As a therapist working with clients on a daily basis I listen to many stories of sadness, depression, negative feelings, fear, pain, guilt etc. One of the questions I always ask is "so, now that you have told me all that - what do you want?" This question is often met with complete surprise.
These individuals, like so many others, have learnt not to expect anything, not to want anything, not to desire anything. This is often because they have learned not to let themselves want what they don't think they can have. In order to be "realistic" or even in some cases to be a "good person" they have resigned themselves to just accept what is and just get on with it. They believe that life just happens to them and that they have no power to change this.
If you never set goals or if you never have dreams then how can they ever come true? It's ok to want things - it's ok to expect things - it's ok to set goals.
What brings a smile to your face when you think about it?
Remember - focus on what you want not what you don't want - this is my golden rule.
The following is a story which I love and which has a great deal of meaning. I hope you enjoy it and find the meaning for you:
A Room in Heaven
One day a human went to heaven in the way that humans often do.
On arrival, the human was greeted by a host of angels and given a tour of all heaven's wonders. Over the course of the tour, the human noticed that there was one room the angels quickly glided past each time they approached.
What's in that room? the human asked.
The angels looked at each other as if they'd been dreading that question. Finally, one of them stepped forward and said kindly, "we're not allowed to keep you out, but please believe us - you don't want to go in there."
The human's mind raced at the thought of what might be contained in that room. What could be so horrible that all the angels of heaven would want to hide it away? the human knew that one should probably take the angels at their word, but found it very hard to resist temptation. "After all", the human thought, "I'm only human".
Slowly walking towards the room, the human was filled with dread and wonder at what horrors might about to be revealed.
But in fact, the room was filled with the most wonderful things imaginable: a beautiful home; nice things; great wisdom; a happy family; loving friends; and riches beyond measure.
Eyes wide, the human turned back to the angels. "But why didn't you want me to come in here?" This room is filled with the most amazing things I've ever seen!"
The angels looked at each other sadly, then back to the human"These are all the things you were meant to have while you were on earth, but you never believed you could have them."
(Taken from "You Can Have What You Want" by Michael Neill)
There is an old story of a boilermaker who was hired to fix a huge steamship boiler system that was not working well.
Numerous people had been brought in previously to mend the system but they had all failed to find a solution.
After listening to the owner's description of the problems and asking a few questions, this latest boilermaker went to the boiler room. He looked at the maze of twisting pipes, listened to the thump of the boiler and the hiss of the escaping steam for a few minutes, and felt some pipes with his hands. Then he hummed softly to himself, reached into his overalls and took out a small hammer, and tapped a bright red valve once. Immediately, the entire system began working perfectly, and the boilermaker went home.
When the steamship owner received a bill for one thousand dollars, he became outraged and complained that the boilermaker had only been in the engine room for fifteen minutes and requested an itemized bill. So the boilermaker sent him a bill that reads as follows:
For tapping the valve: $.50
For knowing where to tap: $999.50
Point-to-remember: Lots of folks can & do “tap the valve” – very few know precisely where to tap & why. Be that tapper.
I love that little story!
Getting to the real root cause of a problem is so very important since otherwise we cannot really mend something. Sometimes we can do a “bodge job” and tinker about with what we can see but this will only produce temporary results rather than a permanent change.
I thought I would share a real life story from my own therapeutic practice to give you some idea of what I mean.
Linda (name changed) came to me with a fear of driving – at least that is what she said she needed help with.
I asked her some questions and discovered that she had seen numerous therapists, some offering the exact same therapies as myself. Nothing she had done had worked so far. She was getting desperate and told me that I was her last hope of finding an answer.
I listened to her as she discussed how her fear of driving affected her and how sad she felt. As I continued to listen I realised that her problem was not actually a fear of driving at all! All the other practitioners had taken her word for it that this was the issue and they had all followed that path to the root cause. My intuition told me that this was not a fear of driving but rather a fear of damaging something that was extremely precious to her. I asked her the following question:
“Have you ever had something which was very precious to you and it was damaged in some way?”
Linda went quiet for a little while as her mind processed this. Suddenly her entire face screwed up and her body shook as she became overwhelmed with emotion and large tears fell down her cheeks. “My dolly.....my poor little dolly (Linda was at this point in her 60’S)....I loved my little dolly so very much”.
Linda continued to cry softly as she recounted the story of her beloved dolly. Linda it turned out was one of 13 children and had been brought up in poverty. Every year around October time her dolly would “disappear” and then on Christmas Day she would reappear dressed in new clothes and looking all clean and shiny. This went on for years. Clearly her parents were doing the best they could with their limited resources.
