This is a big one: What is the single most important personality trait for having a happy and fulfilled life? In this episode, you'll find out what that trait is and how you can cultivate it!
Episode Table of Contents
Episode Introduction: Happy And Fulfilled Life
What is the absolute, number one thing that leads to happiness according to serious science? And what are the personality characteristics that lead you to that happiness? And how can you develop those qualities? Stay tuned to the deeper dating podcast to find out.
Hello and welcome to the Deeper Dating Podcast. I'm Ken Page, a psychotherapist and author of the best selling book, Deeper Dating: How to Drop the Games of Seduction and Discover the Power of Intimacy. Today we're going to talk about the single thing that most determines a happy and fulfilled life and the personality trait that most allows us to have that kind of life.
Every week I'm going to share with you the greatest tools I know to help you find love and keep it flourishing and heal your life in the process because the skills of dating are nothing more than the skills of love and the skills of love are the greatest skills of all for a happy life. I guess that kind of gives it away.
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What Determines a Happy and Fulfilled Life
So today we're going to talk about something epically big and epically important. It's kind of epic in all dimensions and it's also precious, important, exciting and instrumental, and with huge ramification. So here's where we're going to talk about the single thing that most determines a happy and fulfilled life.
Then when we determine that, we're going to determine the single personality characteristic that allows us to have that. Then we're going to talk about how we can develop that if we don't have it yet. So big, big stuff. We're going to base this on a very important study, which was called the Harvard Grant Study. So the Harvard Grant Study actually tracked 456 poor men growing up in Boston, from 1939 to 2014, and 268 Harvard graduates from 1939 to 1944. So this was over 75 years.
There were multiple generations of researchers. They analyzed blood samples, they did brain scans when they became available. They pored over reports and surveys and interviews and everything to compile the findings. This is what they found as a result of this huge study. Now, there were some profound flaws in this study. I don't know what the racial makeup was. I do know that it was all men, and I wish this study could have been done with women as well. But, that's it.
And this is what they found.
Happiness is based on love, full stop.
Those were the words approximately of the key researcher who did this study. And what was the attribute that most determined someone's ability to have love? It was a mature coping style that didn't push love away. This is the essence of this huge vast study that happiness is love, full stop.
A Mature Style of Love
And that the key to finding love is having a coping style that does not push love away.
Now granted, every single one of us needs help with that because we all push love away. So then the grand task of life, in a way, is to grow and to mature so that we know how we push love away, consciously and unconsciously, and to change that. That is the act of heroism. That is the act of beauty, that is the act that leads us to happiness. Huge and profound stuff.
And I'm going to share a story from this study that is just insanely beautiful and moving. Well, here's what I want to say first though. I want to say something about this thing of like if you're thinking, "Oh damn, a mature style of love, a mature style of relating that doesn't push love away." Oh boy. Well, all of us can say, "Oh boy." And I just want to say that fear of intimacy is the human condition because love is the greatest treasure of all. So there would be the most fear, the most offensiveness and the most protection around that because it's the greatest treasure of all.
And we know what people do with power, with money, lesser treasures. How much then would we be defending around love? So here's the other thing that I just want to say from my work as a psychotherapist over a period of decades, that I have seen again and again. There are certain things that we can do in our intimacy journey that have huge bangs for the buck. In other words, when we engage in a particular kind of growth work in a particular arena, we see massive results.
An Act of Human Heroism
The results are particularly powerful. And there are a few arenas where that's true, but I'll tell you what I truly believe is one of the biggest arenas where that's true. And that is the ability to admit how we push love away. And then to consciously work on changing that. I believe that there is just about no greater act of human heroism than that.
So now I get the pleasure of telling you about one of the subjects in the Harvard Grant Study with quite an amazing story. So, one of those participants name was Godfrey Mino Camille, and he was a participant and his entire life history was tracked from college until he died in his 80s. So Camille was born to parents who were cold and suspicious and unloving, and in his words, he said, "Before there were dysfunctional families, I came from one."
And until he was 35 years old, he was a deep, deep hypochondriac and super, super manipulative in his attempts to use symptoms to get attention. He actually attempted suicide after graduation from medical school, but he survived. So the study, the researchers in the Harvard Grant Study actually felt that of all of the participants, he was close to being the least likely to ever build a happy, successful life.
Then when he was 35 years old, he had a life-changing experience. He was hospitalized for 14 months with pulmonary tuberculosis, and this was a real illness. This was not hypochondriasis. And in that year when he was hospitalized for the first time in his life, he was cared for. He was listened to, and he was treated as though he mattered.
A Developmental Explosion
Those 14 months of attention and care were actually enough to heal many of his lifelong wounds. This hunger he had to be recognized was finally met, and fed, and fulfilled in this wildly unexpected way. And that period of his illness, his hospitalization, changed the course of an entire life. And he felt like that time in the hospital was like a religious rebirth.
