK, enough! Jeez. Have it your way. We’ll go and see the stupid superhero movie.” While you’re secretly glad to get the outcome you wanted, you have a sneaking suspicion that there won’t be a happy ending once you leave the cinema.

It’s probably reasonable to suggest that when people are in the midst of capitulating with the “Have it your way!” edict they are not in a philosophical frame of mind or even intending to make global statements about the meaning of life. On one occasion, for example, when my son and I were negotiating what a reasonable amount of screen time on the weekend might be, I heard “Fine, dad! Have it your way. I’ll have 30 minutes at a time and do some other boring thing for 30 minutes before I go back on. Is that what you want?”. At that time I don’t think either of us was thinking of the bigger picture or contemplating what it meant to be alive.

But of course, that’s the rub, isn’t it? Is that what you want? Are you getting things your way?

Life, actually, is a continual process of striving to get what we want or have things our way. The most exasperating times occur when someone else is imploring us to do things their way. Someone else’s way can never be our way.

We can enjoy playing bridge with the same small group of enthusiasts we’ve been meeting up with for 7 years and we can look forward to the monthly hilarity of our raucous book club. We can thrive on the challenge that our friends in the running club continually provide and we can flourish in the warmth and security of the deeply loving relationship we’ve created with our partner.

All of the enjoyment, thriving, and flourishing we experience, however, is ours and ours alone. In one sense, every person really is an island. That doesn’t detract at all from the endless and multifaceted rewards there are from connecting with other islands. It also doesn’t minimise the devastating grief we can experience when tragedy befalls one of the favourite islands in our own personally constructed archipelago. And nor does it dismiss the torment and suffering some people inflict on others.

The point is simply to recognise that my life is my life and your life is your life. We can definitely work together to create experiences of happiness, love, and contentment (as well as misery and mayhem) but you can never know my experience of satisfaction and I can never know yours. From this perspective, we can never share goals in the same way that we might share a red duck curry at our favourite Thai restaurant or a ride home from work. I can help you achieve your goals and you can help me achieve mine, but we can only ever have shared goals metaphorically.

Some people seem to have the knack of being able to have things their way most of the time. Conversely, other people don’t ever appear to have things their way very often. Perhaps the most contented people are those people who have discovered how to have things their way by helping others to have things the way they want. Could it be that we’re really only ever able to have things our way when we discover how to carve our path without blocking the paths of others?

So, go on. Have it your way. That’s what life is all about. Contentment and satisfaction can be found during those times when individuals, partners, families, and communities are all able to have it their way. Friction, strife, and anguish occur when one or more people are prevented from having things their way. The secret of successful social living may be finding out how each of us can have things our way without stopping others from doing the same thing.

To help create a more harmonious world, let’s start a tradition of raising our glasses at social celebrations and toasting “May you live life your way”.


The Importance of Deep Relationships

The Importance of Deep Relationships

Can virtual bonds have the same kind of depth and intimacy as real-life ones?

In one of the most thorough and prolonged behavioral studies ever conducted, Harvard University researchers surveyed and scrutinized a group of 724 men from 1939 to 2014, arriving at a simple yet instructive conclusion. Harvard professor Robert Waldinger, director of the center conducting the study, described it this way: “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.”

The single factor that more than any other determined how happy and healthy these men were throughout their lives was the presence of good relationships. Not where they lived, not what they did, not how smart they were, and not how much money they had made.

What are good relationships, though? Waldinger explains: “It’s not just the number of friends you have, and it’s not whether or not you’re in a committed relationship. It’s the quality of your close relationships that matters.” In other words, how many close relationships we have and who these relationships are with does not matter for our health and happiness. It turns out that we can enjoy the remarkable benefits of an intimate and supportive relationship to an equal degree with a romantic partner, family members, friends, or colleagues.

The importance of relationships is evident in numerous other studies. Globally, there is an increasing amount of research focusing on well-being on a national level. More and more countries are beginning to look at Gross National Happiness (GNH) as a measure of national health, in addition to Gross National Product (GNP).

Some of the countries that consistently appear high on the international rankings—”the happiest countries in the world”—are Denmark, Norway, Colombia, Israel, and Australia. Why these nations and not others? Why do Israel and Colombia, with their fair share of challenges, boast high levels of well-being, whereas countries like the U.S., Germany, and Singapore do not? When researchers asked this question, they came up with one clear answer: People living in the happiest countries enjoy high levels of social support. This support can be the result of strong family bonds, intimate friendships, or a sense of communal solidarity. In the happiest countries, there is an emphasis on relationships.

How can we cultivate these close relationships? Whenever I was asked this question, up until three months ago, I highlighted the distinction between virtual and real and encouraged everyone to get off social media and go out and meet people. Today, things are different, and many of us no longer have the luxury of choosing between the virtual and the real. We’re locked up in our homes, forced to keep our distance, subject to physical isolation.

In this new world, we have to relinquish old distinctions that no longer serve us and come up with new ones that do. Specifically, instead of thinking about virtual versus real, we have to think about superficial versus deep.

And deep relationships are possible, even in virtual reality.

Personally, I felt tremendous disappointment when classes at Columbia University, where I teach, shifted online. It had taken me over a month—and a handful of two-hour sessions—to feel like my class on Happiness Studies had taken the magical shift I so crave when teaching, from superficial academic discussions to deep psychological conversations. When we went online, I feared this magic would be lost.

