Can We Be Too Empathetic

I empathize.  Actually, I am an empathy-aholic.  There I’ve said it.  It’s not that I do it on a conscious level.  It comes automatically from somewhere deep inside my brain, I suppose.  I think I have some idea of where it comes from and how I got trained into being this way but, it hasn’t stopped me from doing it yet.

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Being empathetic is a good way to understand others and what they may be going through.  When we draw on our own experiences with issues or situations that we’ve been through, the idea is that perhaps, we can more fully understand and help in some way, those who are traveling down paths that we’ve been down.  At the least, we can imagine what they must be feeling and offer them some form of help one way or another.

Sadly, that’s not how it always works out and there’s good reason for it not always being the case or a help for that person.

We are not that person and no two people are exactly alike.

No one is you or will experience things the way that you do.  Some will take things harder than you would while others will experience those same experiences to a lighter degree than we do.  A lot will depend upon the person, themselves as well as what other experiences they’ve had in their lives.  We’re all created differently.  What soothes me may make you simply annoyed.  What calms you may make me question other things happening because I’ve had a different set of experiences than you and therefore, see and feel things differently.  What your friend, loved one, partner or spouse might feel, you’re not necessarily going to feel the same way.  Vice versa, you may have had a set of life encounters and dealings or issues that your friend, loved one, partner, neighbour or whomever may not have had and you may react far more towards certain things than they will as a result of those things.

Possibly the best thing one can remember or keep in mind is that what you felt during something you’ve experienced, may or may not be what the other person has or is feeling.  Empathizing internally or externally with that person or group of people might be fruitless for them and you because they’re not feeling or reacting the way that you imagine they would be for all of the above reasons.

Trying to feel what someone else may be feeling won’t necessarily help them but, it can hurt you when done too often and to excess.

Each of us in this life will have our own sets of baggage to carry around or deal with.  No one alive is baggage free.  If we’re metaphysical or spiritual or religious, we can put it down to the fact that each of us has a certain number of lessons to learn.  In other words, we need to go through what we have to go through for some Cosmic reason that we’re unaware of as a “lesson” of sorts.

If we’re not spiritually inclined or religious, we can say that perhaps, what circumstances we’re in, we’re in because of choices that we or others around us have made or are making.  If that’s the case, it’s often up to us to either find a way to cope with it or to make other choices wherever possible.

Whatever the case is, we’re all going to be dealt some good and some crappy hands in this poker game we call, Life.  Some will get more cruddy hands than others will.  Is the luck of the draw or our own personal choices or, is it the choice of something or someone else or higher than us?  Often we’ll never know which but we can decide how we deal with it one way or another.

While we can try to give advice or opinions to others we cannot climb into their skin and brains with them or do it for them.  Not only is that not a healthy way for that person to deal with things but, it’s not healthy for us either.

Simply put, we cannot take on everyone else’s burdens, problems or issues too lest we become over-burdened.  Emotional and mental health is fragile when we take on too much of anything.  Certainly, trying to feel what someone else or even everyone else around us is feeling and trying to take some of the weight off of their shoulders, is unhealthy and unhelpful more often than not.  Do that enough times, with enough people and we’ve got a recipe for disaster for ourselves.

Those we empathize with, often move on and out of situations while we’re left feeling dragged out, worn out and depressed.  

Many times now, I’ve worked hard at trying to help someone out of a jam or situation by empathizing with them so that I can draw on my own feelings and experiences to do so.  Unfortunately, I’ve done it with everyone around me at the same time while trying to deal with my own too.  I can say first-hand that it’s not a good nor, healthy thing to do as I’ve been left feeling overwhelmed, burdened, even ill and it’s not solved the other person’s issues.

Worse than that, I’ve found that once I’m a mess, those people I empathized with so heavily, have found a way to deal with their situations and moved on in their lives while I’m laying in a ball, trying to pick up my own pieces.

Human Nature wants equilibrium and will seek it out.

Most people will have to endure some not so lovely experiences.  We all have to face deaths of loved ones if we live long enough to see it or, we’ll all have money issues at some point or another unless we’re born with a proverbial silver spoon in our mouths and a never-ending stream of funds coming our way.  We’ll all feel the sting of rejection from one source or another, one type or another. We’ll all get sick even with only a cold.  We’re all going to die.  That’s the bottom line to Life here.  We’re all going go through negative spots or many.  The reality is, we will all seek out a more comfortable way of feeling and being.  Unless we have a true mental illness that keeps us in one state of mind, we’re going to automatically seek out feeling better and do whatever it takes to feel that way.  It’s part of Human Nature.  No one wants to feel down or depressed forever and we’ll do whatever it takes to feel better for the most part.  Empathizing with someone only takes the energy out of you in this case because:

  1. You can help but you cannot change someone else’s situation, pain, hurt or whatever they are going through.  That is their path to go down.  You can’t change it by trying to feel what they are feeling.
  2. By the time you’ve worn yourself out empathizing, they’ve likely found other ways to deal with their situations or emotions.  If they haven’t already done that, they eventually will.
  3. Because of the first point and the second, you’re doing no one any good except to weaken yourself to your own challenges in Life.

 

Not many will empathize with you in the same way nor to the same extent so, why not reserve some energy for your own struggles? 

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Have you ever noticed that you’re always there for others during their times of crises but, when you need someone or some help, everyone you’ve turned somersaults for during their bad times, is suddenly “too busy” to be there when you need someone?  I’m sure many of us can relate to this one unless we’ve led a rather selfish existence in not helping other soul.  Not many people can or will say that.

