What are the tools to get to THE ENCHANTED SELF® part of ourselves? What skills do we need in order to find happiness that is unique and sustainable for each person?
This paper outlines the positive psychology methods that you need to employ to enter each of the “Seven Gateways to Happiness.”
First Gateway: Honoring what is Right about Ourselves Rather Than What is Wrong
As women, we’re all experts in identifying what is wrong with ourselves. We can probably quickly make up a long list, detailing what is wrong in our lives. However, it’s a lot harder to get in touch with what is right. We need to know ourselves in positive ways. We need to learn how to honor our talents, strengths, even our coping skills which serve us so well. And most important, we need to treasure and enjoy our potential.
These parts of us, if not honored, identified and talked about both to ourselves and to others, will lose their power. We have to keep igniting them. We need to get to know ourselves in ways that emphasize the heroic, strong parts of ourselves. This means using our memories in very different ways from what we’ve been accustomed to. It means searching through our history to find our talents, strengths and even lost potential, even if we have to sort through pounds of dysfunction. It means searching our past for what is right about ourselves, not for what is wrong.
Gateway Two: Falling in Love with Ourselves
This is an extremely important gateway. This gateway is achieved after we have made efforts to reclaim and honor our talents, capacities, strengths, lost potential and coping skills. Now we are ready. We no longer break our hearts by putting ourselves down and saying “No, no, you can’t do that,” or “You’re stupid.” Now we are ready to say, “Yes, I love myself. I have a lot to offer. I am capable of having fun. I am capable of doing good, and no one can sidetrack me from who I really am.”
When you fall in love with yourself, you begin to feel the positive self-esteem that comes when we don’t deflate ourselves. You’re ready to take yourself out for tea or to that wonderful spa for a day, or to go back and play the piano, which you always wanted to do. You’re ready to recognize all the tools of wisdom that you have to offer. You’re ready to recognize that you have an Enchanted Self that deserves to be part of your every day. When you love yourself, you know when you need help. You know when you need guidance. It isn’t a narcissistic love where you feel that you are perfect. It’s a love of yourself, as you would love a child. If the child is ill, you take the child to the doctor. If the child comes home with a good paper from school, you put it on the refrigerator. It’s a self-acknowledgment that makes you viable, real, and whole. Now you’ve become really ready to see the story of your life in a positive light. Even the disappointments, even tragedies have served only to hone you like tempered steel. You’ve been through the battles and have emerged stronger. You’re in charge of your own self, a most wonderful feeling!
Gateway Three: Learning to Meet Our Needs and Negotiate Successfully
There’s nothing more demoralizing than a woman who does not know how to speak up for herself, who doesn’t have a voice for herself. When we feel ignored or not understood, we can feel rage and anger building. Often as women we find ourselves in a predicament where we don’t know how to speak up. We simply don’t know how to negotiate for what we want. While sometimes it’s a cultural attitude that we’ve taken on, for instance that women should be demure, quiet, and modest, often it’s due to a lack of understanding the appropriate skill-set necessary for negotiating effectively. All of these factors put a tremendous pressure on our true capacities. Our future happiness or fulfillment is restricted simply because we don’t know the right road to get there.
Learning how to meet our needs and how to negotiate appropriately is a lot of work, but the satisfaction far outweighs the work. When you have been able to speak with integrity to a husband, mother-in-law or a boss, when you have been able to finish a level of training that moves you ahead professionally, you’re really living your Enchanted Self.
You feel as special as you deserve to feel. It’s worth every moment of effort.
Gateway Four: Replenishment – Truly coming home to our Enchanted Self
Replenishment, joy, pleasure and delight are all parts of truly coming home to our Enchanted Selves. If any gateway is the pivotal gateway for a woman, it is this gateway.
This is the gateway that we must return to above all others, as frequently as possible. It is where we fuel up, where we energize. It is where we fill ourselves again so that we can meet the needs of others, be the caretakers of the world, bring up our children, spend time with the elderly, and do the hundreds of womanly tasks that we do, including having a full time job and running a home.
It may seem strange to you at first, but the smartest way to fill up again once we’ve become depleted is to bring personal satisfaction and replenishment back into our own lives. This means really knowing who you are, loving yourself and knowing how to meet your needs. If you feel rejuvenated after a great game of tennis, then that works for you. If you try to fill up by going to a comedy performance or having a massage, you may remain on empty if it isn’t right for you. Choosing what is right differs from person to person, so invest some good thought into finding out what is right for yourself. In THE ENCHANTED SELF: A Positive Therapy, I teach how to sort through your memories to get to know yourself, so that you can really tune in on the best forms of replenishment, joy and pleasure for you. A general rule of thumb is to look for what has felt good in the past, and try to either duplicate it or find a way to transform the activity into a form that works for your present stage of life. For example, a long swim in a lake in childhood might now be light swimming, walking in the pool at the local “Y,” and a cup of coffee!
