Happiness is your responsibility. It is not the responsibility of your partner, your children, your parents, or your friends, just like you are not responsible for their happiness. Don’t expect them to rescue you from your misery or pain. And don’t rescue them from their misery and pain. You can be kind, supportive and loving, but that’s not the same as trying to make them happy or blaming them for your misery. Just like when they catch a cold, you can make them chicken soup, but you can’t take away their cold.
Emotions and issues are the same as a cold. It’s your own job to take care of your emotions and work through your issues, and their job to work through whatever emotions and issues they have. You are then taking responsibility for yourself as well as giving your loved ones the confidence that they are strong and smart enough to take care of themselves.
We cause the very relationship problems we complain about but we don’t realize we’re causing it so we feel like victims and we tell our partners, it’s all the other person’s fault.
– David Burns, Feeling Good Together: The Secret to Making Troubled Relationships Work
This is good news. It’s empowering really because if you create the problem, you have it in your control to change it. So look at your complaints in any of your relationships, and then find your part in the problem. Sometimes you can see it very clearly, but sometimes you may not. You may have to really search to see how you contribute to the problem. Once you see it, you have the power to change it.
An old man and his son worked on a small farm with only one horse to pull the plow. One day, the horse ran away.
“How terrible,” sympathized the neighbors. “What bad luck.”
“Who knows whether it is good luck or bad luck,” the farmer replied.
A week later, the horse returned from the mountains, leading five wild mares into the barn.
“What wonderful luck!” said the neighbors.
“Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?” answered the old man.
The next day, the son, trying to tame one of the horses, fell and broke his leg.
“How terrible. What bad luck!”
“Bad luck? Good luck?”
The army came to all the farms to take young men for war, but the farmer’s son was of no use to them, so he was spared.
~ An old Chinese story
You never know when something happens to you, what and where it can lead to. Whatever happens, try not to fight with reality. Accept it. Stay open to all the possible ways it can unfold.
Let everything happen to you
Beauty and Terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final ~Rainer Maria Rilke
There was a time when people knew that life was supposed to be hard. Their thinking wasn’t that they deserved certain things or that they deserved happiness. They accepted more the idea of hard work and that things happen in life. As we look at the world through television, technology, and all the conveniences around us, we now seem to have certain expectations: that life should be easy, or that we should have certain things, or that difficulties or tragedies shouldn’t happen to us. We no longer accept life for what it is. We have expectations that just aren’t the reality.
In this modern world, we specifically try to seek happiness. Are we really happier now than people in the past, who just lived their lives? It seems we are setting ourselves up for a more difficult and miserable life. We often don’t have control of what goes on externally, but we have control of what goes on internally, such as our attitude. Look at where you are in life: accept whatever it is and whatever happens. Things happen all the time. Notice life’s constant motion. Notice our changing emotions. Nothing is final. Just keep going, because in life there is beauty and terror and everything else in between.
The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
Have you ever thought about how green your grass may look to others?
“When you begin to notice your thoughts, one of the first things you’ll see is that you’re never alone.”
– Byron Katie, I Need Your Love – Is That True?
Become aware of your thoughts. Though you don’t have any control of thoughts that pop up, you can redirect them. Make your thoughts be on your side. Have your thoughts become your personal coach, one who is always right there with you.
When you feel down, angry, disappointed, or scared, or when you make a mistake, notice your thoughts. Are you beating yourself up? Instead, ask yourself, “What would a coach say?” A personal coach will be encouraging and supportive. Your coach will be more objective and therefore more accurate about the situation. Let the coach speak to you. You may be able to listen better to a coach than to yourself.
“Your most intimate relationship is the one you have with your thoughts.”
– Byron Katie, I Need Your Love – Is That True?
A formula for managing emotions can look like this.
S + T = RA
Situation + Thoughts about the situation = Reaction
S – T = RS
Situation – Any thoughts especially judgments about the situation = Response
S = situation, action, comments
T = thoughts, judgments, scenarios
One of the best ways to free yourself from reacting with emotions is by becoming aware of your thoughts. Thoughts are always there and they create all kinds of emotions. I find that just dropping all my judgments about the situation calms me.
When I react to a situation, it means I’m not in control. When I respond to a situation, it means I’m in control.
Here’s an example of how it works.
S + T = RA
The situation is: The light just turns red when I’m driving.
My thoughts about the red light could be: “oh no, I’m going to be late; this light is so long; when’s it going to turn green?” These thoughts make me impatient and tense.
My reaction is to get all worked up over something of which I have no control.
S – T = RS
The situation is the same: The light just turns red when I’m driving.
When I let go of these thoughts about the red light, I have just the red light. I am calm because I accept the reality that the light is red, that’s all there is to this situation.
My response is to calmly wait for the light to turn green.
It’s Not What Happens to You, It’s What You Do About It
– Title of a book by W Mitchell
Throughout the day, all kinds of things happen. There are things that happen that you take control of without even realizing it. There are things that happen that make you angry, helpless, depressed, or fearful. As much as you don’t have control over what happens, you always have control over what you do about it and how you respond to it. You actually have control in every situation because it’s up to you how you respond to it.
When unfortunate events occur, big or small, tell yourself: “This is my situation, this is what happened, and I have control over how I respond to it.” Then ask yourself: “What is the best response to this?” It can mean changing your attitude; it can mean taking particular action. Once you see you have more control of what happens, you will no longer feel like a victim of life. You will be able to direct your life.
Thoughts are powerful. Just like food, there are healthy and unhealthy things that you can feed your mind. Become mindful of which thoughts you dwell on and believe. Don’t go for junk food that hurts you. Your soul craves for positive affirmations that validate who you are and what you are experiencing. One way to feed your mind with healthy food is to listen to guided meditation, such as the one below.
I know there are times when I become worried, pressured, angry or sad, and I accept what I feel as my inner truth of the moment.
I know that the more I can acknowledge and accept my feelings without criticism or blame, the more I allow myself to be peaceful, calm and well.
More and more I can let go of worrying about things I can’t control and focus on my own inner peacefulness.
— Affirmations for Mind, Body, and Spirit by Belleruth Naparstek
Anxiety and depression are thinking disorders – Dr. Daniel Amen
It’s your mind’s job to create all kinds of thoughts. Most are useless, untrue, or even crazy. Typically this is the sequence: Your mind creates thoughts; thoughts produce emotions; emotions drive the behavior. Did you know that your brain naturally goes toward negative thinking? Since the root of anxiety and depression is taking the thoughts your mind creates seriously, you need to work with your mind and your thoughts.
Have you noticed how it makes no difference whether you worry about something or not? It doesn’t change reality at all. Worrying about it or believing in the negative thoughts only causes suffering.
Just observe your thoughts without judgment and without taking them seriously. All kinds of thoughts will come. Look at it with an attitude of “Oh, okay, it’s just a thought. No big deal.”
The work is to look at thoughts for what they really are, just thoughts without any substance, like clouds passing through the sky. This is what it means to work with your mind. It sounds easy but it’s hard to do. It requires practicing this every day.