Not that we expect something in return when we try to help other people but, we would hope that the kindnesses that we’ve shown others will be returned to some extent or another should we ever need something.  However, that’s often not the case.  The question always begs, why doesn’t that happen?

“I’ve given and given to this person and that person and the other one down the street but, when I needed one simple favour, there was no one around,” you may be saying right now.  “As a matter of fact, the only time I’ve had someone help me, it’s been only half of the effort that I’ve put into them or less.  I don’t get it!”

You’re not alone in wondering why that is but, there’s often a simple answer.

You’ve been far too kind or generous with your time and emotions and, you’ve thought of others in ways that they don’t think about you or anyone else for that matter most of the time.  

If the truth is told, not many people can or will even attempt to empathize with you the way that you have done with or for them.  That doesn’t necessarily make them selfish but, it does stand as a lesson that putting too much effort into someone else, is not only not necessary but, it doesn’t get you anywhere except a lot of being overwhelmed then, frustrated and disappointed.  It’s time for you to turn down the volume a bit on your pouring out of empathy towards others.  That’s not to say that you don’t care about others but, it’s saying that you have to put yourself up there in the ranking of first place because while others may help you, they’re not going to take your problems over.  You need your emotional strength for your own issues.

Some points to remember:

  • It’s ok to understand what others might be going through on a “cerebral level” but, it’s not healthy for either of you to reach down inside yourself and try to feel what the other person is feeling.
  • If someone is in a hole, jumping into it with them (via empathy) is only trapping both of you.  You’re far more helpful to that person to stay safely on the side, being their for them to throw them down a rope so that they can climb out versus you being in there with them.
  • Expecting others to empathize with you in the same way or to the same extent as you’ve done for them, is not only unhealthy but unreasonable to expect because no one is you or can feel like you do and, not many people will be able to or even want to try.  Most people are in this world to look after themselves first and foremost.  Help but, don’t jump into that pit with them because they likely won’t do the same for you when or if you needed that kind of help.
  • There’s a difference between sympathy and empathy.  Sympathy is the ability to feel sorrow for what one is going through without the extra step of actually trying to put yourself in their shoes and feeling what they may be feeling.  Too much sympathy can be unhealthy too but, it’s easier to recuperate from and less intrusive to your life than full empathy.
  • You don’t need to feel what other people are feeling nor, can you really feel what they may be feeling.  As explained above, no two people are alike and even though they may be going through what you’ve been through, their other experiences in life as well as their personalities are going to shape how they react to a situation.  It’s rather fruitless, unhelpful and unhealthy for you to try to put yourself in their emotional shoes because they likely not only won’t fit but, it doesn’t help them or you.  Throw them a rope and let them climb out of the hole they’re in.
  • Look after your own needs first and think about yourself because not many people in your life will be there for you 24/7, trying to feel what you’re going through.  Those who have been there in their own experiences don’t want to re-visit it and those who haven’t, can’t feel what you’re feeling to help.  More to the point, not many will even try.

From my little corner of life, I see helping others as something that should be done when your own needs have been met and you’re able to emotionally be strong.  It does not mean hurling yourself into an emotional tailspin.  No one need do that to help others.  Heaven knows that were doctors, nurses, police officers, first responders, fire fighters etc., were to do that, they’d be crippled and couldn’t do their jobs after one or two incidents.

Do yourself and other people a favour.  Stay healthy by helping others in a healthy way.  Empathy has its place but, it’s limited.

Be well.  Love and Light.

 

 

When Your Adult Child Becomes Abusive

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If your adult child or children were anyone else on this planet, would you allow them the leeway that you are giving to your abusive child or children?

Tough question to answer, isn’t it?  Part of that is because we have that “bond” with our child or children as a parent that supersedes any other relationship that we can have or have had in our lives.  Love is blind as they say so, we often blindfold ourselves to the three dimensional view of our child or children.  We can see glimpses of their flaws and faults but, that’s as much as our guilt will allow us to see.  It’s nearly impossible for us to be as fully objective about our own child or children as we may be able to be with other people.

The word “guilt” was used for good reason. As parents, not only does the love we have for them become overwhelming and blinding but, we tend to tie our own self-worth into our child or children.  The moment we dive deeply into being critical of our own flesh and blood that we brought into this world or even adopted from someone else’s womb, we tie ourselves to that child or children in a way that we cannot tie ourselves to anyone else on this planet.  A put-down of our child even from our own minds and whether we gave birth to them or not, is oftentimes, felt as a put-down upon ourselves as both parents as well as who we are in general as people.  If our child or children are not doing well in life or is somehow “flawed”, we can unconsciously or even consciously, figure that it’s our faults.  We can leap to the conclusion that somehow, we have failed as parents and therefore we are also flawed as people in one way or another.

Not everyone will completely blame themselves for their child’s failures in Life.  Some parents will be able to see that our children have made choices in friends or groups that they’ve chosen to hang around and blame them instead of ourselves.  However, somewhere, deep down inside of us, there’s still a feeling of somehow being imperfect as a parent because our child or children have made those choices whether we’ve discouraged it or outright forbidden it or not. On some level or another, we feel “guilt” in one capacity or another and can tear ourselves to shreds as both parents as well as people.

This then leads us back to the question of whether or not we would allow any other human being to treat us the way that we allow our adult children to treat us.