To my surprise, however, within a couple of sessions, the screen ceased to be a barrier to intimacy. The first steps in this new virtual territory were precarious, but as soon as one student and then another took the leap and shared what was on their minds and in their hearts, others provided support and then themselves followed into the deep. Last week, in the penultimate class of the semester, I shed a few tears—because I was touched by students opening up and because our time together is almost over. While I would much rather go back to face-to-face interactions with my students and friends, we discovered during this period that intimacy and depth are possible online.

In a world that has lost much of its old structures—where boundaries between work and home, and space and in time, are crumbling—we need to establish some new structures. And perhaps the most important structure is setting time aside each day for deep, meaningful, heartfelt conversations.

If we do that, then as soon as the threat of the coronavirus subsides, and the walls currently separating us fall, we’ll be able to build on the foundation that we are creating now and enjoy the marvelous benefits that come from close relationships that are both deep and real.

Article Link: The Importance Of Deep Relationships


Don’t Personalize Your Partner’s Issues

Don’t Personalize Your Partner’s Issues

Their issues may have an impact on you but they may not be about you.
Mel Schwartz L.C.S.W. Posted May 01, 2020

Our close personal relationships often make us feel as if we’re under a microscope, as we examine, react, and judge each other’s actions and intentions. Under the distress of the current COVID-19 pandemic, such interpersonal tensions may feel even more acute, particularly when we’re in confinement with each other.

The tension can boil over, causing us to lose balance and a healthy energy in our relationships. Let’s take a look at this damaging tendency and rethink our role in it.

Relationships offer a unique opportunity for our personal growth, though typically not without some disturbance and challenge. Our closest relationships showcase the underlying chronic issues that each person brings into the union, as our personal history and wounds spill over into the relationship.

Our tendency is to blame each other for the disturbances, which usually results in each person feeling invalidated and devalued. When this occurs, we pull back from the sense of oneness that likely brought us together at the start. We then begin to differentiate matters as his problem or her issue. What may have begun as a loving connected partnership begins to dissolve into conflict.

I’d been working with a couple in the early years of their marriage. Jill had divorced shortly before she met John and had two teenage children from her prior marriage. She maintained a close, if not amicable, relationship with her former spouse. As our sessions progressed, it became evident that Jill’s need for cordiality with her ex-husband and her inability to say no to her children was masking an underlying issue. She actually felt compelled to be well thought of by both her kids and their father, which caused her to avoid confrontation on any level. She appeased her ex and avoided appropriate parental guidance for her children, from her need to avoid any upset.

Her behavior provoked her new husband, John, who felt undermined, if not betrayed, by her actions. He experienced Jill as being more sensitive to her ex-husband’s needs than to his own. We came to appreciate that Jill’s need to avoid confrontation and displeasing others had its roots in her childhood. Because she felt unloved by her parents, Jill’s coping mechanism was to try to please them to get any positive attention she could muster. Not surprisingly, Jill acclimated to life in her family of origin as a people pleaser, a role she continued to play later in life. The irony is that she was actually displeasing her current husband so as not to upset her ex and her children.

John came into their marriage with a fear of abandonment dating back to his mother’s abandonment of him at an early age. He shared that he was particularly sensitive to the threat of rejection since childhood. Feeling unloved by Jill, he critiqued every aspect of her interactions, texts, and emails with her former husband and her children. He didn’t feel partnered with her. As a result, Jill felt perpetually examined and criticized by John. Their relationship started to unravel as they blamed each other for its demise.


How am I contributing to our struggle?

When we see each other’s insecurities and challenges as their problem, but don’t see how we, with our own past wounds may contribute to the conflict, we are tricked by the illusion of separation. Think, It’s their fault. In fact, their issues become our issues, as ours become theirs.

The problems may be different, but they are in no way separate. Picture a drop of ink as it drips into a beaker of water. The ink disperses, and you can no longer find its trail. The same thing happens in relationship. Each person’s fears, hopes, challenges, and issues become entangled with their partner’s.

In couple’s counseling, I often hear, I have no issues, but my spouse surely does. How silly. Your partner’s unresolved issues no doubt impact you and your personal challenges. You are both as inextricably connected as two people on a seesaw. Ask yourself, What are my issues that I should be addressing?

As I continued working with John and Jill I helped them understand how their core wounds and coping mechanisms each contributed to their overall upset. I worked with Jill to develop a stronger self-worth—to find her own voice—enabling her to overcome her timidity around parenting. I helped John see that Jill wasn’t abandoning him so much as operating from her own preexisting fear.


Their problems were indeed very personal to them, but it was essential for them not to personalize them.

They each came in to their marriage with their own history of fears, doubts, and insecurities. These issues were of course quite personal to each of them. And these matters no doubt impacted both of them. Unresolved personal issues always ripple out and affect those close to us. The goal is to recognize the burdens we both carry and to choose not to think They are doing this to me.

As we release the habit of victimization, we can reflect on how we might assist each other and, as important, look at how we contribute to the upset. This approach invites mindful relationship, freed from reactivity, blame and anger.


This article was excerpted from Mel’s book The Possibility Principle: How Quantum Physics can Improve the Way You Think, Live and LoveMel offers virtual therapy globally.