Happiness and Growth in Family Life

—Maria Cristina Azcona-Argentina

1. Happiness

• What is the meaning of happiness?

Life is like a journey through which we must face the combination of likable and unlikable experiences. The frequency and alternation of good and bad periods not always depend on our willpower. Sometimes it is really shocking to confront an unpredicted difficult situation that could even modify the normal routine or a calm life.

So, what is Happiness? People generally say that perfect joyfulness does not exist. Even though, there are personalities who seem to be more inclined towards optimism, not always the bad experiences of their life destroy their positive attitude. On the other side, we can see somebody who, despite his richness or good luck, seems not to enjoy his existence in the same proportion as others do.

We need to define happiness not reducing its concept to pleasure or satisfaction. In this sense, we may observe individuals whose life is a mountain of torments. Anyway, they ‘extract the juice from the rock’. They are able to maintain a strong and even positive spiritual condition. Then, is Happiness a simple accumulation of pleasurable incidents? Is it a state of the soul that endures only hours, days or a few months?

Then, which is the condition of those persons who sustain their high spirit even through the worst catastrophe? Also we have the sample of the individuals who suffer from depression inspite of being rich, healthy and loved. These extreme cases show clearly to us that happiness is not a synonym of pleasure.

Must we consider that the fulfillment of expectations and the achievement of objectives are the key of happiness? Is it related surreptitiously with the acceptance of our own limits? I think that the modern definition of Happiness ought to be conformed as an equation, which is the equilibrium between the accomplishment of our expectations and the consciousness, understanding and acceptance of inner and external limits. According to the sense of reality, the measure of happiness is the illumination of behaviour by moral judgment, which directs our energies towards Goodness.

• The example of the surfer

A woman advances into the sea with her surfboard. She swims supported by the board with legs and arms. She wants to win the battle against elements and also the actual competition. She has an idea, a dream, and a project. She calculates the possibilities according to the climate conditions, the stature of waves and the complexion of her body. Then, a high wave appears. She stands on the surfboard in the exact moment trying to maintain the equilibrium to gain the struggle against danger and fall.

(She will reach happiness in the moment when she becomes aware of her own limits and the limits the environment gives to her. She must accommodate the original expectations and fantasies to actual reality, where bad surprises are a constant risk).

Now, she is making the performance in a perfect mood, elegantly, when suddenly another surfer falls into the sea and starts to scream….

(The ideal scene is permuted. Reality has changed in a second. A new project must be made instantly because conditions are not the same as before. A new equation is formed in her brain. The objective is altered).

Our clever surfer decides quickly and saves the other one. (Following a high target that moulds behavior orientated by Values, her happiness is reached. Success is not dear if it is gained over the suffering of anyone. Happiness is not the same as pleasure, fame, fortune or even victory. Now on, she will not be the winner of the feminine competition but she has attained a more profound feeling of elation. She has scaled to a superior pattern of conduct capable of producing a more perfect cheerfulness).

2. Personal and family goals

Happiness is then, according to our definition, the constant adaptation to the conditions of reality, illuminated by moral judgment, which defines the objectives.
A woman is going to be married. Since her youth, she dreams with joyfulness. She believes that love, good health and success are the perfect combination. Nevertheless, she knows there must be something else: The realization of her deepest ideals. She studies a career, becomes a girlfriend of a man who loves her deeply, and finally marries him.

She defines herself as a happy person because she is walking through a normal life where obstacles are not visible. She becomes an economist and is going really well in her profession. After marriage and the birth of her first son, she starts to have family problems. She is loosing her old sense of cheerfulness. How is she going to recover it if her husband becomes cold to her caresses, while she is nursing the child? He is feeling that she does not love him any more.
She understands that it is not so easy to be happy in the middle of a family group. The conditions have changed. The equation must be permuted again and again to maintain the equilibrium of happiness. The individual project has different goals compared to the family project.