First of all, were someone else to be treating us with any level ranging from disrespect to outright abuse, we’d likely toss those people from our lives to some extent or another, for some time frame or another or, more likely, until there was at least a sincere apology from that person.  If it was a long-termed thing, we’d likely walk away and not look back.   With family, it’s not quite that easy.  We can even find ourselves being victims as adults to poor treatment from our own parents and siblings out of a feeling of obligation and duty.  However, having said that, we can also come to a point where we begin to distance ourselves either somewhat or totally from them and their abusive or manipulative ways.  Friends or others in our lives are even more likely to be walked away from under these circumstances.  Our children are not quite as easy to distance ourselves from because of the above and for other reasons.

There is likely few people that we put more of ourselves into than we do with our child or children.  Even as adults, we are still invested in many ways in our children’s lives and well-being.  After all, isn’t that our job?  At least, that’s what we may reason with ourselves but, the answer to that is a resounding “no” once our children become adults and, we don’t need to continue to allow them to use, abuse or treat us poorly once they have become adults.  Our “jobs” are done.  We gave birth to them, loved them, raised them, gave them what we could reasonably give them and we supported them in more than a roof over their heads.  There are exceptions of course in the parenting world to this but, we’re talking about the average parent here, not those who were abusive to their own children or neglectful in any way.

There are a few things to take into consideration in how parents can deal with their adult-abusive or even estranged child (a topic that not many sites will deal with).

Your influence over your adult child was watered down many years ago.

We all like to think that we still have some sort of power or control over our children’s lives once they are adults.  For some, this is true but, for the most part, our influences over our child, all of our teachings, morals and values that we feel we’ve instilled into them, was long ago watered down by the influences of many other people in our children’s lives as they grow.  We are no longer their sole source of influence.  Peers, bosses, teachers and society in general, also including technology as well as entertainment venues, have taken over the largest portion of what affects them or doesn’t affect them once they are adults and have been doing so for many years before this point.  Oftentimes, those sources are the biggest reasons for their actions, decisions or choices at this stage of their lives versus us, as parents.  We therefore, cannot continue to place blame upon ourselves for everything that our children decide to do or not do.  Those choices were influenced by many other sources and we are the least likely sources at this point in our children’s choices or lack of them so, we can halt the self-deprecating right there for their poor choices or in taking the blame for the way they treat us now.

Having given your child too much attention or in short, spoiling them.

A lot of parents from the 1980’s onwards are likely guilty of having given their child everything they could possibly give them including monetary things as well as attention, devotion, praise and love.  Parents of children from the 80’s onwards were also victims to a new way of thinking about parenting. Society was at a point where the theory was to reward children for almost everything that they did, including potty training.  They got stars, praise and even rewards or trophies for simply participating no matter how well they did or whether they did anything or not.  They simply had to show up more than half of the time in order to get a reward of some type or another.  Even education was play based and grades were given out according to effort, not necessarily, achievement.

This was a time frame in which parents were also encouraged to praise our children to the hilt for even small endeavours in the home and, it was done by most.  Support, praise, rewards and more of the same.  No matter what children did or didn’t do in those times, they were rewarded for one thing or another.  Not only did that lead us to believe that our children could do no wrong but, it led them to feeling “entitled” to getting rewarded in one way or another no matter what they did or didn’t do.  It was that entitlement that turned a fairly good chunk of those children into little narcissists who believed that the sun rose and set on them no matter what they did or didn’t do.  That wasn’t just parental influence but, also that of society in general.  Even were children to be disciplined at home, they were rewarded for even poor attitudes and skills outside of the home. Parents couldn’t override an entire system and if they tried, the parents became “The Hated Ones” because the rest of society and its systems were telling these children that they were “entitled”.   We did them no favours as human beings because it made it tougher for these kids to grow up into a tough, dog-eat-dog world where they weren’t able to cope well because everything had been handed to them up until this point.  That wasn’t necessarily parent’s faults but rather societal experimentation that failed these children and turned them into narcissistic tending little monsters who eventually, would grow up into adults who felt entitled and angry when they didn’t get what they wanted anymore from Life or their parents.

The “experts” are still saying that parents should tell their children they are loved no matter how badly they’ve treated us or, even if they have walked away on us and are now estranged from us.

Not to put down the so-called “experts” but, how many parents have tried with their children, always telling them that they are loved, only to find themselves being either doormats or punching bags for their children?

Answer:  Lots!

Sadly, many parents of children from the ’80s onwards are now finding their either fully adult or nearly adult children, treating them like yesterday’s garbage and being tossed to the side while they’re still telling their child, “I love you” and continuing to do so no matter how badly they are treated by their children.

Far be it from me to tell parents to not tell their children that they are loved and wanted.  Every parent needs to let their children know that much but, when that child not only disrespects that parent but, treats them poorly, it’s time to give up on the loving words and time to get real with their adult children by letting them know that while they are still loved, their attitudes and abusive, using actions will not be tolerated.  Enough already with sending them messages of “I love you” and leaving it there while rolling with the punches.  These are no longer 10 year old children who can’t understand the meanings of their actions fully.  These are fully grown adults who must learn that for every action, there’s an equal or greater reaction.  That doesn’t mean withdrawing love for them however, it does mean that these adults don’t get to treat their parents poorly and still get the benefits that they would if they were treating their parents with respect and love too.  Poor actions get poor reactions.  Withdrawal of love for them is never a solution but, rewarding them by permitting poor treatment is not the answer.  They need a wake-up call for their sakes as well as the parent’s own well-being.

If you wouldn’t let others treat you this way and would walk away from them, why are you letting your child do this to you?  

