Someone very dear to me has been unhappy for a long time now about her decision to live overseas. She is often saying to me that she would like to move back to her country of origin as she would like to have ‘a life without trouble’.
I have been thinking for a long time now where this attitude towards her life here in Australia may be coming from. And what’s more, I have been very disappointed about my inability to make her happy about being where she is now. After all, I am meant to be an ‘expert’ on intercultural communication and expatriate adjustment.
The question is now: does this situation really have anything to do with external factors? Is where she living right now really relevant to her happiness?
Dale Carnegie would probably say that it’s not. In his book “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”, he writes that “I am deeply convinced that our peace of mind and the joy of living depends not on where we are, or what we have, or who we are, but solely on our mental attitude. Outward conditions have very little to do with it”.
Outward conditions have very little to do with our peace of mind. Therefore, whether I am happy or not should not depend on whether I live in my country of origin, or abroad, right?
Wait. Not so fast. Now that I am thinking about it – when I go back home to Germany, I always get the feeling that I would be unhappy to live there. And don’t get me wrong, that’s not because I dislike the country or the people. It is simply because I love the stimulating environment of living in a culture I do not fully understand.
Another example for this would be my mum who grew up in a small village in Germany at a time where women stayed at home and took care of the household. She absolutely didn’t want this. To her, reading and studying were her passions, and she wanted to become a teacher. She could have never done this in the village where she came from. Firstly, because the other villagers would have not accepted it. And secondly, because there was simply no university to study for her. She had no choice but to leave.
For other people, however, it might be the complete opposite. They might not want to be in an environment where everything is different and new. They seek stability and security instead. Therefore, we can say that when you are in an environment that doesn’t suit one or more of your needs, then you will be unhappy.
Do you have somebody in your life who is not happy with your current situation of living? Your spouse, perhaps?
I know that this can be a very complicated situation to be in. We want our partner to be happy. But if only he or she could change perspective on the situation? Why isn’t she able to see the positive aspects of the situation? After all, this was Dale Carnegie’s position, too. If you are unhappy here, then you will probably also be unhappy there. It all depends on your perspective.
Still, we can not dismiss the feelings of our loved one’s. They are real – at least in that they have real consequences for your living conditions. At the same time, Dale Carnegie’s argument also makes intuitive sense. As long as we have control over our emotions, we will have peace of mind.
There just is no one-size-fits-all solution to questions like this. For some people, the longing for ‘home’ is so strong that the only place they can possibly live in is the city of their origin. For other people who are unhappy, they blame their feelings on the environment they find themselves in.
Yet, they would probably be unhappy regardless of where they are living.
If you find yourself in the position that one of the people close to you is unhappy with your current living situation, it is therefore extremely important that you analyse the origins of this feeling. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Where exactly is this feeling coming from?
- What are the needs that are underlying this feeling?
- What aspects of the person’s past may influence her current feeling?
- Would moving somewhere else likely solve the situation or is it an internal problem?
- Are there any steps that I can take, or that I can suggest to her, that might solve the problem?
Lastly, I would be keen to hear from you. Have you ever been in a situation where you were unhappy with the place you were currently living in, or did you have someone in your surroundings who was? Where did this feeling coming from? Did you find a solution to it? If yes, what was it?