‘Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?’ This question has your options all wrong and here’s why.
This phrase has been historically used by psychotherapists as a way of helping loved ones come to understand each other. It is a way of differentiating between feelings of righteousness and feelings of connectedness to help people ‘prioritize’. The idea is this: If you believe that your way is the ONLY way – in order for you to be right someone else has to be wrong – you will not be able to connect at the heart with your loved one and therefore will be unhappy and feel alienated. Of course, if the options are feeling superior and alone versus humble and connected the choice seems obvious. Your ego may revolt, you may even have emotions or body reactions that seem to rebel, but feeling isolated is the most extreme psychological punishment a human can experience and usually will be avoided at all costs. I believe it is language and distorted ideas of polarity that lead us into the trap of choosing between rightness and being happy. Could we better understand why these are shitty choices if we were to redefine ‘right’ and ‘happy’?
Many people we work with have an anxiety about being ‘needy.’ Needs are nothing more than desires of the heart, that by living, we have the priviledge to discover how to meet. These people can often feel like they have to prove they are worthy of having their needs met. This often grows into an egoic self defense strategy known as ‘ having to be right’. There is nothing wrong with feeling right, and we do not need to justify our worth. It is how we verify that we belong to life. I define ‘right’ as the truth of your worthiness to exist; that you are ‘right’ because you are here, and that nothing about you or your needs is inherently offensive to anyone else. When we understand and know this truth, it is experienced as the feeling of ease with ourselves in the world. We get ourselves into trouble when we think that in order for us to be right, someone else must also be wrong. Being right has nothing to do with a particular person. It is simply the fact that you deserve, just by the fact that every generation before you has successfully procreated to the conclusion and continuation of your birth, to be your fine self with all your unique bells and whistles.
Jean Leidloff illustrated this well in her book ‘The Continuum Concept.’ She discusses the word ‘correct’ and ‘expectation’ in the context of our anatomy and our evolution.
” …What is meant here by “correct” is that which is appropriate to the ancient continuum of our species inasmuch as it is suited to the tendencies and expectations with which we have evolved. Expectation, in this sense, is founded as deeply in man as his very design. His lungs not only have, but can be said to be, an expectation of air, his eyes are an expectation of light… [etc.]…
Her insights, into parenting styles that do not answer a baby’s communication for attention, are poignant to this discussion:
“Evolution has not prepared the human infant for this kind of experience. He cannot comprehend why his desperate cries for the fulfillment of his innate expectations go unanswered, and he develops a sense of wrongness and shame about himself and his desires. If, however, his continuum expectations are fulfilled — precisely at first, with more variation possible as he matures — he will exhibit a natural state of self-assuredness, well-being and joy… [They feel that] they’ve got the power to elicit a response. Whereas if you let them cry and cry more, and somebody gets angry at them or doesn’t come, the child does stop believing in its power to attract care. The child feels, ‘No matter what I do I’m not lovable enough,’ ‘I’m wrong to want my mother,’ or ‘I don’t matter enough.'”
The truth is it is your birthright to be happy AND to be right. In fact, the natural evolution of feeling right is to also be happy. Being right is the natural state of life. It stands alone, it does not require opposing opinions, as the only true test that we are well. That we belong to the world, and have the proof of this through a mutual relationship between ourselves and our community to meet each others’ needs and increase our proficiency of communcation to have those needs met. We have the right to communicate our needs and it is only in the polarity of win-lose philosophy and in the substitution of needs for strategies that distortion and confusion happens.
Jean Baudrillard introduced the concept of simulacra and simulation to illustrate in essence that “the map is not the territory”. What does this mean exactly? We have been born into a world full of substitutions. We think that apple pie and baseball IS America, that we ‘love’ our skinny jeans, we eat pollock fish thinking it is crab, and sometimes define 1,000 online friends as companionship. We have been made to believe that our strategies are actual needs instead of methods for fulfilling our needs. For example, Lexus is but one type of car that can fulfill your need for ground transportation. You don’t need the Lexus. If you need a Lexus to feel important there may be cheaper ways to accomplish that goal. As soon as we believe this, we begin to feel ‘wrong’ because ‘need’ is wrong. It is not the need to feel safe, loved, free, or understood that is wrong or even unique. It is believing that the strategy of a codependent relationship, having a child, having promiscuous sex, or going to a therapist is the same as a need. These are strategies and they may or may not work for an individual. It becomes ‘wrong’ when we abdicate our joyous responsibility to come up with creative solutions in a multitude of ways for a learned helplessness of not being ‘right in the world’ when someone doesn’t want to meet us. It is understandable why this happens and still completely preventable. Happiness comes from lifestyle design. By realizing that there is no need for someone else to be wrong for you to be right, and that defining needs is fun and satisfying. You feel happiness because you drop the artificial rules and start to harmonize with the universal rules. This is happiness because you have the power, the freedom and security, to fulfill your needs in creative ways.
“Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. ” – Rumi
You can choose being right AND being happy when you step out of the game of right and wrong and open your mind to the millions of creative ways you can have your beautiful needs met. Believing you have to make someone the bad guy in order to be the good guy and therefore deserve to get what you want is the equivalent of throwing the gift of your life away. You are meant to be here because you were born. There is no need to waste a single tear or a drop of sweat proving that you deserve your life. There is nobody to ask for permission to speak your needs, and the way you are does not offend others’ rights. You are not wrong for having a need in a relationship, nor is the other person wrong for not meeting your specific need. The trick is to discover your true needs and build your awareness for what is really alive inside of yourself and the other. That is the place that dreams are made. That place that feels truly good to give to yourself and the other person. You deserve to be here because you are, and to say otherwise is the height of arrogance. Honor your needs as a good thing and honor that there are a million ways to feel fulfilled! So let’s work together to reclaim this phrase. I AM right and happy, and so are you.