As has been said throughout this piece in differing ways, rewarding poor behaviour is akin to a form of abuse from parents.  We are not doing them any good by rewarding our children for their poor treatment of us or by putting up with it and giving them more and more of ourselves.  Life doesn’t work that way so, why should we?

When a child is rewarded for poor behaviour, attitudes, actions, choices or decisions, it re-inforces that behaviour within them.  No, they won’t like being said “no” to nor, will they love the idea that they’re not getting their own way or what they want if we do start to stand up to them as adults and let them know that it’s not ok to treat us in a poor manner.  However, continuing to give them what they want, expect or feel entitled to getting, is only bolstering the idea that poor behaviour, temper tantrums, threats of withdrawal from our lives and whatever else they can throw at us to manipulate us into giving them what they want is simply training them to continue treating us as parents, wrongly, poorly and with disregard as well as disrespect.

Let me say something perfectly clear here.

Giving more of yourself and handing everything to someone who is treating us badly, let alone our children, is a recipe for becoming a “doormat” for others.  In short, we are laying ourselves down on the ground and letting people walk on and wipe their feet on us.  That’s not right.  We are people too and it doesn’t matter who they are to us.  

Sadly, sometimes, we have to let them go and hope that they will eventually come back otherwise, we risk our lives becoming infected with toxicity.  

There’s no bigger health threat than having someone we love, treat us like dirt beneath their feet and making us feel like we don’t matter in this life.  That goes for our adult children.  We all need to feel wanted, loved, respected and treated fairly and well.  We deserve that from others especially, the very children that we lovingly raised to the adult level and oftentimes, sacrificed more than a good night’s sleep for.  Many parents can tell stories of having given up great careers, being able to travel or do things that they, themselves wanted to do for themselves that would have made them happy, in order to give everything to their child or children, leaving themselves unhappy, unfulfilled and only to be treated in an abusive, uncaring manner or worse, have that child or children walk out of their lives, without contact, care or concern for their parent(s) and their well-being.

More to the point, those children have become what one can consider a “toxin” to the parent, making them feel as though they’ve wasted those years of their lives on someone who cannot or more to the point, return that love, care or respect to their parents.  Not only that but, it wears on the parent’s psychological well-being and soon after, their physical health.  It’s a vicious cycle especially, when the parent continues to feel as though they simply need to do more, try harder, give more or plead with that child to keep their love or the adult child in their lives.  It’s akin to a dog or cat, chasing their own tails.  It’s a fruitless exercise in not only futility but in a form of an illness of one sort or another.  It won’t change your child and sometimes, the only way to make one person’s lives healthier, is for the parent to either distance themselves, limit their time or exposure to that child’s ill behaviour and treatment or, to completely walk away if the child doesn’t do it for themselves.

Yes, that all sounds counter-intuitive to what we feel or have been taught to think of as “proper parenting” but, this all leads back to the original question….

If this were anyone else in your life, would you continue to let that person abuse or mistreat you?

If your answer is “yes” then you, yourself need to find some counselling because you’re not valuing yourself as a person and instead, are valuing others above yourself.

If you answered “no” to this question then, why are you allowing and encouraging your adult child to continue to do it to you?

From my little corner of life, while this is a longer piece than I usually write, it’s an under said topic that needs addressing more and more fully.  We’ve turned out a couple of generations of children now, both adult and children who need to learn that you aren’t rewarded for treating others poorly.  There are consequences to their behaviours and reactions to their actions of equal or greater proportion.

Be well and let me know what you are dealing with in the comments, please.

Best wishes from one parent to another or to adult children who might be reading this and recognizing what may be happening in their own relationships with their parents.

Comment!

 

 

 

Happiness Part V: We Know Too Much

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Day in and day out, we are being bombarded with information.  Some of it will be correct and some of it will prove to be incorrect yet, we will absorb it all as though through osmosis.  Whether we are truly paying attention or we’re subliminally and subconsciously picking it up, we have most of that info, rumbling around in our brains somewhere and it’s acting upon us like a slow release pill, coming out in dribs and drabs. It’s likely that we don’t even recognize that info is there or that we’re utilizing it in one way or another.  Our brains are wonderous machines with a filing system that makes computers look like toys.  Reality is, we know far more than we need to know and it’s causing us both stress and distress.  It’s a road block to being happy.

Remember back a few entries ago when the scenario of children being happy was the centre point of that piece?  If not, you can review it here.  Part of the reason that children are generally happy is that they don’t know enough to be un-happy.  Not only have the brains of children not developed enough but, they don’t know enough to be upset, stressed, worried or any of the adult things that we, as adults, have come to learn to do.  They live in moment because they can’t really foresee much trouble in the future.  Ignorance is sometimes, bliss.

Let me give a scenario here that may help demonstrate that point better.

Two men are in a car, stuck on railway tracks.  They cannot move back nor forward.  The elder gentleman in the car has a form of dementia and is busily reminiscing about days gone by that he remembers with fondness.  The younger gentleman, fully able to compute the dangers of what is happening, is trying not to frighten the older man while trying to start the car again with no success.  Off in the distance, he sees the faint lights of an oncoming train and keeps trying to start the car, filled with panic now.  The elder man is completely unaware of what is happening and continues on his trip down memory lane with pure joy and delight, laughter and a smile while beads of sweat drip down the younger man’s forehead.  Finally, in vain, as the train approaches rapidly, the younger man exits the car, opens the door of the passenger’s side and drags the old man out of the car to safety.  The train soon demolishes the car into a tangled heap of metal before coming to a stop.  The young man tries to catch his breath while the elder gentleman simply says, “why did you stop me?  I wasn’t finished my story.”  Both men experienced the same situation.  The difference in their reactions were simply that the younger man knew what was going to happen while the elder man was blissfully unaware of the danger lurking down the tracks.