He said someone, someone with a capital S cared for me, and nothing had been so tough for me ever again than that year, since that year in the sack. So when Camille was released from the hospital, he went into what the study called a developmental explosion that went on for 30 years. He had a spiritual awakening that remained with him his entire life. This guy became a caring, successful physician. He fell in love.
He got married, he had two children, and he created a life that was full of love and giving, the kind of life he had always dreamed of. He went through psychoanalysis twice. He went mountain climbing in the Alps. He became a human being who could give. And when he was almost 70 his grant study interviewer asked him what he learned from his children. So he said, he blurted out with tears in his eyes in response to that, he said,
You know what I learned from my children? I learned love.
And the interviewer then said, many years later, "I seized on a serendipitous opportunity to interview his daughter, and then I believed him. I've interviewed many Grant's study children, but this woman's love for her father remains the most stunning that I have encountered among them."
A Love that Heals
So when Camille was 75 he described how love healed him and this is what he said. He said, "The truly gratifying unfolding has been into the person I've slowly become. Comfortable, joyful, connected, and effective."
And he said, "Since it wasn't widely available then I hadn't read that children's classic, The Velveteen Rabbit, which tells how connectedness is something we must let happen to us. And then and only then we can become solid and whole." He said, as that tale recounts tenderly …
Only love can make us real.
So when we look at the amazing arc of this man's life, we can see that his intense suffering, and his great happiness, sprang from the same core gift, which was an enormous capacity to love. And that gift was so powerful that the lack of love in his life almost killed him.
But in an environment that was filled with attention and connection, his genius, his core gift, was finally liberated. He was, as we all are, most wounded at the very place where he was the most gifted.
And the love in his adult life was able to heal those early wounds. So all of us in our past relationships that caused pain, our love relationships that caused pain probably have felt a terrible, but really familiar pain. The pain of parts of us that were never truly honored or embraced in life. But this is the amazing, amazing thing.
Recognizing Our Core Gifts
The places in us where we have felt weakest and most ashamed, are the sites of our greatest gifts. Gifts in us that were never fully honored or seen or mirrored enough to unfold fully. And when a vulnerable, precious part of ourselves is not given that opportunity, we experience it as weakness or a wound, and not as a gift.
When we find those people who value and treasure us for who we are, when we learn those skills because God knows this guy did not know how to have a mature style of coping that allowed intimacy in. He had to learn it and each of us has to learn it too.
And one of the key ways we learn it, and this is what I teach in my book, this is what, if you do subscribe to my mailing list and get the first two chapters free, you will learn the steps to be able to discover your own core gift. This is what I teach in my therapy, in my classes, in my courses, in my coaching.
That when we identify those parts where we are most gifted but also had been most wounded at, our worlds begin to change.
We begin a developmental explosion, and I see this in the people that I work with. When they discover the parts of themselves that have hurt them so much, the longings, the desires, that if felt like weakness but are actually strength because his longing for being recognized was unmet, and so it was experienced as a wound. When it became met and it was fed and filled and expressed, we saw that it was actually his greatest gift.
Why We Push Love Away
So when we can experience these deep core gifts in ourselves as gifts instead of weaknesses, we begin to open up and we begin to develop a coping style that allows love in. All of us push love away.
One of the biggest reasons we push love away is because of our difficulty in accepting our longing for love, our longing for being seen, our longing for safety, our longing for being mirrored.
And we tell ourselves, I'm just too sensitive. I'm too sensitive. I have to toughen up. I have to get more like everyone else. But that never works because it's an act of violence against the goodness in our heart, against our sensitivity and our vulnerability. What we need to do is go back and embrace those parts of ourselves.
When we feel that our gifts, our kind of deepest sensitivities and longings are honored, we experience an innate sense of worth and of love. And our most essential wounds actually reveal the secret that was inside them all along. A gift that had never been loved into fullness. We may not have had the opportunity to be cared for 14 months in a sanitarium, lucky us, but we can find our own places of healing.
We can create our own developmental explosion by embracing and befriending our core gifts, and by sharing our intimate self with the precious people who treasure us for who we are and who are safe. That's how we repair our wounds that make us push love away. And as you do this, you may one day look back on the relationships that caused you pain and see that the pain that they caused actually led you to reclaim your own gifts.
Claiming Your Orphaned Gifts
That those relationships were like a birth canal toward your own realization that they served ultimately as a passageway for you to claim your orphaned gifts, and help them come back into the world.
Our relationships that end in pain are often the very things that lead us back to our gifts.
Behind our defenses, our wounds, behind our wounds are our gifts, and in the heart of our gifts, we find a portal to be able to finally love.
So thank you for listening to this episode with this amazing story and encouragement and support for you in finding places of safety, and being mirrored and seen that support your own amazing future and current developmental explosion.
Thank you for listening. Please do leave a review. Subscribe. I'd really appreciate that. Go to deeperdatingpodcast.com and join my mailing list. And I look forward to seeing you on the next episode of the Deeper Dating podcast.