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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Companions That Shape Your Life


John (not his real name, all names in this article have been changed) was recently told he has a tumor. Malignant or benign, he will not know for about three weeks, after a series of tests and the results that they offer. Marguerite was taking her husband’s suits to the cleaners and found a hand-written note – not his handwriting - in the breast pocket of one of the jackets: Your love makes life worth living. Matthew and Lily have just been notified by their bank that unless they pay the overdue mortgage on their home, it will be repossessed by the end of the month. Jennifer had a call from the police this morning. Her son David is in jail for possession of cocaine. Michael got fired yesterday. And William was robbed. Burglars broke into his home while he was away on a brief trip and managed to open the safe where he had six months’ worth of emergency funds and his wife’s jewellery. None of it was insured. Finally, Mariel, a horse trainer, had a car accident, and not only is her car totaled, but because of injuries she sustained, she can not work for at least six weeks and her job only allows her six sick days per annum.

When Life Gets Hard

Such a list of bad luck and hard situations doesn’t exactly make for fun reading. But here is why this is the subject of today’s article: when life serves up the hard bits, the companions we have chosen up to that point in our lives, will shape – at least in part – the manner in which we are able to deal with the problems. They will sustain us and they will help us get through that dark forest to the clearing on the other side. Or not.

Habitual Companions

Here are some of the companions we habitually choose – we spend our precious time with these companions - and because they are habitual, and because we generally choose them long before any of the hard bits in our lives have appeared, they impact our thoughts and behavior in ways that are detrimental instead of uplifting when the more difficult times show up, just as sugar and chemicals in food are detrimental to our bodies and creep up on us until finally one day we realize the body that we have is no longer healthy:
  • Endless television shows that we watch simply because we happened on them, either while channel surfing, or because they were there when we turned on the TV
  • Junk books
  • TV and radio commercials and print advertising, not to mention billboards that encroach on our time and thinking as we drive through the streets (similar to what mindlessly eating sugary treats or salty chips while we watch TV or read, does to our body) 
  • Fashion, gossip, and sports magazines
  • Irate political, sports, and religious commentators on radio or television
  • Conversations consisting to a degree of gossip, or discussion of other people’s lives
  • Conversations consisting to a degree of complaining about something in our lives which we expect the other person to listen to, and vice versa, listening to others complaining about their lives (see also Do Your Relationship Boundaries Contribute to Your Well-Being? )
  • Spending time in thought on endless worrying about problems (see also Controlling Ourselves, Our Lives, and the People in Them)
  • Spending time in thought on endlessly going over and over what someone did to you that you simply can not forgive (see also Can You Forgive?)
  • Spending time in thought about how bored we are, or participating in some of the above activities simply because we are bored (see also Finding a Meaning for Your Life)
  • Socializing with a great amount of alcohol or some other type of substance, meaning that the actual interaction with other individuals is probably not on a level that serves us
  • Socializing with people we are addicted to because of the power they have (see also What Are Your Addictions?) 
  • Shopping until we drop (even if our credit cards are already groaning under a weight of debt)
Nourishment

There’s nothing wrong with all of the above in moderation, but if you were to make a list of all the hours you spend on all of the above activities that apply to you, you might find that when you need another kind of inner back-up, you don’t have it. When life throws us the curve balls, when the floor falls away from under out feet, when unexpected setbacks arrive, frequently what we most have going for us is what we carry around inside with us. What we have nourished ourselves with. Think of a young woman about to get pregnant. It’s logical, we all understand that if she is eating a healthy diet, the body that will become a vessel for the baby will be able to nourish that growing fetus in a much better fashion, than a body that is filling itself with junk food or substances. So it is with us as we prepare ourselves for those moments in life when the going gets rough.

Resilience is required for difficult times. Inner strength is required. Wisdom, trust and faith (not necessarily religious) are required. Belief in yourself is required. Knowing that you can survive will take you a long way. Emulation of others you may admire who have gone through tough times is helpful. Learn about them. Read about them. Be inspired by them. And above all, love yourself (see also Love Yourself First).

Think of this: how much joy have you stored up in your life to get you through difficulties? (see also Do You Dance?) Have you figured out how to live a joyful life no matter what? (See also You are Here to be Happy). How much understanding have you stored? Have you filled yourself with ideas that will see you through? What would you do – inside your head - if you were stranded on a desert island, or if you were placed into solitary confinement? Obviously those things are highly unlikely to happen to the great majority of us. But that – feeling that we are all alone - is how we sometimes feel when we are going through tough times because there is nothing there to sustain us.

Keeping Your Energy High

I’m an inveterate reader and have been ever since I discovered the public library with a spectacular children’s section in the city where I lived in Canada as a child. I took my bicycle there once a week, filled the basket with books and read those books over the course of the week. Evidently most of those books were novels, children’s books, and so on, but I quickly realized that there were certain books or certain pieces of information in some of the books that spoke to me in other ways than the rest. Hence I avidly searched for more of those books or for more books with passages of that nature. They nourished me. As I grew older, I began to acquire books with the goal in mind that I wanted material that nourished me, and then, even at the age of 15, realized that some of those had become faithful companions when life got hard. I was able to find solace in them, greater understanding of how I might continue on, and certainly, they encouraged me in my darker hours.

But it need not be books. It just needs to be a habit – once you understand this process – of finding daily quality nourishment that will sustain you (see also Keeping Your Energy High), because it has served to grow a being (you) that carries inner strength and conviction, a being that knows it can survive, no matter what is thrown at it. Such inner nourishment can come in many guises, but you will know it because of how it raises your inner energy, your inner sense of well-being and helps you grow towards the goal of truly loving yourself. Begin to make the pursuit of such energy-raising nourishment a habit. It will serve you well and lead you closer to inner peace, well-being and freedom.


For more information about being aware, about success and failure and the way your thoughts and feelings about those subjects influence you and what to do about it, about inner well-being, inner growth and joy, see my book Rewiring the Soul: Finding the Possible Self, available at Amazon as paperback or e-book for Kindle. Click here to download the first chapter.

From the Description on Amazon:

Ask anyone, whatever their circumstances, if their life is vibrant, fulfilling, harmonious and happy. An honest reply is likely to be 'no', because to answer a truthful 'yes' is no mean feat. Only to grow psychologically and emotionally is not enough. And only to grow spiritually is not enough either. All three dimensions need to be developed in order to realize your full potential. If you are willing to assume total responsibility for the self and to start what is an on-going journey, you will quickly begin to glimpse the first fruits of the ultimate goal: inner well-being, freedom, peace, harmony and joy. This book sets out the pathway to self-mastery and self-discovery and walking that pathway will be the most exciting adventure of your life.

Rewiring the Soul' provides a user-friendly roadmap for personal transformation. Using conversational style, it guides the reader to an understanding of life's problems and how they can be resolved, deliberately including the reader's connection to his own soul and spiritual growth. Based on common sense and the author's work as an integral psychotherapist as well as lessons gleaned from teaching and personal experiences, all interwoven with current findings from neuroscience, positive psychology, quantum physics and Buddhism, 'Rewiring the Soul' signposts the path to resolving everyday life and its problems while converging with the inner quest for connection with the soul. This process allows life to take on a revolutionary new meaning: resolving personal and interpersonal issues while keeping the inner connection to the soul in mind leads to unprecedented growth that is simply not possible if psycho-emotional matters and spiritual concerns are not combined.

Photo Credit: Sea Cave, Otakamiro Point, Muriwai Beach, New Zealand


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