Meanings And Arguments

Have you ever found that after argu­ing with some­one about some­thing for some time you real­ize that both of you are actu­ally talk­ing about the same thing, but express­ing it in a dif­fer­ent way? If we were to look into the causes of these argu­ments the first thing that comes to mind is mis­un­der­stand­ing the mean­ing that your argu­ing part­ner had in mind.

The begin­ning of wis­dom is call­ing things by their right names, Con­fu­cius said. Well, what are those “right names”? Who says what the “right” mean­ing of the word is? Dic­tio­nary? Yes, that’s at least one way to start. But if we look a lit­tle deeper into it we will see that words them­selves have no mean­ings; we give them mean­ings, and sup­pos­edly the mean­ing that most of peo­ple agree with is recorded in a dic­tio­nary. That’s all very well, but when did you look for some of the fol­low­ing words in the dic­tio­nary to see what is the gen­er­ally accepted mean­ing for democ­racy, cap­i­tal­ism, abuse, gov­ern­ment, respon­si­bil­ity, integrity, love, hap­pi­ness, rela­tion­ship, mar­riage, lis­ten­ing, hear­ing, truth, etc.?

And how often do you actu­ally check if the per­son you argue with gives the same mean­ing to words, con­cepts, behav­iors and events that you do? Mis­un­der­stand­ing means “a fail­ure to under­stand some­thing cor­rectly” accord­ing to a dic­tio­nary. But what “cor­rectly” means is not the same for you and your part­ner. Unless you know what the cor­rect mean­ing is for what­ever you are argu­ing about with your part­ner, you may be argu­ing until you turn blue in the face talk­ing about dif­fer­ent things and try­ing to prove your point, at the same time not under­stand­ing how he pos­si­bly can­not agree with you, etc.

I have a self-proclaimed neo-con friend who is very hon­est, gen­er­ous, eth­i­cal and moral guy, and I am some­where more on the left if I must choose sides with what I hope are the same per­sonal attrib­utes I have given him. We, of course, kept argu­ing about pol­i­tics, and nat­u­rally dis­agreed about almost every­thing until at one point I sug­gested that we define the terms we were talk­ing about: such as free­dom, democ­racy, cap­i­tal­ism, social­ism, gov­ern­ment and such. What we found out was that in our argu­ment we were talk­ing about com­pletely dif­fer­ent things con­sis­tent with the mean­ings each one of us gave to those words. No won­der we argued ad infini­tum. Once we agreed on the terms we were using, we, to our sur­prise, agreed about everything.

Think about what it is that you repeat­edly argue with your part­ner and try to dis­tin­guish the terms that you dis­agree on, for instance trust, being heard, being rec­og­nized, affirmed, taken care of, respect, fun, hurt. What does it mean for you and him to be a man/masculine or a woman/feminine? What do you mean when you say things like you never lis­ten to me, or you talk too much?

Aware­ness exer­cise: The moment you start dis­agree­ing with your part­ner, start look­ing for pos­si­ble words, phrases and con­cepts that may have a dif­fer­ent mean­ing for him/her. Take time out and hon­estly ask with­out any expec­ta­tions what it means for him/her.

Next time we will talk about other rea­sons we may dis­agree. Until then please prac­tice find­ing out the mean­ings oth­ers have about the points of your disagreements.



What Is Happiness?

In The Rela­tion­ship Saver I sug­gested that one of the actions you need to take is to be in high spir­its, cheer­ful and happy. As you have prob­a­bly noticed, it’s eas­ier said than done. Just decid­ing to be happy does not nec­es­sar­ily make you happy. So the ques­tion is, how do you achieve this eva­sive hap­pi­ness that every­one strives for?

