Recently I’ve found myself focusing on the wrong things – what is not going well instead of what is. To me, this is the wrong thing to focus on because it becomes what I see – once it’s front of mind it morphs into the lens I look at everything through. I don’t think I’m unique or unusual, I’m betting more people than not have similar experiences.
But it’s SO easy to fall into this trap. It often starts with a “vent” to someone, or listening to someone else and then commiserating. Gradually, so slowly I don’t think many of us even know it’s happening, it becomes the centerpiece of our conversations. We’re sharing what is going wrong, how f’d up the world is and how we can’t seem to get ahead. And it feels like things continue to stack up against us. Does any of this sound familiar?
You can break this cycle. I’m not saying bad stuff will never happen to you, sadly this is part of life. But you can control the narrative. You can control what you focus on, and what you share with others. I’m certainly not suggesting you don’t ask for help when it’s required. Rather this – if you find yourself wanting to “vent”, ask yourself if there is anything constructive. It may be you need to share to process what you’re feeling and put it to bed; then do so.
But don’t fixate on it. Instead, think of at least (3) other, positive, things happening in your life – and share those as well. This will start to break the cycle, and open your eyes to all the amazing and good things in your life. And we all have them – no matter how dark things may appear.
It’s hard to get perspective when you’re living through tragedy or stress. Having a family member with a disability can be overwhelming; as can other situations like caring for a sick relative, looking for a new job, etc. But there are always opportunities to give thanks and acknowledge what is going right. There is a Cherokee parable about 2 wolves – I think it’s the best analogy for what I’m trying to convey. You can find the parable here.
It’s addicting to “vent”, share your problems with others. But when you’re not solving them you may be giving them power over you. Allowing them to control how you feel, casting yourself into a feeling of sadness or hopelessness. Break the cycle by starting to share what is going well. Even if the only thing you can think of is you woke up (this was my starting point after my wife died). Eventually, you’ll be happier and it will become almost second nature to focus on the positives rather than the negatives.
Keep working on it. I have let my guard down, and slipped into old (bad) habits. But now I’m aware, and I can (and will) do something about it. So can you. You deserve happiness, but it’s on you to allow yourself to feel it.