Moving Toward Serenity

“Serenity” is not some mystical goal obtained by supernatural or superstitious means. Serenity simply refers to a state of inner contentment, peace and comfort. The cause of serenity is you, not someone or something else. Serenity is what people are seeking when they are trying to alleviate depression, anxiety, stress and all the other things psychiatry has told us we must alleviate. Here are a few steps to get you moving in the direction of serenity.

Don’t expect someone not to be annoyed by something that would definitely annoy you.

Don’t expect someone to react to something the way you would react. People are different. You don’t necessarily have to reserve judgment about those differences, but you do have to accept them as facts of reality — as differences which do exist, and are part of the real world in which you live every day.

Don’t feel obliged to provide something that you’re not able or willing to provide. At the same time, don’t assume another is obliged, either. “Obligation” applies to commitments that another makes. For example, if someone tells you they’re going to do something, you’re entitled to expect it. But you’re not entitled to expect something of another just because you WANT it or feel you NEED it.

There’s no unseen force deciding how things should go for you. If bad things happen to you, it’s because of the nature of the things and/or people involved in those bad things. It has nothing to do with you being “punished” or “rewarded” by anyone.

Learn and practice the skill of empathy with people who are important to you. Remember: Empathy does not mean agreement. Empathy means trying to see it from the other’s point-of-view. “Given all I know about Joe, this is how he likely sees it and why he sees it that way.” You don’t have to understand. You don’t have to agree. But if the person is important to you (in whatever area of life), then you owe it to yourself to try and understand. And proceed from there. Empathy is a skill, not a duty. A lot of people approach empathy as a duty, and as equivalent to agreement. They rebel against it for that reason, and they’re right to rebel against it. The only problem? That’s not what empathy is.

Don’t worry about the opinions, actions or feelings of people who are not important to you. It’s futile and unnecessary. You don’t need everyone’s approval. Given how different people can be, something is deeply wrong if most or all people seem to like you. If that’s what you’re going for, you’re setting yourself up for a life totally lacking in serenity.

Don’t be afraid to move on. There are friendships, associations — even marriages or relationships — which are right for their time, but not for all time. People stay stuck in associations which no longer serve their purpose. The purpose of a friendship is to satisfy the two parties involved. If you’re one of those parties and you’re no longer satisfied, and you’re clear as to why, then stop perpetrating a fraud. And stop trying to do the impossible. Move on, and be glad that you were in that association which was right for its time, but need not be right for all time.

Hostility and abuse — verbal or physical — are never OK. It’s not a matter of forgiving. To cross over a line like that, a person has shown his or her true colors. No apology or excuse will change those colors. Don’t fall for the clichthat “to be happy and serene, you must forgive all.” This is a principle designed to aid the toxic and the abusive, not their victims. If you are one of their victims, move very far away and never go back. That’s how you achieve serenity.

Before seeking out the company of anyone else, make sure you love your own company. Enjoy what your mind, interests and very self have to offer. This will enable you to seek out people who add to the already valuable experience of your own company. It will also help you grasp the distinction between needing others versus wanting to be with particular, individual and significant others. “Need” and “prefer” are not the same thing. The first leads to desperation and usually bad outcomes. The second leads to the happy, lasting connections fostered by a serene state of mind.

Try to see that self-esteem isn’t something that you learn, or something that somebody gives you. It’s something that grows naturally and logically out of the facts that (1) you choose to love life, and (2) you choose to act consistently, at all times, out of a love for your own life. Don’t fall for the falsehood that the purpose of life is to serve. Life isn’t service. The purpose of life is productive, personally rewarding achievment and fulfillment. If you fail to achieve and fulfill, you’ll never have anything to offer anyway.


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