It was recently suggested to me that all of us, to one degree or another, have multiple personalities, and that a task that each of us faces is integrating these personalities into a coherent whole. We are each, it was also suggested, at a different place on the path towards integration, and that a healthy integration of those various personalities is essential to our happiness. “One of your personalities,” I was told, “might be the person you are at work, another the person you are in a romantic relationship, and still another the person you are as a parent.” At work, it was explained, you might be a strong, successful, and happy person, but in relationships you might feel weak, inadequate, and unhappy. “Those are two personalities inhabiting the same body.”
This seemed right to me, although I’d never thought about it in that way. When I was in the middle of an unhappy marriage, for example, no one at my office would have recognized the helpless man who couldn’t stand up for himself as a spouse. The husband I played was nothing like the confident and joyful guy who showed up at work every day. In a way I really was like two very different human beings. The challenge for me was to find out how be as confident and joyful in my relationships as I was at work. “Why not look,” it was suggested, “at why you are happy in your role at work, and then apply that wisdom to your relationships?”
It seems to me that many of us can find examples of roles we play in life in which we are confident and joyful. We may not find it in our jobs or as parents or in our relationships, of course. It might be how we behave and feel in certain friendships, in volunteer activities, in team sports, in group hobbies, or as part of a reading or writing group. I think an important first step in the path towards happiness is to examine these roles closely. What is it that makes us feel confident and joyful? What is the nature of the interpersonal dynamic that exists in each of the roles? From where does our confidence and joy arise? If you are having trouble pointing to a role in your current life that makes you feel confident and joyful, what about in the past? It may be more difficult to examine and analyze the roles we played earlier in life, but it is still possible.
This, I think, is a positive place to begin the inner journey towards contentment and happiness.