I’ve been working hard lately at observing my thoughts and choosing to change the stories that I tell myself about my life and the things that happen to me. It’s making my entire experience of life radically different as I begin to see myself and the world around me with new—and much more positive—eyes.
As I’ve continued to observe my thoughts, however, I’ve begun to notice that I tend to default to asking “Why?” about the things that happen to me in life. I can spend many hours careful analyzing (and over-analyzing) why a situation turns out the way it did, why someone responded to me the way that they did, why I feel the way I do about something, why did what I did or said what I said in some situation. I do this about events, situations, feelings, or responses I don’t like—and about those that I do.
“The biggest disease of the mind is over-thinking, especially too much thinking about others. Thinking too much is like eating too much. The heaviness makes it impossible to remain light and flexible.” ~Unknown
I’ve had several conversations recently about over-thinking with a friend who is a self-proclaimed over-thinker, so the topic has been on my mind. There’s something about watching the impact that over-thinking is having on my friend that is making me more aware of just how much of an impact this tendency has on me. It’s not pretty.
“It is tempting to think that in order to change our experience of our world we need to force others to change. Such thinking is an abdication of our power to change ourselves.” ~Michael Lee (Founder, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy)
I’ve spent so much of life trying to force others to change in order for my experience of my own world to change. I have many years worth of experience to show that this approach does not work. As I have worked on my co-dependency issues, I’ve gradually been letting go of this pattern in the attempt to replace unhelpful and unproductive patterns with new ones that actually work.
Even as I’ve worked on releasing this pattern, though, I’ve never thought of it as an abdication of my power to change myself; I’ve only focused on the fact that it isn’t working for me. But the moment I read this quote, I recognized it as the truth. If I think someone else needs to change in any way in order for my life to change, then I am giving up my power to change myself. I am making the other person more powerful than I am in my own life.
My mood generally tends to be relatively stable. I have my ups and downs, but the gap between the highs and lows (as least as far as is obvious to others) is generally fairly narrow. When I do hit a low point, it’s almost always of a more depressive nature; I become even quieter than usual and just overall blue and pessimistic.
I very seldom become truly angry. When I do, it is in response to a specific situation or event, and it usually burns itself out fairly quickly. I confess that I do complain rather more often than that but true anger is rare.
I remember as a child believing that adults knew everything. I looked forward to the day when I could be an adult and know everything too.
But you know, it didn’t quite work out that way. Yes, I did go through that teenage period of thinking I knew more than I really did (didn’t we all?). Yet even then, I often felt like I was faking it. Somehow I’d missed something, and I didn’t quite know everything yet.
Then I really became an adult—out of school, with a job and a home of my own—and I became even more convinced that I had missed something along the way. Oh, by then I realized that no one ever knew everything there was to know, but I did think that part of being an adult involved knowing how to deal with the troubles life throws our way, being able to handle life’s curve balls with wisdom, grace, and aplomb. I thought I’d have all of the basic tools I needed to navigate my way through life by then.
“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.” ~Goethe
As I’ve traveled along this journey of transformation, I’ve increasingly come to realize just how little control I have over so much in life that I have spent so much time and effort trying to control. At the very same time, I’ve also realized that I have so much more control other areas than I had ever realized or tried to make use of.
“Self-care is never a selfish act—it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others.” ~Parker Palmer
I had an aha moment about self-care earlier this week. I was talking to a friend about the idea of having the commitment to do what needs to be done in a relationship or a situation to take care of someone who is depending on us. I was having a hard time relating to this because I don’t have anyone that depends on me for anything.
However, as we talked further, I realized that I depend on me. I am also the only one I have right now to depend on in that way. (This is not to disparage my friends, who are a wonderful support and a great help! It’s just an acknowledgment that I don’t have anyone in the kind of relationship that I can depend on in the way that we were discussing at that moment—a significant other or biological relative that would have a deeper obligation than friendship would entail.)
So if I am depending on me, how well do I do in doing what must be done for my own support?