First, we must dis­tin­guish what hap­pi­ness is and the ori­gin of “ the word hap­pi­ness.  The word happy orig­i­nated in Mid­dle Eng­lish and meant the same as lucky.  In my lan­guage, Serbo-Croatian, we have the same word for happy and lucky. What I find inter­est­ing is that most of us still treat our hap­pi­ness as luck, some­thing that we have no con­trol of, some­thing that just hap­pens or not — as if we have noth­ing to do with it. In other words, we often think that hap­pi­ness is some­thing that’s pro­duced by out­side events, like money, stuff, shop­ping, pos­ses­sions, other people’s love, respect, com­pli­ments, care, etc. We often say some­thing like, if such and such hap­pens (get pro­mo­tion, dif­fer­ent job, new car or clothes etc.) or if you were only to do so and so (buy me flow­ers, give me a com­pli­ment, have sex with me, etc.) it will make me happy.  We also say to our chil­dren that if they clean their room or have good grades we will be happy. So inad­ver­tently we teach our chil­dren gen­er­a­tion after gen­er­a­tion that they are not respon­si­ble for their own hap­pi­ness and should expect oth­ers to do some­thing for them, or that the out­side world and cir­cum­stances should adapt to their wishes so that they can find hap­pi­ness in life. Although some events may induce a feel­ing of hap­pi­ness and even tem­po­rary eupho­ria, hap­pi­ness is not merely a feel­ing. The dic­tio­nary says:

happy |ˈhapē|
adjec­tive ( –pier , –piest )
feel­ing or show­ing plea­sure or contentment

Hap­pi­ness is also con­tent­ment. Con­tent­ment is a state of hap­pi­ness and sat­is­fac­tion. So, hap­pi­ness is not merely a feel­ing it is a state of being.

So, how do we achieve a last­ing state of being happy? We must start with rec­og­niz­ing that any state we find our­selves in, whether it is hap­pi­ness or depres­sion, is gen­er­ated within our­selves, by us mak­ing mean­ings and inter­pre­ta­tions of the events that we find our­selves a part of. We often can­not influ­ence out­side events, but what we can always do is choose what inter­pre­ta­tions and mean­ings we give to those events. As I men­tioned ear­lier in my other writ­ings, mean­ings and inter­pre­ta­tions do not reside in events — they are solely a prod­uct of our own mind. There­fore, we have com­plete con­trol of how we inter­pret any event, although it cer­tainly does not seem like that some­times. We are in charge of con­ver­sa­tions with our­selves and unfor­tu­nately there is noth­ing new we can tell our­selves. What we do most of the time is auto­mat­i­cally regur­gi­tate the past in our mind, often blam­ing our­selves, feel­ing sorry for our­selves and in a word, being vic­tims and enjoy­ing it. Yes, there is a cer­tain plea­sure in being a vic­tim (more about this a lit­tle later).  Instead, we could use our intel­li­gence that only humans are endowed with and observe our thoughts and actu­ally choose what we want to think about. All right, so what could we think about in order to be happy?

You must be aware that your inter­pre­ta­tions an mean­ings are inti­mately con­nected to your set of val­ues. They are a dri­ving force behind how you per­ceive reality.

Now, what we need to do is estab­lish what our val­ues are. What is it that we value in our lives? Hon­esty, love, integrity, dig­nity, courage, rela­tion­ships, well­be­ing, pros­per­ity, co-operation and … add your own? I found that high­est val­ues that are not sub­or­di­nate to any other ones are truth, hap­pi­ness, free­dom, peace and love.
Now, ask your­self a ques­tion: how do I com­pro­mise my val­ues in every­day sit­u­a­tions in order to achieve cer­tain goals, such as being “suc­cess­ful”, mak­ing money, sur­viv­ing, keep­ing a job, main­tain­ing a rela­tion­ship, being loved, appre­ci­ated and respected? How often do you lie, cheat and deceive your­self and oth­ers in order to pro­duce a cer­tain result, to be suc­cess­ful? If that sounds too harsh for you, think of all those white lies and with­hold­ings of infor­ma­tion or truth in order to pro­duce or avoid a cer­tain reac­tion in oth­ers. Are all these actions that you are “forced” to do con­trary to your val­ues, which you ulti­mately want to man­i­fest in your daily life?

We are told that suc­cess brings hap­pi­ness, that suc­cess­ful peo­ple are happy. Look around you. Are they? Are you com­pro­mis­ing ful­fill­ment of your high­est val­ues by  achiev­ing inter­me­di­ate suc­cesses at any price, like mak­ing money, acquir­ing mate­r­ial things, win­ning a con­tract or some­one else’s “respect”, etc? It is fas­ci­nat­ing how we uncon­sciously grav­i­tate towards the things that ulti­mately mean very lit­tle to us and in the process we sac­ri­fice the very val­ues that moti­vate our behav­ior and make us happy. How often we do some­thing that we very well know we should not and that can be hurt­ful to some­one else and our lit­tle secret never gets recov­ered, but we fully well know that it was com­pletely con­trary to our beliefs of what is right and what is wrong. What often hap­pens is that they are exactly those behav­iors that we always dis­ap­prove of in pub­lic and make oth­ers wrong about. When­ever your emo­tions go ram­pant about cer­tain wrong doing of some­one else you may be sure that that is your own pro­jec­tion of what you do or did and which is con­trary to your val­ues. Those actions of yours and when rec­og­nized in oth­ers are cause of unhappiness.

