Pearls of Cooperation

No one is joyful 100% of the time, but people are drawn to others who appear happy. There is an electric energy surrounding joyfulness. Psychologist Willian von Hippel applies evolution to understanding happy behavior. He sees happiness as communicating competence. This explains why we may be reluctant to share any unhappy emotions with others; it can lead to a denial of our emotions. We seldom are aware of such denial.

No one exudes happiness and passion constantly, but present awareness of happy behavior is important. “Our evolved psychology is deeply entwined with happiness and its pursuit: living the good life is largely a matter of meeting our evolutionary imperatives…understanding the pressures exerted by our past can help guide us.”

At one time our chimpanzee ancestors lived in trees in the rain forest, but when they made the social leap to living on the savannah, they had to rewire for an entirely different lifestyle. Cooperative clustering together for fending off predators led to chimp survival, along with using branches as fishing rods to burrow into termite mounds for a tasty snack. The phrase, “You’ve come a long way, baby,” comes to mind. We might also admit that we still have a long way to go. If chimps can cooperate, why do humans find cooperation so difficult?

Have you ever surprised yourself in a conversation with another person, thinking later, “I wish I had not said that?” This is a normal thing—we have meandering minds. It might be a perfectionist, fearful, or insecure part of your personality. What do you call the part of you that has regret, or perhaps guilt? Name it. Where do you sense this part in your body? Is it gut-wrenching or a heartache? Meditation teacher Sebene Selassie frames a familiar line of thinking: “I’ve been trying to get rid of aspects of my personality ever since I’ve known me. I reject things that don’t measure up to my ideals—the ways I think I should be. I am my fiercest critic.”

All of us have personality parts that complain. Just remember, emotional parts of your personality are protective. When you tell a story plot about your life, what part of you is doing the telling? Is it anger, blame or joy? Each part tells its own stories. You might try a few writing prompts to help find the part(s) of your personality that are not living up to your values.

I enrolled in another segment of Natalie Goldberg’s online writing prompts this year. The drill is to write your common (or uncommon) thinking nonstop for 10 minutes on each prompt. Are you in cooperation-mode? Try these writing prompts:                   “I don’t know why I….” “I can’t stand….”                 “S(he)/they always….”                   “I had the best time when….”                                                                                                                Your personality story-house evolves with consciousness and cooperation. We are interdependent beings in suffering and joy.                                                                                                                                 Pearls of Peace (PoP) Quiz

169. Who might I be if I told myself a different story?

170. What could change if I am more________(confident, assertive, compassionate)?”                     

By Janis Johnston

Janis Clark Johnston, Ed.D., has a doctorate in counseling psychology from Boston University. She has worked with children, families, and groups (ages 3-83) with presenting issues of anxiety, depression, trauma, loss, and relationship concerns. She initially worked as a school psychologist in public schools and was awarded School Psychology Practitioner of the Year for Region 1 in Illinois for her innovative work. She was a supervising psychologist at a mental health center, an employee-assistance therapist and a trainer for agencies prior to having a family therapy private practice. Recipient of the 2011 Founder’s Award for her dedication to the parenting education of Parenthesis Family Center (now called New Moms), and the 2002 Community Spirit Award from Sarah’s Inn, a domestic violence shelter and education center, Johnston is an active participant in numerous volunteer activities supporting children and families in her community. A frequent presenter at national psychology and educational conferences, Johnston has published journal articles, book chapters, and two books -- It Takes a Child to Raise a Parent: Stories of Evolving Child and Parent Development (2013, hardback; 2019, paperback) and Midlife Maze: A Map to Recovery and Rediscovery after Loss (2017, hardback; 2019, paperback). In addition to augmenting and supporting personal growth in families, Johnston is a Master Gardener and loves nurturing growth in the plants in her yard.


  1. What a beautiful photo and message.
    I enjoyed a visit with your brother last week and met Kay on this trip, too. Hope you’re doing well.
    Melanie B. Harmon Vice President for Advancement
    Manchester University Office of Advancement 604 E. College Avenue North Manchester, IN 46962 T 260-982-5211 M 260-668-9583 F 260-901-8135 E


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