None of this is to say that we shouldn’t be aware of dangers or ignorant of facts nor, uneducated.  What it is saying is that we are overloaded with information that oftentimes, is false, misleading and most importantly, un-needed.  We can’t be child-like because we now know too much.  As a matter of fact, we know more than we really need to know and that, in and of itself, causes stress, distress and un-happiness.  We are now incapable of simply living in the moment and being amused with simple things like the taste of our coffee, the smell of freshly cut grass, the clouds that are floating past us above, the purr of our cat, the sound of a stream, a song that we love or many other of the most soothing and amusing things in Life.  Instead, we are analyzing everything silly, thinking about what lays ahead, how much damage it’s doing to us and the world, some study that proves that the caffeine in our wonderful tasting coffee can kill us or how the water in our bottle of water might pollute the earth or be polluted by the chemicals in the plastic bottle or wax that lines the paper take-out cup is toxic.  We’re usually reading or listening to the news which is filled with doom and gloom as that is what sells air/paper time and we’re using technology devices such as our cell phones to look up more crazy-making information.  The list is endless as to how information is slowly not only taking away our happiness and ability to be happy but, is potentially causing us stress that will or could kill us sooner or later.

How many shootings do we need to hear about before we can say, “there’s a lot of kids, killing others with guns”?  How many studies have we all heard, read or talked about that eventually get reversed or at the least, changed because newer studies have proven differently and yet, we’ve given up that great tasting coffee or bread or eggs and, it’s now not only ok to have them but, we find out we should have been having them all along as they’re beneficial to us?  How many car accidents do we need to see on the news at night with people we never met, don’t know and never will know before we get the idea that driving a car in today’s world and in traffic or driving distracted or impaired, can kill us? Do we really need 24/7 news stations that cover a story live and have “experts” on panel to discuss every nuance of the situation?

The bottom line is that we have far too much information floating around in our heads that not only don’t serve us beyond simply having a fact/knowledge but, are harming us in one way or another.  It’s all certainly a stumbling block towards being happy.

If you want to feel a bit happier,

  • Turn off the news or put down that newspaper
  • Quit Googling or Binging or whatever search engine you use for a bit
  • Turn off your cell phone or use it to actually CALL a friend or relative and enjoy talking to them instead of texting or ignoring them.
  • Stop taking every study too seriously because it will eventually turn out to be changed or reversed by another that will follow.
  • Either turn up your favourite music and sing or dance with it or, listen to the birds chirping, the stream sounds or your cat purring for a change
  • Watch a comedy or inspirational movie instead of a horror, police or crime show
  • Read a book or story with an inspirational message behind it
  • Buy yourself an adult colouring book and colour for a change.  Heck, get out the crayons and colour a child’s colouring book.
  • Ditch the “Know-It-Alls” who are walking encyclopedias but, are as negative as hell
  • Limit time with or eliminate those people who are bringing you nothing but headaches or demands for you doing something for them
  • Spend more time with people who make you feel good and most of all, make you laugh
  • Get silly. Roll down a hill, play with toys, splash around in a local pool just for the fun of being in water and weightless or buy yourself a teddy bear.  Seriously.
  • Stay out of your head and thinking for even an hour a day.  Just pay attention to things around you that are soothing and relaxing.  If you can’t find that, find them in your memory bank.  They’re there, believe it or not.
  • Be thankful for what you have right now even if it’s not your dream situation
  • Set aside a worry time of 20 minutes where you write your worries out into a dollar store notebook then shut the journal and tell yourself worry time is over until your next planned session then, get on with something light, silly and funny

These are just a few ideas.  There are plenty more.  If you’re going to Google anything, search for ways to have fun.

Stay light, stay laughing, stay away from people or information that brings you down to a stressed out level as much as possible.  Just be.  Be in the moment and enjoy the little things in Life.  Be happy!

Blessings, Love and Light from my little corner of life to yours.

 

Happiness Part IV: Change A Thought

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There was once a time on a trip where I started to feel “odd”.  I told my husband and fellow travellers that I was feeling strange but, couldn’t peg what it was that was feeling off.  My husband, in all of his wisdom, asked if my stomach was upset, headache, toothache, ear ache, body pain and the list went on almost endlessly until I finally realized something.

“NOTHING is wrong,” I shrieked out with delight. “I’m feeling great!”

For the first time in years, I had no aches, pains, headaches, not even my allergies were acting up.  As a matter of fact, I was feeling darned fabulous.  So, what was my problem?  Why did I think I was feeling so poorly?  The answer was simple.  I wasn’t used to feeling no pain, angst, anxiety or even allergies.  I was used to feeling miserable in one way or another.  Feeling wonderful was a foreign feeling to me so, I thought something was wrong with me.  How sad is that?

Our reality, our happiness, is what we allow ourselves to become used to feeling.  If we feel miserable 90% of the time, the feeling of being miserable is what we’ve become used to and therefore, anything outside of that misery, feels foreign to us.  We measure our wellbeing and happiness, according to how we usually feel and want to get back to that familiar feeling even if we hate it.  It’s what’s familiar to us.  It’s what we see as our “normal” in spite of our blood pressure being through the roof or our stomach in knots almost every day, if not every day.  That’s our gauge.

