Dr. Hailan has 20-plus years of experience in trauma healing, and she teaches courses to show people how to improve their ability to achieve happiness. In recent years, she has been promoting peer education (the teaching of information, values and skills so recipients can give advice to their peers who are coping with problems in their lives). She hopes everyone will become his/her own psychological consultant, and she hopes everyone will have a positive impact on others' lives.
What Is Happiness?
Dr. Hailan in May 2015 established Hailan Family Well-being, an education agency, because she wanted to use peer education to help people improve both their resilience and their ability to achieve happiness.
The courses offered through the agency are based on the latest theories and practices in psychology, neuroscience and psychosomatic medicine.
Dr. Hailan teaches the course with the theme "be mindful of close relationships." Most of the participants are successful people from various industries. Despite their career successes, they usually have trouble coping with household affairs and interpersonal relationships.
During a recent course in Hangzhou, a city in East China's Zhejiang Province, Dr. Hailan met a couple who had been married for 20 years. The husband was an entrepreneur and he was always busy dealing with work-related issues. He worked hard so that he could give his wife and child a happy life.
However, his wife said she felt lonely, and she said her biggest wish was for her husband to devote 20 minutes to her every day. She hoped her husband would talk — attentively — with her for those 20 minutes. She also hoped he wouldn't watch TV or check his cellphone when she talked to him.
Dr. Hailan asked the man, "Did you hear your wife's words? What's your feeling?" The man remained silent for several minutes. Then, with tears in his eyes, he said he felt he was the loser, and that he had never expected his wife would feel the way she did about their relationship.
Dr. Hailan says there is a simple standard to determine whether something, or a person, is really important to someone: Whether the person is willing to devote his/her time and energy to that thing or person.
Dr. Hailan says a person can earn more money if he/she spends his/her wealth, but time is different. One can never get back time that has passed. Time is the most valuable thing that one owns. Everyone's time is irreplaceable, and no one can buy another person's time.
"We all know happiness is important, but we often spend little time creating happiness. Instead, we use much time to pursue fame and wealth, which actually have nothing to do with happiness. If we think carefully about happy moments in life, we will find that most of our happy memories are connected with families. We easily felt happy when we chatted, had dinner or traveled together with our family members. Such heartwarming moments are the most precious part of our lives, and they are lifelong memories," Dr. Hailan says.
"It's a pity that many people spend little time with their families. They are like hamsters that run aimlessly in the cages. They are busy with their work, but they don't know the ultimate goal of work," Dr. Hailan adds.
Family Harmony Matters
Dr. Hailan believes family has a profound impact on each person. "People who were neglected by their parents, or people whose parents quarreled frequently when they were children, often had trouble handling family issues or parent-child relationships," she says.
Another couple, who attended the course in Hangzhou, also faced a problem in their relationship. The wife, a pretty and successful woman, one day yelled at her husband, for four hours, because her husband had taken an impatient tone with her while in the presence of their maid.
The husband said he felt that he was innocent, and he said he had no idea that his behavior had reminded his wife of an unpleasant childhood memory.
When the woman was a child, she would be locked outside the family home for hours if she annoyed her mother.
"We all know that homes shelter children from storms. Frequent quarrels between parents will make a child feel that his/her home is unsafe, and he/she won't trust his/her parents. If one doesn't trust his/her parents, he/she will hardly trust other people, and he/she will think that society is unsafe. I have seen many people who have had such painful experiences," Dr. Hailan says.
"Happiness is the ultimate goal in life, and a happy family life is a key element of happiness. However, most of us haven't been educated about how to maintain family harmony, and we haven't learned how to manage our emotions. I agree with the Chinese saying that, 'A peaceful family will prosper.' A country's harmony depends on it having a harmonious society, and social harmony depends on harmony within families. Whether every person has a peaceful mind is also important for social harmony.
"We hope that everyone will learn to forget the past and everyone will learn not to worry about the future. We must enjoy our present lives. We must discover love, wisdom and strength from our real selves," Dr. Hailan says.
Learning to Help Yourself
Hailan Family Well-being's major services are helping people deal with the three core relationships in a family — people's relationships with themselves, with their spouses and with their children.
Dr. Hailan hopes the services will provide emotional support to clients whenever they face troubles. She also hopes the services will help clients find inner peace.
Dr. Hailan has established a complete system based on world-leading approaches to peer education and the real situations confronting Chinese families and Chinese society.
The approaches include Mindful Self-compassion (MSC) training (to cultivate self-compassion skills for daily life), IFS (internal family system) model building and anxiety and OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) treatments.
"In 2015, our agency surveyed 10,000 people to ask the question 'To whom will you first turn when you feel sad and/or confused?' About 44 percent of the respondents said they would turn to friends, classmates or colleagues. I believe peer education will be one of the main directions of the development of psychology. Peer education will improve people's mental health, and it will teach people ways to solve problems so that everyone will become his/her own psychological consultant," Dr. Hailan says.
Some of the members of Dr. Hailan's team were participants of her courses. They found their real selves during the courses, and they joined Dr. Hailan in her efforts to affect others' lives with their lives and experiences.
In 2013, at the invitation of Yang Lan, President of Sun Media Group, Dr. Hailan became chief expert with Her Village (Sun Media Group's platform for women to improve their competencies through lifelong learning) Program of Well-being.
In January 2016, Dr. Hailan's book, Imperfection Is Good, was published. In that book, she explains that living life without anxiety or pain doesn't mean happiness, and she explains that happiness is achieved when you learn how to live with anxiety and pain.
Eight months later, Imperfection Is Good 2: Emotions Determine Your Life was published. Readers recognized the book as "an invitation to new life." Both books became bestsellers.
In Imperfection Is Good 2, Dr. Hailan wrote that one's first lesson in life should be management of emotions, and that if one learns only one lesson in life, he/she should learn "emotion management," rather than sciences or other subjects. If one can handle his/her emotions, she explained, then he/she will be able to control his/her life and, in turn, he/she will live happily.
"When I reviewed my past and thought about the people I have met, I realized that what caused most of the troubles in life were not the lack of knowledge, skills and intelligence. It was negative emotions that upset us. We sometimes refuse to accept ourselves, and we complain about our parents. We feel disappointed with our spouses, and we worry about our children. Also, we become dissatisfied with our colleagues and superiors, and we face fraud, disrespect, misunderstandings ... These all lead to negative emotions," Dr. Hailan says.
"According to statistics released in 2006, suicide was the top cause of death among Chinese people aged 15-35. Medical research has indicated that many diseases have close relations with negative emotions. Psychologists have also suggested that people should maintain their health, not only by eating dietary supplements or seeing the doctor, but also by learning how to manage emotions. In this way one's ability to achieve happiness will be improved," Dr. Hailan adds.
The first step to managing emotions is to stop doing whatever you are doing and take a deep breath, Dr. Hailan suggests. "Only if we calm down and have a sober mind will we be able to make judgements. When most people face troubles, they don't know they should pause for a moment, and they reply to others' words at once. The reason for this is that humans, when under stress, will react subconsciously to what they see, and, in most cases, people's responses to stimuli is to attack or escape, both of which will cause harm. I hope that my book (Imperfection Is Good 2) will help people see the whole view of their lives. I hope that people won't be tortured by negative emotions, and that their beautiful lives won't be discolored by anxiety, fear, anger, grief, or shame," Dr. Hailan says.
She is prepared to share her understanding of happiness from more detailed angles. She plans, throughout this year, to work on books about the relationship between a couple and parent-child relationships.
(Executive Editor: LEI YANG, Women of China English Monthly February 2017 Issue)
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