"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most responsive to change."--Charles Darwin
There’s a phrase for the torment that you can’t talk about: disenfranchised grief. It was first defined by Kenneth J. Doka in 1989 as “grief that persons experience when they incur a loss that is not or cannot be openly acknowledged, socially sanctioned or publicly mourned." Your heart is grieving, but you can’t talk about it to your friends because it’s considered unacceptable or tasteless or shocking. You’re sad, but the world doesn’t want to hear about it.
Examples of Disenfranchised Brief
· Religious Amanda, age 14, just lost the love of her life, her 15-yr-old boyfriend to her best friend. She feels betrayed, lost, hopeless, depressed, scared, angry, and sad. When her parents minimize her pain, telling her it was just “puppy love,” she wants to scream at them, “I gave up my virginity for this relationship!” But she doesn’t. They don’t understand the depth of her pain, so she puts on a smile and keeps it to herself.
· When my friend MaryAnn lost her soul mate to cancer, she cried nonstop for 14 days. On the 15th day, she packed away his belongings and went hiking, laughing and joking with old friends. “You’re in denial,” friends told her because they couldn’t believe that she could recover that quickly. Her grieving was different, and therefore, unacceptable to them. Two years later, she was still at peace with his passing and moving on with her life. What her friends didn’t understand that during the two years when she and her friend were fighting his cancer, she was learning to let go. Every month that he got worse, she slowly let go of him.
· When Elizabeth had her 4th miscarriage, her friends and family were used to it. But for her, the death of this fetus was also the death of hope that she would have a family. All the pain that she had been trying to dismiss for 8 years came tumbling out. Her grief was profound and prolonged. Friends couldn’t get her to “snap out of it,” as she had in the past. She became good at pretending, but spent many hours each day in bed crying.
· Everyone thought 10-yr-old Jodi was a quiet child. Sweet and shy, she kept to herself. What they didn’t know was that she couldn’t talk about her pain. When she told her alcoholic mother that her father was sexually abusing her, he was arrested and went to prison. Now she feels alone in the world because she is left with an alcoholic mother who pays little attention to her.
· Blaine was devastated when his wife of 50 years died in a car accident. Though family members extolled her virtues, they also told him that at least she had a long and productive life. “It was her time to go,” they told him. This didn’t help to ease his immense pain. He went into a deep depression and finally died two years later. His daughter says he died of a broken heart.
A Tale of Two Families
Betty and Jean, both single parents, were close friends and next-door neighbors for some 30 years. Two of their children were the same age, and Rob and James became close friends. They went to Sunday School together and helped each other to earn the badges leading up to Eagle Scout. When James received the “Hope of America” award in 6th grade, his mother Jean was proud and happy as was Betty. In fact, Betty was the first to jump to her feet in a standing ovation for him. When Betty’s son Rob received a basketball scholarship to college, Jean felt as much joy and pride for him as if it had been her own son James. They played sports together, did science projects together, and even double dated in high school.
When James was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in college, Betty spent many hours with his mother Jean in his hospital room. They prayed together, cried together, and Betty provided a good listening ear for Jean. Betty organized a charity fund through their church for her good friend’s son to get the necessary surgery to save his life. Despite valiant efforts and the best of surgeons, James died after a four-year battle with cancer. Jean was surrounded with love and sympathy from neighbors, friends, relatives, and their church community. It was one of the largest funerals that people could remember. Hundreds of flower arrangements were brought to the grave and Jean’s home. She had more casseroles than what she could eat in a month. And Betty stayed with her friend Jean to comfort her through torturous days of sorrow.
Shortly after losing his best friend, Rob learned of another, even greater loss. His father, who lived in another state, died in a motorcycle accident. He had always hoped to be able to move close to his dad so that he could get to know him better, and now that would never happen. In his grief, he turned to alcohol and drugs. When his grades fell, he lost his scholarship and his place on the basketball team. Things got worse when he was expelled from college and turned to pain killers. Rob died of an overdose two years to the day after James died. It may or may not have been accidental.
