One of my friends speaks often about what she believes is wrong with people. It’s become her tendency, because she keeps practicing it, even though she feels bad as she does it. She’s a faith-based person, who strives to be kind, forgiving and accepting. But her practice of finding fault has caused a momentum. What she sees is what she gets, and what she gets is what she sees. And it’s difficult for her to switch to a more constructive perspective when a momentum is already surging in another direction.
Whatever we focus on expands for us, as we enliven it with our attention. Whether we’re thinking and talking about what we want, or what we don’t want, it will get bigger.
Who’s in charge?
Some people are able to change direction intentionally, by redirecting the momentum of their thoughts. They’re able to look beyond whatever people are doing, without judging it. They focus on who people are instead of what they do. And by holding fast to that positive norm, they’re more likely to attract people who are doing the same, which makes it easier to stay in charge of the nature of their interactions.
“Am I engaging with people on my terms based on the norm I’ve set for myself, or are others calling the shots based on their moods?”
We’ve built programmed responses.
We regularly think and talk ourselves into feeling good or bad. And on certain subjects – such as a job we feel stuck in, or a child who “won’t listen,” or a shortage of money in our bank account – we may already be leaning toward not feeling good, because we’ve been practicing fear-based thoughts and conversations around these topics.
We took on some of those tendencies as children, when we interpreted our parents’ words and actions negatively and developed unsupportive beliefs. Those beliefs don’t serve us now, but they still show up in our interactions with people, as programmed responses.
My friend, who keeps seeing what’s wrong with people, experienced a challenging childhood. To get through it, she developed coping skills, such as getting angry and blaming. And as an adult, she’s still doing it, even though it doesn’t fit anymore. She uses her past as a storehouse of evidence for holding onto unsupportive attitudes and behavior patterns. She gets angry, feels bad, becomes frustrated that she can’t handle situations better, and then beats herself up. Healing old conflicts so that she can feel better will require finding new ways to look at old issues.
We can train ourselves to feel good.
We don’t need people to behave a particular way so that we can feel all right about ourselves and our lives. We’re the deciders of what we think, and we can think whatever makes us feel better.
It’s not about being naive. And it’s not about closing our eyes to the current state of the world. It’s about consciously choosing what experience to have personally.
We can train ourselves to think more positively about any subject – from our body image, to our prosperity, to our politicians. We can accomplish it by thinking and talking about what we’d like to see, instead of what we believe we see. That’s how we shift our perspective.
If we’ve been talking negatively to ourselves, we can switch to telling ourselves something that’s less confronting, less frightening, less condemning. Something that’s gentler and more supportive, which will give us some relief and cause us to feel better.
Where are we coming from?
Are we coming from a positive norm that we’ve chosen on purpose? Are we looking for the best in people, and pausing to appreciate that, knowing that people can only be for us what we choose to see in them?
When we purposefully practice feeling good about life, we’ll notice that we’re running into people who are looking at life the same way. And people who aren’t will stop showing up, because the perspective and attitude we choose on purpose will be determining our encounters.
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