Anna is sitting in front of me and she sighs.
“I just want to be happy and I can’t do it … At work I clash with people just as hard as with my mother, I have the same frictions as I do with my father, I often don’t feel good enough. Will that ever change now that I’m grown up? I just want to be happy, at work and at home.” Half laughing she adds, “My team meeting sometimes looks a bit like our family parties. You think it’s going to be fun, but sometimes it’s disappointing, and I’m always happy when I get home again.”
I understand Anna. Happiness is something ‘forever’ and ‘everywhere’. Everyone seems to be looking for happiness all his life. In our work, our relationships and also in our families. This is sometimes disappointing and then we feel bad. Not exactly the happiness that we are looking for.
I wrote about family relationships in part 1 of this series about happiness. It mainly deals with the way that old patterns from your childhood often determine how interaction works during a family celebration. During such a family gathering you’re immersed in ‘the way things always go’ and your image of yourself is reinforced. To keep the peace, we play a Psychological Game. Not read it yet? You can find it here.
Patterns at work
The patterns we’ve learned in our youth – which were useful at the time and essential to survive – make a mark on our thinking, feeling and acting. We often take them unconsciously into our adult life. We learned to behave in a certain way to preserve harmony in our original family. We learned that sometimes it’s better not to really tell what we think and feel. If our interior and our exterior don’t match, chances are that we are playing a Psychological Game. It is very easy to play that Psychological Game on the work floor. We’ve already learned it early on.
That’s often behind problems like Anna’s during work. Because we react to situations the same way we learned in our youth, we also get the same reaction as in our youth. The ‘see-ism’ that I wrote about in the previous blog, will also return to your work. ‘See? I always have to admit…’ ‘See? If I don’t open my mouth, nothing happens…’ ‘See? If someone else tells something, everyone listens and if I say something …’
We want to get it right. At work and in our relationships. But often things go differently than we expected. Something’s wrong in the team, or something’s missing in the teamwork. Take a new project for example, where everyone starts with enthusiasm. A lot of time has been invested in the preparation. All the colleagues cooperate and we start with a lot of goodwill, and hope that it will be fun. Actually, we just want it to go well and that the teamwork is fun. And sometimes it’s disappointing. Do you sometimes feel disappointed after such a project? Displaced? Stressed? As if you didn’t quite belong? Or as if you’ve done something wrong?
These are awful feelings. We all have our ‘favourite’ awful feeling. That bad feeling that we feel not only with our families, but also in the team or in our relationship.
Actually, we don’t want to feel this, we just want to be happy. That is exactly the reason why we continue to play that Psychological Game. We’d like to have a good time, so we’re not going to be difficult. Afterwards we feel annoyed because we’ve kept quiet or not been ourselves in a different way.
Look from a distance
If we understand well where our ‘favourite’ awful feeling comes from, we can do better. Transactional Analysis (TA) can be very valuable. In the previous blog I mentioned the Drama Triangle by Karpman. If you apply that model to a work situation, you can look at the situation objectively and, as it were, from a distance. That way you see where these awful feelings come from.
Being unhappy is allowed
We think we should always be happy, that something is wrong with us if we’re not happy. The newspapers and lifestyle blogs are full of tips on how we can find happiness and balance in our lives.
Fortunately, there are also other perspectives. For example, in ‘Zeno’, a Saturday supplement to the newspaper De Morgen, I read an article by Margreet Vermeulen with the title: Hurray, we’re allowed to be unhappy again. How being happy all the time pushes us deeper into the valley. A quote:
“Always being happy, that doesn’t work. ‘Emotions have to fluctuate, otherwise you don’t feel anything,’ says Kuppens. ‘And feeling sad or lonely or disappointed now and then isn’t bad or deviant. It is just human. And useful.’”
* Peter Kuppens, psychologist.
The realization that you don’t always have to be happy can bring peace. Yet many people continue to run into those awful feelings. By applying TA, you can help clients in your practice to see and change old patterns. This way you can help them become the happiest version of themselves.
On 20 and 21 April I’ll give a two-day introduction to TA. You will learn how to use the basic models that are used in TA, to communicate in a way that suits you better, and get an idea about what is possible with TA. More information about this 2-day session can be found here.
Yes, I want to know more about the TA Try Out evening