Sixteen people attended Rob’s funeral. Betty’s friend Jean came, but slipped out the back door of the church before the procession to the cemetery. No one seemed to know what to say to Betty. Unlike Jean, there was no outpouring of love from the congregation. Betty was alone in her grief and felt like she was going crazy.
That’s when she called me to talk about her son, her grief, and the craziness that she felt. I let her know that she had a right to her grief. She had a right to be comforted, affirmed, and validated. Her grief was real and raw. The lack of community support threatened to turn her grief into something bitter and ugly.
Apparently it’s all right to die of cancer. It’s not all right to die from drug abuse. At least that is what society would have us believe. But what about the person’s need to talk?
Therapists Will Listen
People turn to therapists for disenfranchised grief because no one else wants to listen. What a shame! People heal when they can talk about their pain. In fact, one of the most important factors in the resolution of grief is social support from others. Please know that you have the right to tell your story and indulge your grief—whether others want to hear about it or not.
One of the things that you may need to address eventually is that hidden reservoir of anger lurking just beneath the pain. As much as you may not be ready to do this, you will eventually need to forgive others for not being there for you when you needed them most. You’ll need to do this so that you can set yourself free from the bonds of resentment. Grieving is a process, and it wants a voice. You’ll need to do some talking or writing. In addition to that, you may want to give yourself the gift of some grieving rituals.
Although they vary by religion, culture, or region, healing rituals can help us to let go. You don’t have to spend money or be religious to have a ritual. Consider these:
Celebrate a Life. Much like a formal funeral, a private celebration can also be very powerful. Set up a time and space where you can celebrate the life of your loved one. Perhaps you’ll want to pick some special music, gather photos, write about your loved one or tell another person some special stories.
Create a Scrapbook or Video Slideshow. Several of my clients have done this and brought their scrapbook to therapy. I remember one client brought me her scrapbook each week for three months. She told me charming, lovely stories about her beloved cat who had recently died. We laughed and cried together while she told her stories.
Carry a Private Momento. It may be a photo, a ribbon, a postcard, or anything small that you can keep in a purse or briefcase. One client I knew wore a small heart necklace every day to remind her of her love. Several of my clients have gotten tattoos over their hearts.
Plant a Tree. Planting a tree in someone’s name can be public or private. It doesn’t even have to be a tree. It can be a flower, a bush, or even a potted plant.
Donate Your Time or Money to a Cause. Several people that I know have donated their time and efforts to causes that they support. It helps them to heal knowing that they are contributing something to the greater good.
Hang a Favorite Poem on the Wall. Maybe it reminds you of your loved one or what you had together. Perhaps it perfectly describes how you feel. Maybe it helps you to have hope.
Light a Candle. A client of mine says that she lights a candle every night to memorialize the past relationship that she can’t openly acknowledge. It’s enough for her to know why she is doing it.
Spread the Ashes. After a cremation, many people find solace in spreading the ashes in a treasured place—on the top of a mountain, in a body of water, or at a favorite place you both enjoyed.
If you’re grieving, talk. Grief needs an outlet. If you have no one to talk to, then write your feelings. Perhaps you’ll want to keep a private journal of your feelings.
If you know of someone who is grieving, then listen, listen, listen. You don’t have to say anything magic. Ask how the person is doing and then just listen without judgment.
Dr. Andrew Weil reports that the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil can help treat mild to moderate depression, and now a study from Canada suggests that these essential fatty acids might also help people suffering from major depression. Researchers at the University of Montreal and other participating medical centers in Canada recruited 432 men and women suffering from unipolar depression for a randomized, double-blind study testing omega-3 supplements against a placebo. Many of the patients had complex and difficult to treat depression, and many hadn't responded to earlier treatment with prescribed antidepressants. After eight weeks, the investigators saw a "clear benefit" in patients who suffered from depression alone, but not in those who also had anxiety disorders. The investigators noted that the improvements were comparable to those generally seen with conventional anti-depressant treatment and concluded that additional research will be needed to test omega-3s head to head against antidepressants. The daily doses used in the study were 1,050 mg of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and 150 mg of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).
