Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It's all how you look at it!

This is the subtitle of our Adventures in Happiness book and it is so appropriate. Anything you experience can be explained in a thousand different ways. And it is up to you to decide which explanation you choose. Some people do not believe they choose the way they look at things, they think certain things are ingrained in our species and cannot be changed. Others believe they have some control over how they think about things, but not everything is up for questioning. Then there are also people like me, people who believe that everything is make-up, and so can be looked at and questioned at any time.

Daily, there are millions of instances that I do things a certain way, because I have been doing them that way forever! Sometimes, it suddenly doesn't give me the results that I expect or want. In these moments I like to experiment by questioning my beliefs and trying something else. These experiences seem to help me make big leaps in my development towards happiness. Here an example:

One of my little playroom friends has found a new way of interacting with others. He found out what babies find out early in live: when you cry things happen! So he cries... Sometimes he cries from the beginning of the playroom session to the end of the session, other moments he is crying from the moment he wants something he doesn’t get, and there are times he even seems to cry to get things done from people not in the room. The challenge with this is that he does not explain to us why he is crying in that instant. We do not know if it has to do with any of the reasons above or that it is because of something totally unrelated.

Yesterday morning halfway the session, this little man started to cry after his dad had come into the room to bring him some breathing medication. I asked him if there was anything I could do for him. He ignored me and started walking through the room while the tears ran freely over his face and his crying sounds came in rhythmic spurts. As I have done in earlier sessions before, I told him in a soft voice that I would go sit in the corner and that when he was ready to talk or interact with me I would be there for him.

I settled myself comfortable in the corner and watched my friend pace through the room. I felt totally comfortable and loving of him. I believed he was taking care of himself and that he knew how to get to me when needed. Every time he walked by his big teary brown eyes would look at me for an instant, and every time he looked a little longer. When he noticed that I didn't change my demeanor and was just enjoying being there with him he started to give me crying hugs and he ended up crying in my lap.

This is when something very interesting happened. He told me with words; "I will stop crying", "I will stop crying". As a mentor I immediately asked myself? Why is it that you tell yourself to stop crying? And so, I asked him: “how come?” He didn't answer. While we were rocking slowly back and forth I told my friend: "you don't have to stop crying for me. I want you to do what feels good for you." He answered me with a long crying "whawhawhawha wha" while looking in my eyes. I told him that I didn't understand what he had said, but that I felt honored that he wanted to share this with me. I also told him: "I love you. We all love you. Your daddy, your mommy, your sister, your playroom friends, we all love you no matter if you are crying or not."

David stayed in my lap and cried for maybe another ten minutes. Then he stopped, climbed out of my lap and started to play a very connected game with me in the playroom. We talked about Ratatouille (I brought in two little toy rats) and the cat that was catching the rats by their tails. The cat (moved by David) would get closer and closer to the rat and I would jell "run, run, the cat is coming"... His shining eyes and his words living proof of how we connected in that instant.

There were other things I explained David during this session at moments he was not crying. I explained him again about him having choices in any situation. The choice to cry or not to cry. The choice to use words or no words. The choice to want to connect with someone or not. The choice to want to explain what is going on for him or not. I told him that I would be in the room for two hours and would love an adore him and I told him who would be in the room after me to love and adore him. I gave his as much information as possible so could make informed decisions about how long he wanted to cry, how long he wanted to skip the bathroom, how long he wanted to play, etcetera.

On my way home I still was enjoying the connection I felt with this wonderful child. And I thought about general beliefs around crying. How would we be different if we would believe at all times that tearing and crying is not bad and has nothing to do with happy or unhappy? What if it is nothing more than a physical response deeply related to beliefs, and so this is the place to embrace the person with an open mind and ask question to help the person become aware of their beliefs?

I also was celebrating the things my friend is learning at this point. To learn that we have choices at all times and that we have the power to decide when we do what, is something that lots of people learn only later in life.

For me, I learned that my happiness does help other people to relate with me. It changes me in an open door through which music happily dances into the outside air. It is enchanting and wonderful for people who are open to hear and see it...


  1. Yes....and it reminds me of an old saying....about the choice...and how people in general respond...ie when we laugh,(choose to be happy,) the whole world laughs with us, when we choose to cry, (bemoan,) generally we cry alone. bw

  2. And the variation on that is: Laugh, and the world laughs with you. Snore, and you sleep alone. :-)

  3. Thanks for the comments guys. I had to laugh loudly about the snoring part! But to get back to the point of this story, wouldn't we all experience the world very differently, if we would be able to embrace whatever comes on our path while maintaining our happiness?

  4. absolutely....a do it to ourself situation bw

  5. Iris: All my life I've heard exhortations like the title of this post, and I bet so have most people. In the vast majority of cases, I think they have as much effect as water on a duck's back. My guess is that people make themselves unhappy because they think they are in mortal danger if they are proven 'wrong' or insulted or lose face, etc. Basically, their I, their projection of themselves, is in a life-or-death situation, and just telling them to change their thinking doesn't work. For me, when with the help of the Option process, I was able to change some of my lifelong beliefs, I came to realize that I am not my beliefs, but the one choosing to hold those beliefs, and therefore unaffected by any 'damage' to them. Now I'm able to be more detached and either choose happiness in the middle of a situation, or look back later and know that I chose an unhappy response instead.

  6. Sree: I had a boss once who told me, "Never confuse selling with doing!"

    I love the way you've phrased the situation. The simple story is that we can change everything simply by changing perspective. However, in the midst of life threatening assault on self, we aren't likely to be receptive to this kind of logic.

    I would suggest that there are two components to communicating this really simple concept:
    1. translating it to something current and real
    2. translating at a time that is not in the midst of crisis

    Perhaps it's best done using Socratic method and without jargon. Simply ask questions about the situation and the person's responses to it. I think the very process is transformative and thereby illustrative of the basic principle, "it's all how you look at it."


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