Confession: I’ve been on a search all my life for true happiness. Haven’t we all? As a child happiness came almost automatically. Our experiences were fresh and new. However we performed academically, school opened up new worlds of possibility for happiness. How infectious it still is to see children expressing joy over little things. When times are tough, don’t we wish we could return to those innocent moments?
As we grew up we began to expand the limits of happiness into our relationships. We chummed around our “best friend,” oblivious to time as we explored our world and conversed about everything. We had our first romantic crushes. We came to view ourselves increasingly as separate individuals, which ironically set us apart from the rest of the world, and gave us our first taste of being somehow lonely or incomplete. Many got stuck there and the search for happiness got focused more and more outside of our selves.
As adults many of us continually look for happiness in externals. There’s always the “next thing” that will bring the true contentment we seek. The next degree, the next career move, the next big vacation, the next gourmet meal, and the next addition to our wardrobe, our garage, or our electronics collection become holy grails to happiness.
But the search for happiness becomes a seriously debilitating when we look for it in relationships outside of ourselves. Contentment in healthy friendships and in caring adults based on interdependence is one thing. But I often see in my clients an unhealthy expectation that someone in their lives will be the “one” to complete them, to bring them the joy that is otherwise missing in life, to fill the emptiness they feel.
Codependency, whereby we depend on others to give us cues as to how to feel and act and react in life in order to find happiness, is a dead-end. Yet many of us fall into it in desperation. It’s a kind of addiction to parents, siblings, intimate friends, spouses, professional colleagues, whom we think will let us in on their secret to happiness. We seek our cues from them as to how we ought to be feeling in a given situation. This lopsided drive to inner contentment and self-respect lead us to put a noose around our necks that pulls tight every time we fail to live up to our end of the codependent relationship.
Coaching can help identify the codependent relationships we’ve formed and how they seem to benefit us, but actually hobble our personal growth, freedom, and power. A co-active coaching relationship is just the opposite of codependent. It enables both client and coach to find true independence and interdependence, while discovering that happiness has always been there in our lives. It’s not been as elusive as we’ve thought. It is as close as we are to our selves, to a mindful consciousness of our unique giftedness, and to an appreciation for the unrepeatable miracle that each of us is.
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