Choosing to be Positive

We may feel like we are being helpful by preventing our loved ones from struggling, but we are not allowing them to learn how to effectively manage struggle.

To some of us, happiness is useless. Happiness is “easy.” It does not prove that we are “tough,” that we can “take it.” Only suffering can serve as proof. Suffering “proves” that we are stronger than people who “can’t take it.” What kind of people have to “prove” that they can take suffering? People who feel inferior and inadequate to cope with the real demands of life. What kind of people make themselves suffer by sabotaging their success? “Guilty” people. This is how inadequate people “solve” the painful problem of feeling “less than” their fellow human beings. They avoid guilt by showing how much suffering they can endure.

It is helpful here to differentiate between powerlessness and empowerment. To feel powerless is a common human experience because there are some things we obviously have no control over. However, even in situations where we feel such impotence, we can still empower ourself to take positive action and choose a positive direction. Each and every human has a choice in how they respond to suffering.

Suffering is an unavoidable part of life. But we can choose our attitude. We can choose to see the unconditional meaning in all of the suffering we experience. Even in the extremely difficult situations we face, we have the opportunity to grow spiritually, taking difficulties as a test of our inner strength.

We can find inner strength by looking to some future goal, which allows us to rise above the suffering in the moment as if they had already past. Suffering ceases to be suffering the very moment we find meaning in it. There is opportunity in suffering. We have the opportunity to accept the challenges we are faced with, to be proud of our struggles and suffer bravely or cower in pain.

This decision is our responsibility and it arise from how we choose to interpret our suffering. We can choose to find meaning in it, to use our suffering by turning a tragedy into a triumph, by seeing a hopeless situation as a growth experience. Yet, if we choose to obsess and worry about past and future misfortune, we will most certainly create a life filled with discomfort, anxiety, fear, and frustration.

If this way of thinking goes unchecked, it snowballs and we become plagued with negative thoughts and emotions. Eventually there is no room for a natural state of peaceful mind. If, on the other hand, we turn our mind in a different direction, we can create the space for peace to emerge. It is not unlike tending a garden, where we diligently pull the weeds we don’t want and water the plants we wish to grow.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If nature allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles, it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been.

We can begin to manage struggle by giving ourself credit for making successful judgments in the past. We can build on our past successes. Our mind may be quick to criticize our mistakes, but very slow to validate our success. If we cannot acknowledge our own achievements, we often look to others for approval. This means we give control over what is a success, control over our self worth and confidence to other people. When we look to others for approval, they control our confidence. We cannot build on you success and develop confidence. Instead, you can choose to say, “I did that. I got it done and I made it happen.” That is not conceit, it is not “smug self satisfaction.” It is confidence. It is validating our efforts to face struggle and get through it the best we can.

We can remind ourself that imperfect judgment, means making a mistake, which is not the end of the world. We have made many good decisions and have made mistakes before. We are more than the sum of our success and mistakes. Our performance will vary from day to day, hour to hour and we can separate our performance from who we are as humans.

We are not worthless even if we make mistakes. Doing badly never makes us a bad person — only imperfect. We have a right to be wrong. We can separate the rating of our behavior from the rating of ourself. We have put up with disappointments all our life; we can tolerate this one too. Not getting our way is disappointing and inconvenient, which we deal with on a daily basis. In order to achieve pleasant results, we often have to do unpleasant things. Yes, it is a pain to do this now, but it will be much harder if we do it later.

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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