The One Habit That Destroys Lives, Relationships & Happiness

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss one of the most dangerous habits almost every single one of us has and how it destroys our lives, relationships and happiness.
The One Habit That Destroys Lives, Relationships & Happiness

First a quick update:

“Giving back”
Recently, “It’s All In The Journey” recovery magazine printed my article on “Emotional Vampires” and I would like to further support their cause. They are auctioning an original Jim Warren painting on eBay (ART category) with proceeds donated to girls in Alcoholics Anonymous & NA early recovery. Jim Warren is the famous painter who did the cover to Bob Seger’s “Against the Wind” album. So if you love art and want to help a worthy cause please bid for this painting on eBay.

“Why do politicians cheat?” and “Top 10 signs of cheating”
Listen to the two radio interviews I gave to Russ Morley, on News/Talk 850 WFTL for insights into motivations and causes behind the high rate of politicians who cheat on their wives and; the top ten red flags that scream your partner is cheating on you.

Now, let’s talk about one of the most dangerous habits we all possess and practice.

Fritz Perls was a German-born psychiatrist and psychotherapist who moved to the US in the 1940s and later went on to coin the term “Gestalt Therapy” for the therapy he and his wife Laura Perls had developed.

In the 1960s, in the US, as the movement of Individualism became celebrated, a statement of just 56 words by Fritz Perls, known as the “Gestalt prayer” became famous. It is often touted as a model way of life:

I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.

(Fritz Perls, 1969)

The Gestalt prayer has many key points and foci:

  1. When you fulfill your own needs, you can help others to fulfill theirs
  2. Accept responsibility for who you are
  3. Accept yourself, others and your surroundings
  4. Genuine contact, bonding and friendship only occurs when you allow yourself to be who you are and others to be who they are
  5. Real change can only occur when you first identify with your current experience;
  6. Personal independence (but not isolation) is paramount to happiness

And so, you ask, “what is the most destructive habit we all possess and practice and how does that tie into the Gestalt prayer?”

The second line of the prayer is the answer: expectations.

Our expectations is what creates our greatest misery and unhappiness in life; our expectations of ourselves and others.

When we expect something of others, we hand them the controls to our happiness. If they do what we expect, we are happy and celebrate, and, if they do not, then we become angry, frustrated and miserable. We can easily start to focus or become obsessed with changing them. And there is no way to change someone else. We can influence, encourage or inspire someone, but we have no power to change them.

I would also like to distinguish between standards and expectations. I define standards as those morals, ethics and habits which form our foundation. In other words, we need to become clear about what we will and will not accept in our lives. The key here is balance. We let go of our expectation that others will be perfect and do things our way, (when we want and how we want) but, we maintain our standards –we identify what we truly need and can accept i.e. be clear about what is the least you can accept in your life.

Let me use two examples: one about expectations set in the past, and the other example, about expectations set in the present.

Sally was a tortured soul with little enthusiasm and spark for life. Her father had been critical and judgmental towards her most of his life. Nothing she ever did seemed good enough and he never praised her for her real achievements.

Now, you might say, “well, he needs to accept her and praise her.” Yes, Sally would welcome that. But the real challenge is that Sally expected her dad to be better, to praise her, support, love and encourage her. Yes, she deserved that, but her dad couldn’t do that because no one taught him and he was raised that way. Ironically, Sally was just as critical towards her father. He had made some mistakes in his life and she had judged him for them. Sally only found inner peace when she forgave her dad for not being what she wanted him to be and for not doing what she wanted him to do. Next, Sally did the same with herself. Thus, she came to the point of letting go of expectations of herself and her father; she accepted herself and him. She no longer depended on him to validate her. And yes, their relationship transformed dramatically because she had also let go of the anger and judgment as well as the expectations. Now there was space for them both to create a genuine relationship as adults.

Robert is in an unhappy marriage. He wants his wife to cook, clean, work and be more affectionate and loving. But this is not the actual problem. The real problem is that Robert expects her to change without doing anything himself. Robert acknowledged that they were both being harsh and insulting to each other but he expects her to change first: “Why do I have to be the first person to take the first step?” I explained to Robert that all of his expectations are like a disease in his marriage and no matter who is right in this marriage, the expectations of “she should be this way, she should do this, I am a man – I should do this, etc” create misery, fights and isolation. Only when he can let go of pride and the need to be right and vindicated; only when he can let of the expectation about who should take the first step, will he then be able create the space for his wife to respond in a new way and with love. And yes, should he do his best and she chooses not to change then he can consider what are his real needs and standard and make a new choice accordingly.

Finally, relationships require real, hard work to maintain and we need to realize that relationships need not be founded on obligation or expectation, for when they are, it destroys the love and bond.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & Clinical Hypnotherapist

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  1. Avatar
    Reggie Greene / The Logistician says:

    There is a very simple reason why disgraced politicians should immediately resign no matter what the offense, or the talent they may possess which could benefit society:

    In this partisan, acrimonious, political environment in which we currently live, and at this point in time in our nation’s evolution, any elected official needs as much support from his constituency which he or she can gather. After the offense, that support base will undoubtedly diminish, and render their service less effective.

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