Further, Dr. Weil reports that a number of studies have suggested that a deficit of omega-3s may predispose to depression. He recommends two to three grams of fish oil a day, providing both EPA and DHA in a ratio of about three or four to one for mild to moderate depression along with other approaches including regular exercise, at least 30 minutes five days a week. Exercise is the most effective treatment known for mild to moderate depression. Results of the study on the effectiveness of fish oil for patients with major depression appear promising. We all look forward to future studies comparing this treatment with pharmaceutical anti-depressants!
Alex Lickerman, M.D., wrote an interesting article called "The Good Guy Contract." He had a habit of being a pleaser and couldn't stop, even when he wanted to stop. He writes, "The Good Guy Contract was simple; I would agree to be nice to you, to advise you, to sacrifice for you--and in return you would agree to believe that I was wise, compassionate, and excellent as a human being in every way. And, most importantly, you would like me." When he finally saw what he was doing, he stopped doing it. He's one of the lucky few who was able to stop immediately. We should all be that fortunate.
But, what's wrong about people pleasing, you say? It's nice to be nice. And we all enjoy being liked and loved. Here's the thing: people pleasers contribute to family dysfunction. They are the ones who come to therapy, confused about their teen's irresponsible behavior, depressed about their spouse's alcoholism, and anxious to fix somebody else. Their focus is always on someone else because that's the nature of their problem.
Take This Easy Test
1. Do you consider your own needs, wants, and desires in a relationship or are you more likely to put others' needs, wants, and desires first?
2. Does your self esteem suffer when you're criticized, even if the criticism is not true?
3. Do you have a habit of sacrificing your plans, desires, or needs in a caring relationship?
4. Do you often confuse pity with love?
5. Are you generally a conflict avoider?
6. When things go wrong, do you usually blame yourself?
7. Do you stay attached when most everyone else tells you that you need to detach?
8. When a relationship is dragging you down, do you still put the other person's needs or opinions first?
9. Do you have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility to the point that you think it's your job to fix others?
10. Early in your life did you learn to set your own feelings aside to care for others?
If you answered yes to three or more of these questions, you're probably a pleaser. And that's not good. You may have been the unwitting contributor to relationship dysfunction. You may be prone to depression and/or anxiety because of your pleasing pattern. Rather than set limits and follow through with consequences, you may have decided to plead, nag, cajole, beg, threaten, or send guilt trips. And how is that working for you?
Tear Up Your "Good Guy Contract"
If you're a chronic people pleaser who can't stand to disappoint others when disappointing them is appropriate, then you have a great opportunity to become happier. As an added bonus, loved ones often get better when you stop your pleasing pattern. Boundaries and limits are more effective teaching tools. You'll learn to value yourself more as you make important changes. Dr. Alex Lickerman recommends the following:
- Assess your people-pleasing tendencies. Take the test and answer honestly. Ask a friend to give you feedback on the test.
- Practice disappointing people. Say no. Set limits. Write a script of how you're going to refuse a favor, and read it to someone else first. Try it out.
- Keep the payoff in mind. You're going to be happier in the long run. People will respect you more as you stop your pleasing pattern. And you'll be a lot more authentic.
Most pleasers do not give up their pleasing patterns easily. It often takes years to learn a new way of relating. Go to therapy and stay there until you make significant changes in your life. Good luck, and let me know how it goes.
My client's husband was leaving her. And she was very worried. In fact, she worried all day long (and most of the night). There were some very real concerns. She had a lot of problem-solving to do in a very short period of time, and needed to make a lot of life-changing decisions. She was not doing well. This was probably the worst time in her life to be making decisions.
When we're in a stressful situation, it's difficult to sort things out and to make good decisions. Yet, all of us must do this at one time or another. Let's talk about some of the things that can make this process a little easier.
