Gain Emotional Independence to Earn Happiness

Despite what our culture has ingrained in us, emotional independence is no one’s responsibility but your own.

| November 2014

The Happiness Makeover (Red Wheel/Weiser, 2014), by M.J. Ryan, shows how to find happiness by enjoying every day, regardless of the problems life throws at us, and learning to think optimistically. In the following excerpt from Chapter 19, “Remember, You’re Not Responsible for Anyone Else’s Happiness — Including Your Kids’,” Ryan reminds you to declare your emotional independence because no one else is obligated to bring you happiness.

“No one is really responsible to make someone else happy, no matter what most people have been taught and accept as true.”
—Sidney Madwed

The phone rang at 2 p.m. It was Ana, calling from her summer program. “Tiera and Mia won’t play with me,” she wailed. “I want you to come and bring me home.” I felt a giant tug on my heartstrings—my child was unhappy. The mother lion in me rose up—how mean those girls were! Of course I’d come right over—and give those two an earful on the way out!

Then I stopped for a moment. What message would I send seven-year-old Ana if I ran to the rescue? That she was powerless to solve her own problems. That she must look to others for her happiness. But I knew she needed a bit of support—simply telling her to resolve it for herself wouldn’t work. If she could have, she wouldn’t have called. So I asked her about the trouble she was having. “I don’t know why they won’t play with me,” she proclaimed, “and I won’t ask.” Sensing a dead end, I tried another approach. “Look around the room. What are the other kids doing?”

“Well, some kids are beading,” she replied. “Some are doing art and others playing Legos.”

“Do you think you could join one of those groups?” I asked.