In my last segment on happiness, I requested that you take note of the thoughts that ran through your head for a couple of days and jot some of them down.  If you weren’t able to do that yet, stop reading here and do it then, come back and continue reading.  It will help you to see where we tend to go wrong in our days with our thinking patterns.  Remember that our thoughts can create our emotions so, if we change our thoughts, we can change our emotions.

I journaled my thoughts over the past couple of days.  My thoughts went something like this:

  • The cat threw up 3 times in one week. She must have a stomach tumour. She’s going to die.
  • I have 3 doctor’s appointments in one day coming up.  How could I be so stupid to book in all of those appointments in one day?  I’m not going to get to them all.  Traffic will be bad and if it’s not, how am I going to fill in the time between appointments?  I’m not going to get through this day.  I’ll be exhausted.
  • The vacuum just quit.  Now, I’m going to have to buy a new vacuum and I can’t afford it.  In the meantime, my allergies are going to go nuts with all of this fur and dander.  I’m going to feel like I have a cold 24/7.  I’m sure getting this fixed will cost as much as a new vacuum.  I’m sunk.
  • My brother is in trouble, mentally, emotionally and physically but, my sister-in-law  doesn’t like me.  I have no money to give him and he won’t call me to talk or come to see me.  I can’t help my brother and he’s going to end up in a psychiatric facility or a hospital.
  • It’s been over a year since I last saw or talked to my daughter.  She’s taken off with a drug-riddled, demented jerk and I will never see her again.  I’m cutting her out of my Will.  I never should have had a child.  I shouldn’t have put all of my energy into raising her to make her happy.  Now I have nothing to show for all of those years.  I’ve wasted 34 years of my life.

That’s only a few of my thoughts these past few days.  Can you spot a pattern in my thinking?  Does your stomach sink while reading my thoughts?  Aren’t those thoughts alone, enough to have you wanting to curl up into a ball even if this is my life, not yours?

In practically all of my thoughts, I can see a pattern that emerges and know that I do it to myself.  I can see that most of my thoughts are not only negative but, they’re catastrophic thoughts and they are fortune-telling with a doom and gloom or worst case scenario style ending.  Instead of simply recognizing that the cat threw up 3 times in the week and assessing her other daily habits (eating, playing, purring etc.), I leapt to the conclusion that she had a tumour and was dying.  In actual fact, she threw up a hairball a day or 2 later.  Rather than seeing that my brother and my daughter’s choices were not within my power to rectify unless they wanted me to help them (which I would gladly do), I jumped to some pretty horrific conclusions about them both.  As for my vacuum, my neighbour had an extra vacuum which she gave to me the next day and can keep until I can afford another one.  The 3 doctor’s appointments in one day, I’ve yet to experience but, I’m sure that I will get through them even if I see it as the world about to cave in on me.  None of them are life threatening appointments and are, for all intents and purposes, preventative rather than appointments that need to go to but, I can’t and won’t cancel them. I simply know now that I should check my planner and space these things a little better in the future.  Lesson learned and there’s nothing catastrophic about going to have a coffee in between if I’m early for one or another of them.

However, I’m sure that I’m not alone in how I think.  Even if your patterns don’t match mine or, you’re nowhere near as bad as I am with my thinking patterns, we can all learn that our thoughts can have great impact in how we’re feeling at any given time.  Our happiness or, in my case, lack of it, depends upon how we think.  We have power over our thoughts no matter how deeply ingrained they may be.  We can learn how to think differently.

There’s more to being happy than our thinking patterns but, that’s for another entry and it’s coming.  If you haven’t checked your own thinking patterns thus far, give it a try.  Even writing them on a napkin or a scrap piece of paper will suffice.  See if you can find a pattern to your thinking.  Let me know what you find by leaving me a comment.

More to come.  Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happiness Part II: Childhood Making It Easy

Happiness is not an eternal state of bliss or, walking around feeling totally content, singing out loud with a smile plastered on your face 24/7.  It also doesn’t mean that you are never going to feel down, grief, upset, anger or any of the negative emotions one can think of to insert into the equation.  Happiness is complex and yet simple at the same time.  It’s the state in which one feels that for the most part, one has freedom and a sense of control over one’s life even if only for part of your day.

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I remember summer days seeming eternally long and adventuresome as a child.  Every morning that I opened my eyes was a chance for something wonderful to happen, something magical.  I’d leap out of bed with both eagerness and joy to begin my day. I loved to play out in the sun or making blanket forts, climbing my grandparent’s tree or just laying back in the grass, looking up at the clouds, creating pictures in my mind as to what shapes they formed.  I also took pleasure in eating ice-cold popsicles from the freezer, ice cream cones or tumbling down a hill and the feeling of freedom as I rolled and rolled, seemingly endlessly.  Winter snowball fights were filled with laughs and giggles, unless one struck me on the face and hurt, in which case, I’d run into the house, crying until Mommy told me it was alright and back outside I went to play again.  Jumping in puddles, building snow forts, playing in mud and making mud-pies, splashing in water, letting waves at the beach wash up over my legs and back while I constructed sand castles.  Just about everything I did, made me feel happy back then.

Children have the easiest time being happy and feeling happy.  Part of that reason for that is that they don’t yet have the understanding that things can go wrong in life.  The other part of that reasoning is that children don’t yet have many responsibilities nor, the understanding of what it’s like to have to make decisions which can oftentimes, have serious consequences for themselves and, or others.

