The NY Times has an interesting piece running today by The Dalai Lama and Arthur C. brooks. It explores what is behind our anxiety—the fear of “being unneeded.” According to the authors, for all the progress the world has made on human rights, poverty, sexism, and hunger—there is still much anger, discontent, and a feeling of hopelessness, especially in the worlds’ wealthiest nations.
This article attempts to answer why this is so. It references research about what makes people thrive, and what comes up over and over again is that people need to be needed. Selfish people are unhappy, those who serve their fellow men in a variety of ways, great and small, are found to be happier. They quote 13th century sages who taught that “If one lights a fire for others, it will also brighten one’s own way.”
All the great religions in the world teach this, and it is a tenant they all share. Studies prove that selflessness and joy are intertwined, yet too many people are focused solely on their own needs and wants or on survival, heads down and only seeing a few steps ahead.
The authors theorize that pain and indignation are rising in wealthy countries due to the belief of their citizens that they are no longer useful, needed, or at one with their fellow citizens. This then dampens the human spirit and leads to negativity and feelings of isolation.
The piece suggests that what people can do about this is ask themselves what they can do each day to appreciate the gifts and contributions of others. In other words, we need to become compassionate societies.
Upon reading this, my thoughts went to how this appreciation could be applied to improve committed relationships, marriage, and families. Too often, couples find themselves falling into emotional and physical distance, due to a focus on their own needs, wants, and bean-counting behavior. By this I mean, grudgingly giving with the expectation that they should be rewarded a certain way, and if not, resentment and unhealthy competition often set in. Too often, appreciation is not expressed, only frustration and annoyance when the individual feels slighted, minimized, or their feelings are overlooked by their partner.
Therefore I would suggest that everyone reading this make a commitment to show even some small appreciation every day for what your partner brings to your life and relationship. Nothing is too small to notice or mention. This validation will lead to feelings of goodwill that will help to provide insurance against all the rocky days and periods that all relationships go through. And if the research and the conclusions of these authors is correct, it will help you to achieve greater happiness in your relationship.