Gateway Five: Coming Home or Going Away, Finding Tribes in Which to Belong
As women we find ourselves automatically belonging to certain groups. There’s the family we’re born into, the family we may have created through marriage, and all sorts of other groups going on in our lives: PTA groups, office colleagues and church affiliations, etc.
Many women don’t realize how critical it is to belong to groups. Depression feeds very quickly off of isolation. By nature most women not only share commonly in our care taking and in our concerns about others, but we enjoy and thrive when we’re a part of the right groups. We want to be connected. We don’t want to be isolated.
Choosing the right groups, the right tribes to belong to, is part of the dilemma and the wonderment of going through adult life. While our children don’t always have much freedom in choosing what groups they belong to, sometimes they can be so greatly against an activity that we finally let them quit. We may let them leave the Girl Scouts or little league, or perhaps stop taking piano lessons, thus letting them make their own determinations.
But we, as adult women, can on the whole always have the privilege and luxury of picking our groups. It may well be time, as your children get older, to say “goodbye” forever to the PTA. It may be time to find a religious affiliation that is or is not connected to your heritage or what you were initially exposed to.
Gateway Six: Sharing Our Wisdom, Mentoring and Being Mentored
As women, we live in a golden age. We have more education than women have historically had access to. We live longer; we’re healthier; we look better. Everything is really in our favor if we know how to absorb and share our wisdom and knowledge. The key to making use of all our opportunities, and maybe even the key to a happy and healthy longevity, is learning what we need to learn. What a lot of women don’t realize is that mentoring can come in many different forms. I can be sitting with an 85-year-old woman and in listening to the story of her life have my heart warmed and my courage heightened, just by hearing the things she’s had to deal with and live through in her many years. I can also be in the presence of a two-year-old and learn the infectious, delightful nature of laughter once more, a lesson I may have forgotten too often. I can be taking a walk at the shore, listening to the sounds of the ocean waves and letting them soothe me, reminding me of the constancy of Mother Nature and her efforts to keep the world whole and in rhythm. Wherever a woman passes in her life, she can be giving and receiving profound levels of exchange with nature and with other people of all ages and all stages of life. This is indeed what the good life is all about.
Gateway Seven: Positive Action, Remember the Notion of a Good Deed
This Gateway is the gateway of positive action, or “Why not do a good deed, it can’t hurt!” We’re all faced with bouts of discouragement, letdowns and disappointments, and for women, certainly the cycle of life itself has its ups and downs. Anyone fortunate enough to have longevity on her side will inevitably sustain losses and disappointments. None of the Gateways to Happiness can totally prevent a person from the necessary bumps and grinds of life, but what they do provide are mechanisms not only with which to pick ourselves up heroically, but to strengthen ourselves and make the world a better place for us. One of the very best ways to do this is through positive action. I look at positive action in three ways.
For one thing, it’s good practice to take positive action, whether it’s about a personal issue in your own life, or to help others. This forces us to practice timeliness, good behaviors, and often good logic and decision-making.
Secondly, taking positive action can definitely help offset loneliness, letdown feelings, and feelings of discouragement. It does this by the act of pushing us into connecting with people, sharing with people and having the opportunity to experience the happiness shared by others when they are affected by something positive that we do. The cliché, “A smile is more infectious than a frown,” definitely holds true in this case.
Thirdly, doing positive action helps us to grow emotionally and spiritually. And it helps the world at large. It is a win-win for everybody and everything alive.
Positive psychology in general and the Enchanted Self Gateways to Happiness emphasize how important and how much fun it can be to rediscover the best of ourselves.
I wish you good luck and good times as you enter the Gateways to Happiness!
Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein is a Positive Psychology expert and the author of THE ENCHANTED SELF: A Positive Therapy, RECIPES FOR ENCHANTMENT: The Secret Ingredient is YOU!, There Comes a Time in Every Woman’s Life for DELIGHT! and her latest book THE TRUTH, I’m Ten, I’m Smart and I Know Everything! Originator of THE ENCHANTED SELF®, Dedicated to Delight, Purpose and of course, Feeling Good About Ourselves! The Enchanted Self – Dr. Barbara Holstein.