Have you ever noticed a child, playing with toys or, frolicking in water, carefree and seemingly amused by simple things in life?  The joy and even concentration that the child shows while participating in such activities can make an adult wonder, “what went wrong with me?  Why am I not happy like that with things anymore?”  The answer, of course, is that we grew up and have had to face the reality of both advanced abilities to think as well as responsibilities that have mounted onto our shoulders.  When was the last time that you saw a child, sitting, pensively worrying about how to pay bills, keep a roof over their heads, food on the table or clothes on their backs?  While we may see a younger person ask questions like, “what’s happening with Grandma?  Is she going to be able to play later on?” we rarely see them worry about it much beyond whatever answers we choose to give to them.  Answers like, “no, Grandma is sick…very sick.  She’s going to Heaven and won’t be here with us anymore soon,” will conjure up perhaps, a sad, curious look on the child’s face and maybe some tears but, neither that look nor the crying  will last long.  For the most part, the child will fairly quickly go back to playing or whatever they were doing previous to asking their question.  Once again, they feel either contented in doing what they are doing or, go back to singing and playing, seemingly happily.  They don’t know enough or haven’t yet trained their minds to worry, fear, feel or understand loss, responsibilities or imagine the consequences of their actions or choices much beyond the idea of “if I don’t go to bed or brush my teeth, Mommy/Daddy will be mad at me.”

As adults, we’ve learned that every choice and decision that we make, has a consequence attached.  Furthermore, we’ve learned that we have responsibilities towards not only ourselves but, to others in this world as well.  One way or another, we are no longer the centre of our universe and there’s no one else who is going to shoulder those choices, responsibilities etc., for us.  That’s where fear comes into play especially, when we doubt ourselves.  We also fear that others will dislike or even hate us if we don’t live up to either their expectations or our own.

A child will feel loved for the most part.  He/she will have faith that someone, somewhere, somehow, loves them for who they are, as they are.  Whether that be Mommy and Daddy or Mommy and Mommy or Daddy and Daddy, a child usually feels loved.  Feeling loved is an important part of feeling happy.  Whether Grandma goes to Heaven or not, is of not much importance as long as Mommy and Daddy love him/her and will be there for him/her.  That’s what’s lacking in most adults.  We don’t feel certain of love nor, our worthiness of being loved.  We tend to doubt it within ourselves to some level or another and that’s where we get into trouble.  We start depending upon other people to mirror back to us what they are feeling towards us in order to know one way or another.  We stop simply feeling worthy of being loved and start relying upon others to let us know if we are worthy of love or not.

In Part I, I mention that relying upon other people or possessions to make us feel happy, is a potential disaster, waiting to happen because at any given time, it can all be taken away from us or, simply disappear and leave us without that safety net or reassurance.  Everything can become an unhealthy dependency.  That’s not to say that we shouldn’t love other people or be able to rely upon them.  Not at all.  What it is saying is that when we base our happiness solely upon other people and our possessions, we are setting ourselves up for a great likelihood of some or all of that being removed from our lives and therefore, we can be left feeling uncertain, helpless, hopeless, far less than worthy as well as unhappy.  In this type of scenario, where we base all of our happiness on other people and, or possessions, we are handing over our own power of being happy to others or things.  We are giving it away but, we need to hold some of that within ourselves and for our own wellbeing.  Happiness comes from within, not others or things.

Back to our child scenario.  As children, we have to depend upon others for our wellbeing.  We cannot cook, do our laundry or tell ourselves what’s dangerous for us to be doing or not doing.  We do have to rely upon others for those types of things as we don’t know enough to be able to function on our own.  Our teddy bears or dolls or blankets that we carry around have become “security” items as well for us and soothe us.  We rely upon possessions for our happiness as well.  There is no choice in the matter but, we don’t know the difference yet.  We don’t know that these things can be taken away from us or us, from them.  We rely upon faith and lack of knowledge that they can leave or be taken away.  Childhood is a magical time where though we have fears, cry, become frustrated, irritated, angry etc., for the most part, we are happy.

How do we find happiness again as adults?  Can it exist?  Is it possible?

Part III coming up soon.

 

 

 

Why You Can’t Ignore Other People’s Thinking Or Feelings Without Consequence

I recently read what one could call an “inspirational” book that had an entire chapter dedicated towards the idea of speaking one’s mind in a non-confrontational way but, getting what one wants.  Within a few hours of finishing that chapter in the book, I was told about a video that contained a similar type of message but, expanded to include the idea that one should only hang around those who have the same ideals and lifestyle that you have.

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We’ve had a few large snow falls lately and my neighbour across the street whom I will call “Jane” had called me, upset and grumpy because her next-door neighbour has been outside with a loud snow blower at 6:30 a.m., clearing his snow from his property almost every morning.  The noise awoke Jane of course and her late shift working husband.  This happened three days in a row and, she was about to lose her cool with this man’s early morning work habits.

The snow blowing wasn’t the only thing this man had been doing early mornings though to get her to this point of frustration.  Summer or warmer days included 6 and 7 a.m. lawn mowing, electric hedge trimming and, a radio, hung in his garage full volume which acted like a megaphone blaring out onto the entire street from 6 or 7 a.m. until roughly noon when his work day was over and everyone was up.  He’d then, take a nap.

I thought about this scenario carefully and thoroughly.