One year however, the dolly did not return on Christmas Day and Linda was heartbroken but was told not to be so silly she was too grown up now for a dolly. Imagine her heartbreak then when a few days later she went for a walk and saw her dolly thrown carelessly in another child’s garden with its head ripped off and without any clothes. It seems her mother had given the doll away to another child who had clearly not valued it. Linda had never got over the pain of seeing something which meant so much to her, something she loved dearly, being destroyed in that manner.
It was this memory which had prevented her from being relaxed whilst driving her car. Linda had not learned to drive until much later in life and this was the first time she had been able to afford a car – it was very precious to her indeed. Every time she tried to drive anywhere the fear of damaging the vehicle was so great that she simply couldn’t drive! She was protecting her valued possession.
Needless to say it was the event in childhood which we worked on in therapy.
Linda left the clinic that day and phoned within a couple of hours to say she had been out driving and everything was great. She loved her new found freedom.
Once again, as in the boiler story above, it’s so very important whilst working therapeutically to “know where to tap”!
Help – I love my job, I worked hard to get here but the people I have to work with are so negative they are making my life a misery. I just wish it would stop. I cannot be happy until all this changes.
What can I do?
Well - it is up to you to choose happiness now.
Other people cannot make your life a misery unless you choose to let them. You cannot change them. We can never change another person by demanding or reasoning or asking or being angry or hurt or anything negative. The only way we can change another is by first changing ourselves. So, before you start looking through the job vacancies (especially since you love this job) why not give the following ideas a go? It takes around 21 days to form a new habit so just for good measure try them for a full 30 days (properly and fully!) and then ask yourself what’s changed? I firmly and absolutely believe that if you make the happiness choice now and act accordingly you will notice a difference.
You are currently buying into the myth of “I’ll be happy when…..” In your case I’ll be happy when I have a better set of working companions. For other people it’s “I will be happy when …I have a new car…..win the lottery…..get a new partner ….lose a stone.....get a new hairstyle.......oh the list is endless!
This way of being is putting your happiness out in the future and making it dependent on an external set of circumstances. How would it be if you just decided to be happy NOW? Happiness is yours to have just as much as the air we breathe. You do not have to wait until the perfect moment to breathe and nor do you have to wait to be happy. Remember Happiness is an inside job. If you could just decide to be happy first then everything else would fall into place. Oh yes I know – you are going to say that is easy to say and less than easy to do! But what have you to lose?
So first – make the choice.
Next – remember that what you focus upon increases. If you have spent hours and hours worrying about work and the negative mood of your colleagues then you are giving attention to the negative and this particular problem will grow. Whatever we focus on with thoughts and feelings expands. I am not suggesting that you ignore important issues but I am suggesting that you choose to stop worrying about them. The statement: “you get what you focus on whether you want it or not” is one which I often use in therapy. Think about it. How many people do you know for example, who talk about ill health all the time? Guess what? The more they talk about it the more they experience it!
Put your focus on the good things about your job (and the rest of your life!) and watch them expand. Put your focus on how you would like your relationships at work to be. Imagine what it could be like (positively) – remember the mind cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is creatively imagined. If you imagine it to be great then your mind will do all it can to find evidence to support this. Whenever you catch yourself focussing on the negative colleagues, or that which you no longer want, just switch your thoughts to the new ones. This takes practice but once again by the end of 30 days you will be doing this on auto pilot.
My next suggestion is that you act with an attitude of gratitude. Start to notice everything about your life and work which is good and which you can be grateful for. Let’s face it – you do have a job. You are able to work. You live in a country which is not war torn or in the middle of a drought or any other serious problem. You are able to get to work so you have transport of some kind. You have the ability to write this letter so be grateful for those skills. Etc etc. Now, if you put this idea with the previous idea i.e. what you focus on expands then what do you think will happen? Yes! You are right. The things which you have to be grateful for will expand.
These are just a few suggestions for you to start with. Since as human beings we like what is familiar you may find yourself getting on with these strategies and being happy but then suddenly find that you cannot be bothered any more. When you get this feeling rejoice! It means that what you are doing is working and your nervous system is trying to pull you back to the old way of being (you may have noticed this if you have ever tried to diet or exercise – that just when you get to notice a change for the better you start to slip back and not have any motivation). This is the point when you must keep going until your mind accepts the new behaviours as familiar behaviours.
Happiness is difficult to hang on to and difficult to define. But for Lesley Broadhead, helping people shake off negativity has become her career. Deborah Johnson finds out what being happy really means.