So, you might have noticed here that hap­pi­ness lies in the process and not in the result. You can see that every action has two pur­poses. First you can act to move towards a desired result. Sec­ond, you act in order to express your val­ues. Align­ment between your behav­ior and your val­ues is a mea­sure of your high­est integrity. Your behav­ior always expresses your values-in-action. Your integrity hinges on whether your values-in-action agree with your essen­tial val­ues. The envi­ron­ment we find our­selves in con­stantly demands of us to make deci­sions and you inevitably face the ques­tion of pri­or­i­ties: you put integrity before suc­cess, or you put integrity sec­ond and go for suc­cess at all costs. It is fash­ion­able today, espe­cially since The Secret and The Law of Attrac­tion became pop­u­lar, to think that we are in total charge of our des­tiny and what hap­pens to us is of our doing. It often may be so, but it is a very sim­plis­tic way of think­ing. To actu­ally man­i­fest your real­ity requires much more than most peo­ple think, but I will leave that sub­ject for another arti­cle. Suf­fice it to say that other peo­ple may also be try­ing to man­i­fest their own real­ity in con­flict with our own, which may make things very com­plex and com­pli­cated. The fact for most of us is that most of the time we are thrown into sit­u­a­tions requir­ing that we sim­ply need to deal with them the best way we can. Think of play­ing cards. We are dealt a hand and we must play the best way we know how. In other words, we must acknowl­edge that God does not take sides (that is if you are reli­gious) and that we can­not change real­ity. But, there is still a lot we can do in any given sit­u­a­tion: we are in full con­trol of our inter­pre­ta­tions of any event and the choices we make. A sit­u­a­tion may not be in your con­trol, but you can always choose to act in integrity because you con­trol your own your thoughts and behavior.

Act­ing con­trary to your val­ues and com­pro­mis­ing your higher self for an inter­me­di­ate gain may rob you of the ulti­mate goal you want to achieve, to be happy now and in the future. This is the place where you have a choice between being a vic­tim of cir­cum­stances or being in charge of your life and your hap­pi­ness. By sim­ply look­ing into the future and solu­tions to your sit­u­a­tion and dif­fer­ent pos­si­bil­i­ties instead of lament­ing how the life and the world is unfair, you will get empow­ered instead of vic­tim­ized, you will be con­tent know­ing that you are doing your best instead of feel­ing sorry for your­self and blam­ing oth­ers. Results are never guar­an­teed and we will fail more often than we would like to admit, mostly because of cul­tural pres­sures. But, when you are being in integrity through­out the process you will be happy even if you do not suc­ceed. You will know that you did the best you could because you did not com­pro­mise your val­ues and came out of it being in integrity, whole and com­plete. You will not relin­quish your power to the cir­cum­stances to deter­mine how you feel. You are always in charge.

In con­clu­sion, we may safely say that you will be happy when your behav­ior and your inten­tions are in sync with your val­ues, when you put the process before the result, when you are in integrity at all times. Wait­ing for cir­cum­stances, envi­ron­ment and other peo­ple to change and make you happy is a pre­scrip­tion for depres­sion, frus­tra­tion and mis­ery and a life of per­pet­ual vic­tim­hood. All you can do is what you do to live your life with­out com­pro­mise guided by your val­ues, and that is more than any­one else can do for you.

As you might have noticed, the prin­ci­ple of integrity applies to every area of your life with­out excep­tion. I want to leave you with the ques­tion: where have you been out of integrity, for­get­ting and com­pro­mis­ing your true val­ues in your rela­tion­ship? How often do you expect oth­ers to make you happy? Are you a vic­tim, or are you in charge of your life, con­tent and happy?
I wish you all the hap­pi­ness in the world.




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