The short answer is “They can be”. If you want to know what happy people can do to avoid being hurt in relationships, please read on!
Your mind is made up of two parts; the creative part and the logical part. We’ll call the first part System 1 and the second part System 2.
Here are more detailed descriptions of each system:
System 1: good mood, strong intuition, increased creativity and innovation, gullibility, prone to logical errors
System 2: vigilance, analytical, increased mental effort, sadness, suspicion, and always on guard
Is this an “either/or” situation? Can you have the best of both worlds? Yes, that’s how the human mind is made, to switch between times of threat, concentration, and focus to times of openness, relaxation, and creativity. The problem arises when a person chooses to stay in one system or the other.
For instance, if you’ve been hurt in a relationship, either current or prior, you may hold onto feelings and thoughts that are associated with the pain you felt. Increasingly, your System 2 is engaged and becomes ever vigilant to look for additional ways you’re being hurt, the ease with which you used to interact changes to require more mental and emotional effort, the feeling of sadness of what you have lost in the relationship develops (resentment), and your guard is always on to prevent further hurt. This is damaging to the relationship because it can create a downward spiral of the interaction and cause the other person to engage their System 2, as well. An illustration I use for this is the person you watch from a distance at a restaurant. They complain to the hostess/host and they are short with the waiter/waitress. If they arrived with someone else, even that person is treated abruptly and unkindly. Why do they behave like this? Very simply, they have been hurt and they behave this way to keep everyone away so that they don’t get hurt again.
The opposite can be true, too. If you have been hurt in a relationship and you keep operating in your System 1, you can easily be taken advantage of. The other person keeps doing and saying things that hurt, but your System 1 isn’t thinking logically, is gullible, and it causes you to get creative and in a good mood, believing you’ll find a way to make the relationship better. Many times it doesn’t. And, you get hurt easier and more frequently.
Real happiness is only found when the right balance is struck between System 1 and System 2. Just suppose you could go back to the magical time when you first entered the relationship. Somewhere between there and where you are now is the balance point. In the first few weeks or months of the relationship, your System 1 was in charge. You immediately got in a good mood whenever you saw the person or even just heard their name. You both were creative in your relationship, regularly surprising the other with gifts, phone calls, texts, cards, and the like. You went with your “gut” feel (intuition) much of the time and things you ordinarily wouldn’t or would have done didn’t matter, if it pleased the other person. Consider where you’re at in that relationship now, maybe months or years into it. Many people find it requires more work and energy (System 2) than they are willing to expend to find the same level of excitement and enjoyment, or even close to it.
So, how do you find that balance between System 1 and System 2? Here are 3 steps I have found highly successful when working with my clients:
1. Know your values
These values are what make you who you are. When you know what you value most and respect those, you won’t allow conflict to exist for long. Let the person you’re in a relationship with know what your values are and, unless you choose to change them, never let someone disrespect you by causing a conflict. This allows you to stay in System 1 where you’re happy, creative, intuitive, but no longer gullible because you know your values. Your time in System 2 will be minimized.
2. Know what your mission in life is
Once you know your values, you begin to understand your purpose in life. Here are some areas to consider: How do you want to be of service to those around you? What contributions do you want to make to your family, community, city, state, nation, globally?
3. Based on the first two exercises, now how do you see your future in 6-months, 1-year, 5-years, and beyond? You can now create a solid vision of how your life will become.
When you have the stability of these three components beneath you, you can confidently know when to increase your mental effort and go into System 2 to be critical, logical, focused, vigilant, and even suspicious and avoid the hurts that would come along otherwise. The rest of the time you can thoroughly enjoy life in System 1; being in good moods, letting creativity and innovation thrive, and let your intuition guide you. Is now your time to find that balance?