My client was forecasting a dismal future for herself. None of us know what the future will bring. But awfulizing about what might happen doesn't help. And worrying is like spinning your wheels when you're in hub-cap deep in mud; it gets you nowhere. It makes things worse, in fact. Accept the fact that you're making some changes, and those changes aren't necessarily negative in the long run. Here are some steps that can help:
WRITE DOWN YOUR WORRIES
Rather than have all those random worries floating around in your head, write them down. Keep coming back to the list until you have most of your worries on paper. Here are three of the worries that my client wrote:
1. I'm afraid that I won't have enough money.
2. I'm afraid that I won't be able to afford the house payment.
3. I'm afraid that I won't be able to find a good job.
WHAT DO YOU NEED?
The next step is to take those worries and write them differently--stating what you need. So, here is what she wrote:
1. I need to have enough money.
2. I need to be able to afford the house payment.
3. I need to find a good job.
LOOK FOR SOLUTIONS
Brainstorming is the next step. Take your list of needs and think of possible solutions. Not all of the solutions will work for you, but write them anyway. You can ask for help from friends, neighbors, your therapist in helping you to think of possible solutions. When you're brainstorming, write down every idea, even if you doubt that it will work out for you.
1. I need to have enough money. I guess I either need to make more money or reduce my needs. I can always work more than one job. People have offered to pay me for my knitted sweaters. I could knit sweaters. I could ask my old boss to take me back. I could move in with my parents.
2. I need to be able to afford the house payment. I guess I could sell the house. I could give the house back to the bank and walk away. I could take in a roommate. I could offer the house to my husband. I could camp outdoors all summer. I could look for a small apartment to rent.
3. I need to find a good job. I have many talents. Perhaps I can create my own job. I can always clean for others. I could take care of an elderly person in exchange for room and board.
PREPARE TO MAKE SACRIFICES
This, of course, is the difficult part. Sometimes we need to sacrifice some comforts as life steers us in a different path. Rather than kicking and screaming against change, sometimes it just feels better to accept the change, let go of the past, and move on. Here's what my client finally decided:
1. I am staying in my low-stress, low-paying job. I can even knit while answering the phone at my job. Since knitting is fun for me, I will experiment selling sweaters and scarves on a website as well. Maybe it will work out; maybe it won't.
2. I am putting the house up for sale. If it hasn't sold in three months, I will rent it out or take in a roommate.
3. I may look for another job when I'm feeling less stressed and more confident. Now is not the time to be looking for a better job.
PRACTICE RELAXATION SKILLS
Relaxation skills are important, especially when you're stressed. Now is the time to practice yoga, breathwork, hypnosis, guided imagery, and other proven techniques to help you to relax.
Research has proven that aerobic exercise will help diminish anxiety and depression. Try it!
Good luck, and call a therapist if you need an appointment.
All of us have the ability to create our own negative moods. We often feel that it's a negative event, something that happens outside of our control usually, that causes depression or anxiety. But it's what we tell ourselves about that event that leads to feeling bad. Negative thoughts lead to anxiety and depression. But the good news is that you can learn techniques to free yourself of these patterns and feel better. Here are some examples of distorted thinking.
- Catastrophizing--taking an event you are concerned about and blowing it out of proportion to the point of becoming fearful. Example: believing that if you fail a quiz then the teacher will completely lose respect for you, that you will not graduate from college, that you will therefore never get a well-paying job, and will ultimately end up unhappy and dissatisfied with life.
- Jumping to Conclusions: making a judgment with no supporting information. Example: believing that someone does not like you without any actual information to support that belief.
- Personalization: when a person attributes an external event to himself when there is actually no causal relationship. Example: If a checkout clerk is rude to you and you believe that you must have done something to cause it, when you may not have done anything at all.
- Filter: when a person makes a judgment based on some information but disregards other information. Example: Someone attends a party and afterward focuses on the one awkward look directed her way and ignores the hours of smiles.
- Overgeneralization: making a broad rule based on a few limited occurrences. Example: believing that if one public speaking event went badly that all of them will.
- Black and White Thinking: categorizing things into one of two extremes. Example: Believing that people are either excellent in social situations or terrible, without recognizing the large gray area in-between.
- Labeling: attaching a label to yourself after a negative experience Example: Feeling awkward at a party leads to the conclusion: “I’m an awkward person."
