If you have ever purchased a new gadget you know it usually comes with instructions or an owner’s manual. Most things do come with instructions, but people don’t. Or do they? Every person has a belief system. The beliefs they value and apply to life are a type of instruction manual. The funny thing is each is unique to the individual. My manual is different from my husbands’. This is fine as long as we do not try to impose our manual on someone else.
We think we can apply our manual to others and they “should” follow it. They “should” have the same values, morals, principles that we have. Thinking this usually gets us into trouble. This concept took me a long time to grasp. We think we have the power to influence others and change them. We can slap our manuals of behavior on them and they will comply, if they care about us, or want us to be happy, or any other condition we apply to the operating manual.
It is hard enough for us to control our behavior, yet we think we can control the behavior of other people.
Thinking one should act or behave in a certain way is usually a recipe for discontentment. Our friends, family, coworkers, teachers…you get the idea, will never be able to live up to our expectations. It is never the action of another person that creates our emotions or sense of well-being. It is always a thought we are having that generates the feeling we get. It is always in our power to create any emotion we want.
Don’t believe me? Close your eyes and think of something that makes you feel happy. Your favorite vacation spot, a child, a pet. I would bet that a feeling of joy or contentment came over you. Perhaps you even realize you are smiling. John Assaraf teaches this concept of creating an emotion in his book Innercise. It is just one of the exercises he uses to help unlock the power of your brain. We have the power to generate any emotion based on a thought we create.
This is powerful because it means we have the power to be happy in any relationship. What! Really. Your spouse or partner does not have to do or say anything to you for you to feel loved. If we drop our manuals and observe our relationships, we can find the ways they show love. It will be unique to them.
I used to think if my husband loved me, he would anticipate my needs and meet them. If I was tired and overwhelmed, he would give me a break. If I needed help caring for Emily, he would just jump in and offer assistance. First, I have to express what I need to him. I cannot expect him to be reading my mind. Heck, I can barely keep up with my thoughts and meet my own demands! Second, I can express my needs, but I cannot demand he respond in a certain way. It is his choice. Whatever he decides is not a reflection of the depth of his love and devotion to me. Third, learning this concept and applying it takes practice and patience.
Not applying our manuals to others takes practice to develop. First, it takes a decision. You decide not to put your expectations on others, period. Second, you have to learn to see when you are applying your manual to someone else. It usually starts with, “If he/she would/should/could, then I would feel/be/act…” Third, you must be willing to let that expectation go and accept how they are showing up.
When we give up trying to control other people, which we know doesn’t work, it is very liberating. We grow. We begin to challenge some of our beliefs and expectations. We become more receptive and open to the world around us. We may even realize there are things in our manual that no longer serve us or apply. We can start to change the manual we have for ourselves. When we realize how much power we have in creating our life and a life we love, amazing shifts happen. The possibilities are endless. It doesn’t require any other person around us to adapt or change. We become the change.