Jane has a back issue and pain in spite of chiropractic care, heavy medications and physiotherapy, often keeps her awake most of the night.  It is often 4 or 5 a.m. before she can simply fall into a bit of a peaceful sleep.  Her husband tries to sleep during the mornings and into early afternoons.  Jane was not only in pain and getting depressed through lack of sleep but, her husband wasn’t getting his much needed sleep either.  Both of them were upset, angry and frustrated with the situation as well as one another. Even I have to admit that this man’s early electronic work habits were also being heard across the street and upsetting myself as well as other neighbours who also aren’t early risers either.  One neighbour has a baby who wasn’t sleeping through the night and needed her sleep when baby slept.  In short, it has been annoying everyone around the neighbourhood.

The video maker that I watched, had endorsed the idea of speaking one’s mind.  He  advocated that people not care what others thought yet, was “hurt” by someone else who felt that what the video maker was doing, was unfair to him as it disrupted his sleep far too early in the morning.  A commenter on this video, had brought up a few good points.  He/she had asked why the video maker was hurt by the fact that someone else had done exactly what the video maker was advocating people do by speaking their mind.  It hit me that the video maker was being unfair in expecting that there should be allowances for the endeavours they were setting out to do.

In my neighbour’s case, the man who was out there making loud noises at 6 and 7 a.m., that was a normal time for him to be out there, working.  He goes to bed at 9:30 or 10 p.m. and he rises at 5 a.m..  For him, 6 or 7 a.m. wasn’t early and he’s retired so, his time is his time.  He can do what he wants, when he wants for the most part.  Like the video maker had pointed out to him by his neighbour, the neighbour in my area didn’t take into consideration that he was not only breaking noise by-laws but, he didn’t take into consideration what everyone else living around him might think or feel.  He was doing as he pleased, as was the video maker in this case.  Truth was, by someone ignoring other people’s possible situations and doing what they wanted, when they wanted, these people were opening themselves up to other individual’s potential anger and the likely hurtful words and actions or reactions that will most likely ensue.

While in theory, it’s all well and good to say “do your own thing, how you want, when you want and not worry about other people or what they have to say,” unless you are living in a cave in the desert with no one else around you, you have to take other people and their circumstances into consideration as well, not just your own.  Not only had the video maker not taken this into consideration but, the neighbour in my case wasn’t doing that either.  As a matter of fact, the video maker had advocated standing his ground and continuing to do what he was doing at 7 and 8 a.m. no matter what effect it was having on his neighbour. Yet, he was talking about feeling hurt by his neighbour’s words while telling viewers to rise above someone else’s circumstances by changing how to think about it all and continuing to do it as wanted.  Wrong idea because I know what happened when the person on my street continued to ignore other people’s feelings, doing what he wanted, when he wanted.  It wasn’t pretty, kind or nice.

First of all, no…you don’t need to bow down to everyone and take their flack or put up with everything that they do and, yes…it is more desirable to just stay out of their way and be with people who don’t annoy you but, that’s not always possible to do.  We have to live next to these people and we have to sometimes, work with these people.  Most of us aren’t retired or living isolated from others.  Nor, is that desirable to do.  We need other people and we do live (most of us) in communities where we will have others to consider in a reasonable manner as to what we do, how we do it and when.  As a matter of fact, the video maker, contradicted themselves in several parts by saying the exact opposites of what was being preached in that video then, telling viewers how to mentally get out of that situation.  How about just stop doing it your way and compromising?  Did that not cross the video maker’s mind?  Apparently not.  It seems that the video maker wanted to do things his way and convert other people to his lifestyle or way of doing things.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch here, (not literally a ranch) it took a group of us to go and speak to this early bird neighbour and let him know that others are not as early a riser as he is and his work habits were ignoring everyone else’s rights to sleep later than him and that we all had reasons why we weren’t up at 5 a.m., ready to hear his snow blower, lawn mower, hedge trimmer or radio blaring by 6 or 7 a.m..  Since he was retired, we asked, could he not do this type of work and leave the radio off until at least 9 or 10 a.m., a more reasonable time for loud equipment, doing something else quiet, instead?  We met with resistance when he declared that it was his wish to get that done when he wanted to do it.  We tried citing the by-laws on the noise factor but that we didn’t wish to call city officials or police but, if he persisted, we’d have no choice but to do so.  What became clear was that he really and truly didn’t care.  He wanted it his way, on his time frame and nothing we said, no explanation was going to change that with him.  This is exactly what the video maker was saying as well about their own choices and yet, couldn’t understand why he had “hurt feelings”.

We still haven’t solved our own issue but, one thing does stand out.  When others don’t care about anyone else but themselves, their own wants and needs and, doesn’t take others into consideration, that’s a recipe for not only disaster but, likely hurt feelings as others shun and get angry.  It’s akin to the 2 year old who is told over and over again to stop jumping on the couch and getting a smack on the bottom or time out because the child persists in doing what he/she wants.  It’s going to happen.  One cannot simply change their thinking to suit what they want to do.  We have to take other’s feelings into consideration to some degree or another in a lot of instances.

One need not become a doormat, always thinking about what others will think or do if we do what we wish to do but, we also can’t simply ignore other’s rights by changing our thinking so that we can continue upsetting others and do what we want.  There’s got to be a balance somewhere and, unless we’re dealing with a difficult person who simply wants to control everything and everyone, we owe it to both ourselves and others to think twice about what we’re doing and how we can change that somehow to compromise to a suitable degree.  One cannot be selfish and expect not to have hurt feelings nor, can one always move away from those who bug us or don’t live as we do as the video maker would have us believe.  That’s narcissism from my perspective in my little corner of life.

Love, Light and Blessings.