- Emotional Reasoning: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.
- Should Statements: You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.
- Disqualifying the positive: You dismiss positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
So, what do you do?
- Know the patterns. Familiarize yourself with the these distorted thinking patterns. Look at them often. Memorize them.
- Recognize distorted thought patterns. Once you know the patterns, you can start to recognize thought patterns that may not be serving you well. Whenever you are feeling depressed or anxious, examine how you got yourself there.
- Challenge your own thinking. After you have learned to recognize your thought patterns that aren't serving you well, learn to challenge those ways of thinking. Ask yourself if you could look at a situation differently. This is even more effective if you have a loved one help you to identify and challenge your distorted thinking patterns.
Beck, J.S. (1995). Cognitive Therapy: Basics and Beyond. Guilford Press.
Burns, M.D. David (1980, 2000). Feeling Good
Burns, M.D., David (1999). The Feeling Good Handbook
For the parents who mourn their children's choices, you will have to learn to re-direct your thoughts. Whether your kid is lost in addictions or has had self-destructive habits, you need to learn to lift yourself out of depression and anxiety.
Do you remember dreaming about your kid—even before birth? Wondering what he or she would be like? You faithfully went through all the stages of growing up with your child, tolerating tantrums, dirty diapers, spider collections, and heartaches. You did everything possible to be a good parent, attending school plays, parent-teacher conferences, play dates, and soccer matches. You spent lots of money on hobbies, activities, violin or karate lessons, the latest clothes, everything. You fell in love with this remarkable little human, knowing full well that your job one day would be to help him or her to grow wings and fly away from you.
When your child became a teen, the thought of your child going away one day didn’t seem quite so terrible. Perhaps this stage helps us to let go as our darling becomes more and more willful. I know it helped me to let go. So, what do you do when your child breaks your heart?
1. Don’t take it personally.
It’s not about you. Your child made choices, just as you did. Perhaps your child blames you, perhaps not. At any rate, you really need to remind yourself that your child made his or her own choices.
2. Connect with your spirituality.
Do you have a belief in a bigger picture? Some people connect through their religious practices. Spirituality for other is volunteerism, connecting with nature, or helping humankind in any way that they can. You get to define it. Talk to spiritual leaders or spiritual practitioners that you respect.
3. What you’re feeling is normal.
You’re grieving. People typically move through stages of grieving as they heal. So whatever emotions you’re feeling—anger, frustration, sadness, depression, guilt—it’s all normal and it’s all part of the process.
4. Detach with love.
Detaching doesn’t mean that you stop caring about your child. It means that you focus more on moving on with your life. Letting go of hopes, dreams, and expectations is painful. Yet, it's very necessary....for all of us.
5. Find peace and joy every day.
As you move on with your life, learn how to make yourself happy. Begin by appreciating the thing that bring you even a small degree of happiness each day. What made you happy in the past? Reconnect with those things.
6. Look for the positives.
One famous therapy assignment is called, “The Five Best Things About….” So, clients learn to focus on the five best things about having cancer, the five best things about having a son who is a drug addict, the five best things about having a daughter who is a lesbian, etc. It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? People often give me an astonished look when I give them this writing assignment. Yet, it really does work. There are glimpses of sunshine in every storm. Learn to look for those glimpses.
Oh, and talk with a therapist if you get stuck. We're here to help, you know!
One very rainy day I met with several clients and kept track of how many complaints about the weather I heard. Twenty-four! Even the cashier in the grocery store complained about the weather. And not one complaint changed the weather. I guess that's my complaint about complaints. Complaining is not effective in creating change. Lily Tomlin tells this joke: "Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain."
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines “complain” as “to express pain, grief or discontent.” And certainly there are appropriate times that you need to complain. We all have the right to express pain. And yet dozens of complaints every day can have a very negative impact on your health, your relationships, and your quality of life. Studies have shown that complaining about your health actually tends to make your health worse.
From my point of view, incessant complaining is a self-destructive habit. If you want to claim your power, feel happier, and less stressed in life, then stop complaining. Take up assertiveness instead to state the facts. For example, a simple statement of fact ("The shipment didn't arrive as scheduled.") is very different from a complaint ("You people always mess up my orders.")
