Your Victory is My Victory (Seligman)

On the relationship side, if you teach people to respond actively and constructively when someone they care about has a victory, it increases love and friendship and decreases the probability of depression.

— Psychologist Martin Seligman

It’s so true. If you care about someone, it’s because they’re valuable and important to you. Their gain is always your gain. There’s no zero-sum. Another’s success is not your loss. It’s simply their success, and says nothing one way or the other about your own progress. This is true enough about a stranger; it’s truer than anything when it involves the one you love. If you rationally and truly love someone, no part of you wants them to fail or suffer.

If you see a fundamental conflict of interest between yourself and someone you love, there’s an error somewhere. Maybe you don’t love them as much as you think you do. Or if you do, you’re making some other kind of error. Maybe you fear his or her success will leave you behind. But why? If the person you love is who you think he or she is, that won’t happen. If you were wrong — well, that will hurt and it may take some time to recover. But the error was in thinking they loved you more than they did. It’s not the success or progress that caused it. It simply brought it to light. I don’t know that this usually happens; and it shouldn’t be expected to happen.

Irrational anxiety (most of it is irrational) poisons everything. Left unchallenged and unfettered, it destroys the best within yourself and any relationship you have. Prolonged irrational anxiety tires out the psyche as well as the body, and it contributes to depression. The most depressed people I have met are generally the most anxious. They’re simply tired out by it all.

Some fears are rational and require preemptive action. You look before crossing a busy highway; you purchase a life insurance policy if loved ones depend on you economically; you get a new roof for your house when it’s time. But most fears are irrational and based on a false belief of some kind. The most common false belief is probably the idea that you can or should be able to control things that you cannot control — and are not necessary to control in order to be happy.

It’s with their relationships that many people make this error in thinking. This manifests in the anxiety which leads to the problems highlighted by Seligman’s quote.

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