Be honest, how much does the way other people behave affect your mood? Your nearest and dearest, your boss, your work colleagues, the guy who served you at the coffee bar?
As humans we have become accustomed to putting others in the driving seat when it comes to how good we feel. In our relationships at home especially, but also at work, how others are being can affect you greatly if you believe you’re not always in control of your own experience.
I heard a great story this week about a couple who had been married a long time, and their grown up son was distressed because his father had Alzheimer’s and he couldn’t bear to see what it was doing to his mother. He was asking a great spiritual master why this had happened and what he could do about it. Alzheimer’s, he was told, is just a form of withdrawing from this physical life.
When someone has Alzheimer’s they initially have difficulty remembering recent events but, as the disease progresses, they sort of recede through time and stop recognizing those closest to them. I recall my great uncle being heartbroken as his wife no longer knew him, speaking only of those in her childhood.
The spiritual master told this man that his father had really deployed a rather clever way of getting his wife, who he had sensed was rather dependent on him for her happiness, used to him not being there. Now none of this happened at a conscious level, it wasn’t as though this man had flicked through the pages of a medical journal, chosen a disease and whamo, there it was.
It never is that way, we desire something (or fear something in which case the desire for the opposite is born), the universe responds. Hence the saying ‘be careful what you wish for’ because we don't get to dictate how it will come about or who is involved. This man or his wife had certainly had strong feelings for each other and a concern that his passing would cause her great unhappiness.
His mother, who was used to being in the driving seat, was struggling because the person she had known was no longer there. The son was lovingly reminded he could not change any of the circumstances, he couldn’t charge in on a white horse and fix this, he could acknowledge that his father was withdrawing from this life and honor his path, he could encourage his mother to look beyond the life that had been hers, and start to see the things in it now that were worth appreciating. Her strength was not in his father, her strength was in herself, as was her happiness.
Whether it's a loved one with an actual form of dementia, or simply an outstanding task that they promised to do (6 months ago), understand that, good or bad, we bring these situations into our life; not by prescription but by our strong desire (or worry).
When you also realise that feeling good is both entirely within your gift and absolutely necessary in order to go with the flow of our life, you can start to practice getting into the drivers seat of your own life experience.
It’s the minority who both understand and live like this because we’ve become a society dependent on others for our happiness. Despite being born with a joy and happiness that is indiscriminate, we soon receive messages that we can't rely upon our own knowing and intuition, we must rely on others, and so it is that we start to outsource our wellbeing.
Rather than letting the joy flow we unknowingly train our children into thoughts that really just create resistance to the good things coming into their lives. Most of us act mainly from a point of fear, letting our minds run away with the "what if..." scenarios. Many believe they are their mind, rather than it being a tool for creating.
Each day as you go about your routine, watch out for the thoughts you have that attribute how you're feeling to others. I know I do it all the time, with my partner, my children, the lady at the cash desk, the man in the car behind, the list is endless. Now though, I catch myself and think, "that’s interesting, what does that interaction reflect back about me and what I’m feeling?”.
Remember it’s all interconnected. Most of your thoughts every day are repeated, rote repetitions based on past experiences, and because you keep replaying them you keep attracting the same experiences which further entrenches your beliefs. A belief after all is just a thought repeated again and again. It’s based on those thoughts that you take action and it's that action that determines your feelings, and thus your experiences.
If you’re just letting it all happen unconsciously and not taking responsibility for your own feelings, you are missing out on your best life. You can be in the driving seat. It’s not that you will never experience challenges, because challenges remind us of what we don’t want, and in that the desire for something new is born.
In time, as you become more conscious of your own thoughts, and your own feelings, your experience of challenges changes because your perspective changes. You will take a helicopter ride and look at your life from a broader perspective and wonder what dots this experience will connect to later on, trusting it will bring about exactly what you intended – whether deliberate or not.
Your feelings are what attracts your experiences, if you refuse to feel bad, you will start to attract more and more of the things you do want into your life. We know “it’s not what happens it’s how we respond”, yet in our darker moments we reject it, wallowing instead in a pool of powerlessness brought about by our own narrow perspective.
What happens if you have someone depending on you for their happiness? People who attribute how they are feeling to you? While you can take on an attitude of “I’m not responsible for how you feel, you are”, you really just have to be the example. The truth is, if you have someone like that in your life, it’s probably a reflection of your own beliefs.
Stand up and take charge of your own life. The sooner you do, the more you will notice others around you stop depending on you for their happiness because you can’t attract what you're not projecting. There is much out there to help you with the 'how' of all of this, aside of my own articles there are libraries full of wisdom on this topic, go with something that resonates for you.
Make it your mission to take charge of feeling good for yourself. Whatever you desire in life it starts with feeling good about who you are and what you have in your life now. You are not responsible for the details of how it happens or who is involved.
Take the example of the man whose father had Alzheimer's. His mother wished for the father to be well again so that she could be happy, but really, her wish was to be happy. Yes, once upon a time that happiness had come about because of the times she shared with her husband, but if her desire for happiness is the predominant feeling, she would start to attract many other situations into her life that would also give her happiness.
‘Who’ is not important, other than you. You can start to feel good about who you are right now. Over time, if you practice that, you will find more peace, more joy, more harmony and, as you look back, be amazed at how your life has changed.
This article was initially published on LinkedIn.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/27526538@N07/9240212796">Ojas' First Shoot</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>
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