Here's my advice:
1. Stop and Notice.
Notice every time you whine, judge yourself or others, make nasty comments (even in your head), or negatively vent your feelings. Just take note that you're doing it. Perhaps you can jot it down. Your complaints may be about the weather, your boss, the kids, your spouse, the flavor of the mustard in your sandwich, the crazy drivers on the road, your too tight jeans, your bad hair day, or not having enough time. Count your complaints each day.
2. Analyze for Control.
So many complaints are outside of your control. There's absolutely nothing you can do to change the situation. This would include things like the weather, the other drivers on the road, or your country's foreign policy. If that's the case, you need to let it go. If you can control it, then change it. If you can't control a situation, do you have some influence? Then use your influence in a positive way to effect some change.
3. Analyze for Effectiveness.
Then ask yourself if your complaints helped the matter. Or did your complaints cause you to focus more on what you didn't want? In other words, is complaining effective as a strategy for getting what you want? If it is, then keep complaining. If not, learn to let go. And give yourself some time to do this. Deeply ingrained habits take some time.
4. Beware of Secondary Gain.
If you just can't give up complaining, then you may want to look at your secondary gains. This is a psychological term meaning the benefits of undesirable behavior. It implies that you're getting something out of complaining that keeps the bad habit in place. It may be personal attention, self-pity, or release from unpleasant responsibilities. You remain in a "victim consciousness." And feeling like a victim contributes to both depression and anxiety. Is that really what you want?
"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain." --Maya Angelou
Copyright © 2009 Kathie Keeler, All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored, or transferred by any print or electronic means without the express written consent of the copyright owner. Thank you!
Our behavior is determined by what we believe, whether we know it or not. Anxiety, depression, sadness are all caused by what we believe.
I've listed below the eleven most common beliefs that cause problems. This list is adapted from Albert Ellis, Ph.D., one of the most important originators of cognitive-behavioral therapies. His pioneering research fifty years ago brought an enormous paradigm shift to the world of psychology.
NEGATIVE BELIEFS: ELEVEN BELIEFS THAT CAUSE PROBLEMS
1. I must be loved by everyone.
2. I must be perfect.
3. People who do things I don't like are bad people.
4. Things should be different.
5. It's your fault I feel this way.
6. Something may go wrong; I must worry about it.
7. It's too hard; I can't.
8. I need someone stronger than me to lean on.
9. I can't change.
10. You need me to fix up your life.
11. There's only one right way to do things. I must find that right way.
Now that you've had a chance to look these over, identify the ones that describe your behavior. Don't worry if you have more than one. Most of us have many of these beliefs. The antidote to the previous list is the list below. It's important that you are aware of the beliefs that will NOT cause problems.
POSITIVE BELIEFS: ELEVEN BELIEFS THAT WILL NOT CAUSE PROBLEMS
1. People don't have to love me for me to be OK. I like feeling liked, but I can survive if someone doesn't like me. I don't like everyone, so why should everyone like me? I will still choose to feel good about myself.
2. We all make mistakes. I am still a fine and worthwhile person if I make a mistake. I choose to be gentle with myself.
3. I may not like everything that someone does, but that doesn't make them a bad person. Behaviors have consequences. If someone goes to prison because they mugged someone, that's their consequence. It doesn't mean I need to ruminate about whether they're a bad person or not. I choose to not be judgmental.
4. When we don't accept things the way they are, we're fighting with reality. And that causes stress. I don't need to control things. I may prefer something different, but I choose to not stress myself over things I can't change.
5. I'm responsible for my day. I'm responsible for what I feel and what I do. If I had a good day, I deserve the credit for being positive. If I had a rotten day, I'm the one who allowed it to be that way. It's not the responsibility of other people to change so that I can feel better. I'm in charge of my life.
6. I can handle it when things go wrong. Things usually go just fine. But when they don't, I can handle it. I don't have to waste my energy worrying. The sky won't fall in; I will be OK.