It does not mean that she must be forced to abandon her old objectives. Simply conditions have been modified and the goals must be coordinated among the three parts of this new family. Her husband feels unhappy because she is dedicating too much energies to the child and to her job as an economist instead to him. That’s the reason to be cold and hermetic in front of her. He needs a modification of her behavior. These are the waves in the ocean, as a metaphor of life. Family group is the other surfer and she will have to save it or loose the happiness completely. High values will ordinate her cleverness. She needs to think about the importance of professional success for a married woman who is mother of a little child. She will have to become more comprehensive around her husband’s feelings. Sometimes slight modifications are enough to recover equilibrium. Sometimes the observation of her change of attitude will be sufficient proof of love and he will say: “Don’t worry, I understand that you are overwhelmed by job’s and motherhood’s meanings”.

3. Family life

Family in a strict sense is a group of persons formed after a man and a woman decide to live together and after marriage, create a home to see their children grow. They live in the same place and have both individual and common projects of happiness. Family life is a complex situation conformed by multiple daily moments. Lovability and animosity alternates in a continuous circle, as waves in a sea. Storms will not be absent in the daily scene, neither calmly and perfect Kodak instants. Beauty of family life resides in these unexpected changes. Humor is a key to perceive savoir of bitter and sweet in the middle of a family group.

• Family Growth and Personal Growth

Every human group follows rules under the law of Psychology of Groups. Family is a special type into this classification. It has proper regulations and commandments. So, happiness for a family will be defined specifically in this way:

Family happiness is the resultant of an equation like this:
The capability to maintain serenity, sense of humor and optimism in the middle of troubles and partial struggles between some parts of the family joined to an equilibrium among personal growth and family growth.

Our lady wants to become a winner in her profession. She has not studied a career only to be a housekeeper since now. She needs to realize her dreams and obtain a good compensation. She wants to live in a good way, with an economical level of dignity. On the other side, she also needs to see her child grow in good health, happiness and wellbeing. She also needs to uphold a perfect marital relationship. Cleverness will teach her the mood to reach the new targets that family life call, Happiness.

• How to be happy in a family group:


• Be aware of this truth: The female and male roles are essentially different and complementary.
• Be strong in the tough situations while everybody is nervous. Woman is the oven in the kitchen. She will determine the climate.
• Be an equilibrium. The female surfer must take care of herself and at the same time attend to the other’s necessities.
• Be authentic. To lie is not an escape from a bad family environment. The troubles of a group must be talked in-group and not out-group.
• Be gentle with every person in the family, even in the middle of a crisis.


• To take unilateral decisions that may affect the group.
• To hide personal targets which are opposite to family targets.
• To think that professional success is more important than family happiness.
• To sink in a glass of water. Life is like an ocean. There are different moments, different waves. Always there will be a sun shining where a gray cloud has been present.
• To break the structure of the family to follow less important objectives: (Pleasure, money, fame, tranquility).

4. A final thought:

Positive and negative energy flows through interactive relationships. It goes and returns as a boomerang. Family group-rules are related to the Law of the Boomerang. If you send a bad message you will recover resentment. If you send a good one, then you will receive the same. The spiral of unhappiness starts to move like a heavy wheel made of iron on a descendent path. Who can stop it once it is initiated? Clever families stop the wheel before it gains speed and strength. Only a high spirit of love and solidarity illuminated by the glow of smiles and warmed by the best sense of humour can avoid the beginning of the boomerang play or the movement of the steady wheel.
The family group rules seem to be very complicated but really they are very simple. The practice of good attitudes towards the partners in family life is a principal part of happiness.
Sometimes we think that to be a good person is to practice solidarity with unknowns, but it is more difficult for us to be a good person with our near byes. Little sacrifices of ego and instant pleasures of each individual is another key to a perfect family life.

To have a happy family group is like to dominate the waves with a surfboard. Always at the top of the wave, making necessary movements to the right and to the left, keeping up the equilibrium constantly despite the adversity facts. But at the same time being aware of the existence of accidents that can force the woman- mother-wife to abandon partially, her role is to save some of the persons in her group, from death, depression or drugs. Then everything starts again and again as the Universe does for ages.

About the Author
Maria Cristina Azcona is an Educational Researcher, who has worked for UNESCO EOLSS Encyclopedia. She is an Educational Psychologist and Family Therapist at the University of Navarra, Spain and USAL, Argentina. She has written several books in Spanish and English.

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