“I Wish You Happiness”

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I once read that Richard Gere, that handsome actor from An Officer and a Gentleman, said that when he encounters someone who is angry or hurtful toward him, he directs this unspoken thought to them, “I wish you happiness.” I recall thinking, ” How can he be so gracious in the face of such bitterness?” I decided to give his peaceful method a try.

There was the woman in Costco that shoved her way past me. Mind you, we are in a pandemic and she might just be afraid of covid. I wished her happiness in my mind. It didn’t prompt her to turn around and apologize, but I did feel a bit better that I’d chosen to react kindly (and silently). I tried it again when a man cut me off on the freeway. He was driving a huge truck with too many tires and I was driving toward the exit ramp with my turn signal on. He sped up and gave me a finger wave and a mean glare as he sped past me. I am grateful for my reflexes because he almost hit my car. Yes, I wished him happiness rather than yelling at a man who couldn’t hear me and didn’t care. I must admit, I felt calmer.

Would this practice be effective with my husband who on occasion gets on my nerves? We know each other’s triggers after almost 25 years of marriage. I figured it can’t hurt to try. He leaves 10-12 pairs of tennis shoes in our front entryway. I moved them to the garage on a brand new shoe stand right by the door. He moved them back. Although I wanted to yell, “I worked hard to clean up that area,” I told him that I like the area to be clear of clutter. Then I silently wished him happiness. It didn’t take care of the excess shoe issue, but I felt that displaying his large stash of shoes is obviously important to him. They remain where he put them. Who knows why, but I let it go, hoping he would be happy.

What I took away from this new mental exercise in kindness is that it only harms me when I unleash anger or react without taking a pause to assess how my next move may effect my health. My amygdala, the part the brain that warns us to fight or flee, would secrete cortisol. Too much cortisol leads to serious health issues. On the other hand, if I wish someone happiness, it oddly brings me a moment of happiness, however brief. I’ll take it.

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