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10 Things You Can Learn From the Dalai Lama to Become a Happier Person

10 Things You Can Learn From the Dalai Lama to Become a Happier Person

In his book, The Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama shares his secrets to a life of contentment. In this post, you’ll get a quick overview of his insights on how to achieve lasting happiness, why compassion and intimacy are so important, and how you can overcome suffering and negative states of mind.

1. Don’t focus on external circumstances.

External events can affect a person’s happiness in the short-term, but our level of happiness tends to revert back to a certain baseline soon after the event. Winning the lottery only produces a short-lived happiness “high,” which subsides quickly.Our mental state, however, constantly affects how we perceive the world. It’s possible to train your mind so that you identify and cultivate positive mental states while eliminating the negative ones. This eventually brings a calmness that allows you to live a happy, joyous life no matter what the external situation.

2. Cultivate universal compassion.

Compassion is a state of mind that is non-aggressive: a wish to see all other living creatures free from suffering. The mental and physical benefits range from experiencing an emotional “high” after helping others, to gaining a longer life expectancy yourself. To cultivate compassion, try to be empathetic towards others and actively try to understand things from their perspective. An effective method for this is to understand their backgrounds and focus on the commonalties you share.

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3. Build close, intimate relationships.

Having close relationships with other people promotes both physical and mental well-being. The Dalai Lama himself said he felt an intimate connection with a wide array of people around him (for example, his tutors and cooks). He even went as far as discussing state affairs with a cleaner sweeping the floors. By embracing the countless opportunities to connect to other people every day, we can lead happier lives.

4. Find your way to spirituality.

The benefits of a strong religious conviction are well-documented in numerous studies and range from happier families to better health. But spirituality is not dependent on any specific religion; the Dalai Lama believes any of the world’s major religions can offer people a happier life. In fact, there is also a kind of spirituality that exists completely outside of the sphere of religious belief: it comprises basic human qualities like goodness, compassion and caring for one another, and it is therefore attainable by atheists and religious people alike.

5. Accept suffering as a natural quality of life.

Westerners tend not to understand that suffering is a part of life and often see themselves as victims of some malignant force when something goes wrong. But suffering is inevitable; all of us will grow old and die. Trying to avoid or ignore this fact is only a temporary solution. When you inevitably do encounter suffering in one form or another, your mental attitude becomes of paramount importance. If you fear suffering as something unnatural and unfair, you will feel like a victim and assign blame when you should be trying to eliminate the mental root causes of suffering.

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6. Eliminate negative attitudes and feelings.

Negative states of mind like anger and fear are obstructions that stop us from achieving our natural, happy state. They are poisons. But certain positive states of mind—love, compassion, patience, generosity—can act as antidotes to them, eliminating harmful emotions, attitudes and behaviors. Hence, to eliminate negativity, positive emotions and behaviors should be habitually cultivated.

7. Find the good in every situation.

When people encounter a negative situation, they tend to see it rigidly as 100% negative. Generally though, most situations contain both positive and negative elements and can be viewed from several alternative angles. For example, you might consider having to sit next to an annoying, flatulent person on a plane as a purely negative situation, or you could see it as an opportunity to practice patience and tolerance.

8. Get rid of negative feelings.

Of all the negative mental states, anger and hatred are the greatest obstacles to happiness. When a feeling of anger or hatred arises in us, it rapidly destroys our peace of mind. It also obliterates our judgment, often leading us to take actions that only worsen the situation and make us even angrier. Scientific studies have clearly demonstrated that tendencies toward anger, rage and hostility have negative health effects, too; for example, they substantially increase a person’s risk of heart disease.

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9. Replace them with positive feelings.

Anger and hatred cannot be overcome by suppression. On the other hand, venting anger (i.e. raging and shouting) tends to increase negative feelings, not reduce them. Hence, the correct response to anger is to learn how to use the antidotes of patience and tolerance against it, and to cultivate them—for example, through meditative exercises. When you feel angry, simply take a time-out: pause to analyze the situation. Where did the anger come from? What factors created it? Is it destructive or constructive?

10. Get rid of anxiety and low self-esteem.

Excessive anxiety is often related to poor self confidence, and the Dalai Lama feels the antidote for this is to be honest with yourself and others about your capabilities and limitations. If you’re comfortable with your own limits, you can confidently admit when you cannot do something or do not know something, without losing your self esteem in the process.

Sometimes low self esteem can reach the extreme of self-hatred, where a person feels completely unworthy and may even contemplate suicide. The antidote to such an extreme mental state is to remind yourself of the marvelous intellect and potential for development within every single human being, including you. Tibetans contemplate this routinely in their daily meditations, which is perhaps why self-hatred is a virtually unknown concept in their society.

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More of a science person than a spiritual one? Take a look at these 29 scientifically proven ways to be happier.

Featured photo credit: Jonas Nilsson Lee/Unsplash.com via unsplash.com

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Sebastian Klein

Sebastian is the co-founder of Blinkist, a serial entrepreneur, consultant, speaker and writer with a passion for management-free organizations.

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Published on April 7, 2021

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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2. They Make Everything Transactional

Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

Some statements to be wary of include:

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  • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
  • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
  • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
  • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

3. They Criticize Everything

One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

  • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
  • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
  • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
  • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

5. They Socially Isolate You

Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

  • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
  • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
  • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
  • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

Final Thoughts

It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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