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Thursday, 22 May 2014 21:58
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Who are you?

“The days are long, but the years are short.” So said Gretchen Rubin when, one day on a city bus, she realised that time is passing, but that she’s not focusing enough on the things that really matter. So it came about that she made happiness her project.

In her book, ‘The happiness project’, Gretchen writes that the key to happiness is to be more of who we are. To know who you are, you should ask yourself a few key questions.

What do you lie about? Any lie is a disconnection between your values and your behaviour. It shows that in some way you know that your actions don’t reflect your values. Maybe you lie about the same thing to everyone or just to certain people. Pay special attention to anything you try to hide. What does it reveal to you about yourself?

Who do you envy and why? First of all, let’s put the negative aspect of envy on ice here. Instead of judging yourself for feeling envious, be glad for this useful information: it shows what you care about. When someone has achieved something you want very badly, it’s telling you who you want to be.

What are your treats? A treat is different from a reward, which must be earned. A treat is a small pleasure that we give to ourselves just because we want it. Very often, the things we chose as treats aren’t good for us. Since part of what makes people unhappy is trying to resist temptation, Gretchen says it helps to know whether you’re an abstainer or a moderator. To avoid temptation, abstainers have to go cold turkey. They cannot even have one block of chocolate. Moderators, on the other hand, will feel rebellious if they’re not allowed to have just a little bit.

Who are your friends? Do you surround yourself with people who: Make you feel better or worse about yourself? Are stronger or weaker than you? More educated than you or less? More likely to dominate you or let you dominate them? Have more real friends than you or fewer? Are closer to their family members than you are or more estranged? Author Sylvia Browne says that your answers can help you recognise patterns in your life.

What is your story? Clarissa Pinkola Estés, author, Jungian psychoanalyst, and a cantadora (keeper of the old stories), says that we should take a second look at fairy tales. Those you strongly identified with, especially as a child, could be a kind of script for many of the me-and-my-story myths in your own life. So, which is yours: ‘The red shoes’, ‘The little match girl’, ‘The handless maiden’, ‘Cinderella’, ‘Rapunzel’ or maybe ‘Sleeping Beauty’?

Are you an individualist or tribalist? In her novel, ‘Committed’, Elizabeth Gilbert writes that two rival world-views might be applied to marriage, the Greek and the Hebrew. The perfect Greek lover is erotic; the perfect Hebrew lover is faithful.

We inherited our ideas about independence, the sanctity of the individual and intellect from the ancient Greeks. The Hebrew world-view is about tribalism, obedience, and respect as in: “The collective is more important than the individual, morality is more important than happiness, and vows are inviolable.” Modern Western culture has inherited both these ancient world-views and we cannot entirely reconcile them because they aren’t reconcilable.

Which rules do you obey? According to Gretchen there are four categories of people:

  • Upholders respond well to external and internal rules. They’re motivated by fulfilment, are good self-starters and carry tasks through.
  • Questioners investigate both external and internal rules. They want to know why they should do something and only fulfil expectations when it makes sense to do so.
  • Rebels resist inner and outer rules. While they’re notorious at missing deadlines, they’re willing to think outside the box.
  • Obligers readily follow outer rules, but have a hard time meeting inner expectations. They are the typical people pleasers.

Which are you by nature? I am a Greek questioner with strong upholder tendencies, who might actually hover on the brink of being a moderator. My story is ‘The ugly duckling’ because I turned out to be a swan, you see. Would I lie to you about this?

Whether the answer is yes or no, my job is to recognise the truth about myself. You can only build a happy life on the foundation of your true nature.

 

 

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