7. It's important to try. I can. Even though I may be faced with difficult tasks and difficult situations, it is better to try than to avoid them. Avoiding them gives me no opportunities for success or joy, but trying does. Things worth having are worth the effort. I may not be able to do everything, but I can do some things.
8. I am capable. I don't have to look outside of myself to find strength. Sure, it's great to have friends and loved ones. But I don't need to depend on others all the time to feel good about myself and life.
9. I can change. It's silly to think that I can't. No matter what my age, I am capable of change. It may seem overwhelming at first, but I can do it.
10. Other people are capable. I don't need to fix up other people's lives to feel good about myself. They are capable. I can care and be of some help, but it's not my job to rescue others.
11. I can be flexible. There's more than one way to solve a problem. Others have valuable ideas. I can be flexible.
If you want to be happy, you must be aware of your beliefs. If you're feeling anything less than happy, you can usually trace those feelings back to one of these problem beliefs.
So, how do you go about changing your beliefs? By becoming aware of which beliefs are causing you problems and then slowly replacing the negative beliefs with positive ones. Don't expect that you'll change all them overnight. It may take months or years to do so. I suggest that you read the list of positive beliefs at least once a week. I've done just that for two decades and have changed my beliefs as a result of that practice.
Change is a constant in the universe. All of us need to learn how to adapt to shifting circumstances. If we are unwilling to change, we begin to die. We can tenaciously hold on to the past, refuse to budge, and make ourselves depressed and miserable to be around. But if we are willing to try, be open, and expand into something new, we find that we have increased energy, renewed enthusiasm, and excitement in life.
Change can be difficult. But if you look at it as an opportunity to find new ways to expand and share love and consciousness, it is not bad.
People who believe that change is there for a reason, a purpose, tend to have fewer problems. They believe that change happens when we're able to use it for our own growth.
Clinging is resisting change. When we cling to some person, mental state, or object, it denies the reality that everything will change one day. Everything. Everything that you now own will someday belong to someone else. The clinging represents our fear of change. We're more prone to anxiety and depression. When we resist change, we suffer.
Enjoy things in the moment. We shouldn’t be disappointed when that circumstance changes. Don't judge it as being "good" or "bad." It just is. Moving from one moment to the next in total acceptance allows us to surrender to the cycles of life. Don’t try to force outcomes — let them happen. Be open to what emerges.
Security is an illusion. We have no way to predict the future. We cannot control it. We can try (and we do try), but we fail, all the time. We chalk it up to “plans gone wrong” or making mistakes or not planning for contingencies, but the truth is, we just need to admit we can’t control or predict the future.
So letting go involves accepting “what is” without become pessimistic, complacent, angry or passive. For example, I can accept all four seasons of the year without feeling a need to change a season (as if I could) just because I would prefer to have spring twelve months of the year. If I cling to the thought that winter is bad and spring is good, I cause my own mental suffering. And the seasons remain the same. The only thing that has changed is my state of mind.
There is no fulfillment through desire. Desire only results in more desire. Thus, more suffering. For the past decade I have decided that I can live in harmony with “what is.” And I’ve only reminded myself of that 100,000 times or so. It has been such a journey.
As you catch yourself judging, and wishing for different — and we all do it — try a different approach: accept, and understand. It might lead to some interesting results.
“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” - Lao Tzu
Do you want to be happier? Experience less stress? Abolish depression? Here's a one-minute practice that will change your life. On your way to work (school, grocery store) think of three things that you're grateful for. It can be anything--your child's laughter, clean socks, dinner with a friend or anything that makes you feel happy or content. Think about it.
When you arrive at work, jot down these three things on a sticky note. Say them aloud to a friend, relative, co-worker, or spouse. This is important. If you have no one to talk to, say them aloud in your car before you leave your car.
Put the sticky note in a place where you'll see it periodically throughout the day. When you leave, put the note on your dashboard so that you'll see it all the way home. At that point you can either save it or toss it.
The next day pick three more things that you're grateful for and repeat the exercise. Watch how your heart opens up and your negativity vanishes. Magic!