The happiest people do not have the best of everything, they make the best of everything.
We've all heard that an "Attitude of Gratitude" can change your life. Thanksgiving is a perfect time to explore this and be grateful for life's lessons.
We cannot control what happens to us in life, but we can control how we respond to it, right? How we respond, in my opinion, is what makes all the difference in the world.
When coming out of a relationship with an abusive narcissist, we face a huge amount of uncertainty.
Did he ever love me?
Will he ever change?
Will he try to win me back?
We do not like uncertainty in life. In fact, we dread it. We do everything in our power to avoid uncertainty. It understandably makes us anxious. However, few of us realize it is the number one reason we obsess. It is uncertainty that causes us to obsess.
When we try to force certainty where there can be none, we are trying to achieve the impossible. As a result, our mind races with obsessive thoughts.
I spent years of my life trying to force certainty where there could be none and it only led to obsessive thought that distracted me from truly living in the present moment.
We must accept that we cannot force anything in life. It is a losing battle we will never win.
Instead, we must accept uncertainty.
The best advice I ever received is to.......
LEARN TO LIVE IN THE GREY
Black and White thinking is toxic.
Unfortunately, our modern culture has conditioned us to think this way. We are programmed to think in terms of dualities or complete opposites.
Instead of finding a healthy balance, we are led to believe that everything has to be either:
BLACK OR WHITE
RIGHT OR WRONG
GOOD OR BAD
FAIR OR UNFAIR
HAPPY OR SAD
PERFECT OR DAMAGED
STARVE OR INDULGE
.... and here’s the biggest misconception that ruins our entire view of life and make happiness so hard to achieve:
PLEASURE OR PAIN
Yes, we are conditioned and programmed to think we can:
SEEK PLEASURE AND AVOID PAIN
Everything we do is centered around running from pain and enhancing pleasure. But guess what? Guess what is so fundamentally wrong with this?
And this lesson (besides learning to live in the moment) has changed my life and my attitude towards everything...
We cannot avoid pain. To think we can is ignorant. Yet, many of us spend our lives fooling ourselves to think we can. Suffering is part of the human condition. It is part of life. When we lie to ourselves that everything is ok when it’s not, it keeps us stuck.
"Pain and pleasure, like light and darkness, succeed each other."
~ Laurence Stern
We must accept that with pleasure comes pain and with pain comes pleasure. We must learn to live in the grey and stop trying to force certainty in life where there can be none. The more we deny our reality and lie to ourselves, the deeper we put ourselves in the dark.
Unfortunately, this is how many of us learned how to get through the tough times. We have learned to use denial as a coping mechanism. What we fail to realize is that the very method we thought was helping us is really killing us inside.
“God instructs the heart not by ideas, but by pains and contradictions.”
~ Jean Pierre De Caussade
When something hurts in life, we typically avoid it. We rarely think of it as something we are meant to learn from. In fact, we immediately try to find a way to get rid of the painful feeling and tell ourselves we will be happy when something else we’ve been waiting for happens. We may tell ourselves when we meet our soul mate, we will be happy or when we can afford something we've been wanting, we'll be content. We could spend the rest of our lives telling ourselves this. It is no way to experience life. It is a vicious cycle that never ends.
We run away thinking we can avoid our reality, but what we don’t realize is:
Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.
We can lie to ourselves or run all we want, but the lesson will keep returning in different forms and manifestations until we learn what it is trying to teach us about our reality. The very first noble truth the Buddha points out is that suffering is inevitable in human beings. It is part of the human condition. We cannot avoid it.
We must accept suffering and open our hearts to look at how weak we are being by trying to avoid it. Only then can we discover that the very thing that terrifies us is in fact a way for us to reconnect with our true self. Facing reality shows you who you are and what is true.
Facing our fear and waking up tells us something about ourselves. We must get to know fear, become familiar and intimate with it. It teaches us something. When we stop running and don’t act out, repress or blame, we encounter our true self.
This is what Nietzsche meant when he said, "What does not kill us makes us stronger."
It is how we RESPOND to life that matters. Therefore, it is critical that we understand what we can and cannot control. We have choices in life, and while we cannot control other people or what happens to us, we CAN control how we RESPOND. It is the choices we make after a setback that determine our destiny.
My very wise older brother once told me:
"My proudest moments in life are not my achievements, but my ability to bounce off the lows in life; it's the climb and journey from that low that is most rewarding."
Acceptance is critical to begin the climb. In my opinion, until we accept our situation for what it is and all its ugliness and craziness, we will never move on.
The trick is to keep exploring and not bail out, even when we learn something we don't want to accept. Nothing is what we thought. Accepting truth puts you on the spot. At times, accepting truth may cause us to initially suffer. However, this is where we have a choice. We must realize we are on the verge of something. We can choose to shut down and feel resentful, or we can hone in on the throbbing quality of truth. It is a testing of sorts...a testing of our ability to awaken our hearts.
We may think the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that some things cannot be solved. They must be accepted. Things come together and fall apart all the time.
Allowing ourselves to realize we don't know what is going to happen is the most healing lesson of all. After all, life is a journey. As long as we stay mindful and are honest with ourselves, we have the strength to face what life may bring us.
We must get to know fear and become familiar with fear. Look it right in the eye. In my opinion, it is the only way to undo negative patterns of thinking. If we face something head on, we no longer play mind games with ourselves to avoid it.
When we face fear and uncertainty, we will be humbled. There will be little room for the arrogance of holding onto ideals or lying to ourselves as a method of escaping reality.
The kinds of discoveries that are made in painful situations have much to do with having the courage to feel. When we stop and feel our feelings, we encounter our true being. We are more in touch with ourselves than ever before. This is what Buddhists call Mindfulness. Clarity provides direction. We must never fear the reality of our situation, no matter how overwhelming it may seem.
“Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.”
~ Elizabeth Gilbert