He assumed the worst

Assuming the best in the face of evidence to the contrary takes practice.  The other day I drove my son and his friends back from the team lunch to their second game of a  soccer tournament at Columbia University in NYC. There was a line to get back on campus because there were no parking spaces left.  We figured that would happen, which is why we all carpooled to lunch and back. The boys needed to collect their gear from various locations where their parents had parked on the campus and get to their next game.  I charmed the guard into letting me drive on campus to do just that, promising I would return and park on the street immediately after I dropped them off.  In the meantime, some father came up to my window all out of breath as I dropped them off. He began to berate me for hijacking a parking spot from people who had waited patiently on a line. He had clearly assumed the worst.  I looked at him from inside my car.  He looked like he was going to have a heart attack – either from chasing me around the campus in sub-zero weather or unnecessary, self-induced high blood pressure from self-righteous anger.  It all seemed so unnecessary. I asked him why he thought I was planning to park.  assuming the worstHe responded, “Well, I just assumed.”  He did what most of us would do.  He assumed the worst.  When he learned that I had no intention of parking, shame prevented him from apologizing.  He just walked away in a huff.

I’m never happy about being in one of these exchanges because I know that nothing exists without a cause.  Before I got on my high horse and ride around town feeling better than him, I had to stop to figure out when I had jumped all over someone this way either in thought or in speaking .  He was a mirror.  Knowing that I didn’t want to go too many rounds on this vicious circle, I decided to assume the best giving him the benefit of the doubt. I sent him a silent blessing and moved on.  I am grateful for the opportunity to see how our perspective skews our vision.  I intend to catch myself before I do this to people knowing that like everything else in life, this process of self-improvement will unfold for me with two steps forward and on backward, then two steps forward and…

Changing How You Look at Things Changes What You’re Looking At

I want to show you how you can end stress associated with control issues.  Actually, that’s redundant!  Isn’t all stress caused by feeling powerless to guarantee a desired result?

One of the most important principles underlying everything I say and do and teach is: Life is Lived From the Inside→Out.  There are many potent principles associated with this Truth.  One of the more challenging and equally rewarding to use is: Thoughts Are More Powerful Than Words or Things.  This principle is challenging because it rarely produces instant gratification and we can’t prove cause and effect at this level.  And yet, if you pay attention, you will know that all the events of your life, began at  the invisible level of thought.  Awareness is key.  If you are not paying attention you will miss it and dismiss the most effective way to create the life of your dreams.    When we understand that our inner world creates our outer world, we know that trying to control people, places or things to get what we want is an option on par with rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

The formula is simple:

  • Become aware of stress.
  • Change your perspective by looking at the scenario from the perspective of the other person, the institution or an impartial observer.
  • Reinterpret the situation.  Spend as much time as it takes to imagine a way to  interpret the event(s) that benefits you.
  • Adjust your attitude by acting as if this interpretation is the correct interpretation.  
  • Use this perception every time the topic comes up.
  • If new information is presented about this topic that negates this, simply repeat the steps.

Many years ago, one of  my best friends betrayed me.  I was divorcing my husband at the time.  I felt like I had been abandoned, unappreciated, unloved and alone when I couldn’t save my marriage.  I was so afraid, depleted and depressed.  This was one of the darkest periods in my life.  To make matters worse, I discovered that friends and relatives don’t like when you upset the apple cart.  At least, back then in my little world, divorce came with stigma attached.  My friends weren’t happy that I became a single  mom and my relatives were not too thrilled with the idea of a ‘failure’ in the genealogy.

One of my go-to ‘peeps’ was so disturbed by my decision, that she set out to destroy my reputation.  My situation at the time was rife with highly effective circumstantial evidence that could be used to ‘frame’ me.  I was the unwitting starlet of my soap opera.  I faced accusation and rejection from people I loved at a time when I needed them most.  Luckily, I already had a bit of an awakening having read Deepak Chopra’s book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and James Allen’s classic, As a Man Thinketh.

We reap what we sow in thought word and deed.  This is inescapable.

This  meant that I was enduring that particular undesirable ‘harvest’ because of seeds I must have sown in the past.  If I wanted a different harvest, I would have to plant new seeds.  I would have to change something.  In this case, I first had to figure out what seeds I had planted – because I had no idea what I did to get those results.  It seemed so obvious to me that she was the problem and I was the victim!  How could I ever find a way to take responsibility for this cruelty?  Then it occurred to me.  My life had a very strong theme running through it.  From the day my father died when I was a young girl, I developed an increasingly powerful victim lens  through which I perceived seemingly unprovoked unwanted circumstances.

I needed to reframe my perception or I would keep real-izing these types of scenarios.  I remember feeling so grateful that I had figured out why I often found myself saying, “Why me?”  The warm and cozy blanket of denial known as self-pity is particularly challenging to remove.  It feels so good to blame others because it gives a brief ego-driven high of  righteousness and… quite conveniently, if you are at fault, I don’t have to change.   You do!  Unfortunately,  blaming others also means my happiness is dependent upon other people or scenarios beyond my control.  Why would I choose this feeble strategy?  Fortunately, by assuming responsibility for all the circumstances of my life, I give myself response-ability.  I can respond to an affront, insult, set-back, etc. in a way that will diffuse any negative energy associated with me and begin to build a new momentum in the direction of my choosing.

Awareness of my thoughts, feelings & emotions and the  consequences of owning or validating them, gives me the power to choose the next chapter of my life.  Conversely, if I am not paying attention to the activity between my ears(positive or negative),  I give up my freedom to choose whether what comes next is beneficial or harmful  to me.

In the case of my  friend, every time a realized I was obsessing, or got a strong feeling of self-pity or resentment, I stopped what I was doing so I could address the situation, because I knew it would be a runaway train in no time. I used to take a moment or longer to bless her and forgive her.  Pausing for a minute helped me to remember that what she thought she was doing to me, she was actually doing to herself.  She could only harm me if I ‘ate the poison’ by reacting to it, thereby tacitly agreeing with the charges. In pausing, I could also reflect on  the  thoughts that came before the gripping sensation associated with my earlier negativity. Once I identified what tapes were playing in my mind, I would replace them with new ones that made me feel better, stronger, wiser, happier, positive, etc.  I could access compassion  for her because I knew that what we ‘send out’ comes back multiplied. I knew that she had no idea of the havoc that her behavior would wreak on her life later… or she wouldn’t do it!  Meanwhile,I knew I  was fortunate because I could choose to return unkindness with love knowing that I will be so happy when  that love comes back to me exponentially.

I was vigilant about harboring no ill will.  However, I did not seek her friendship either.  That would have been an act of cruelty toward myself that would also bring an undesired harvest.  In less than a year, it was time for her to reap the harvest of the seeds she planted with me.  Misfortune she never could have imagined caused her much shame and threatened her good name and reputation.  She found herself in a very compromised situation suddenly overwhelmed by new responsibilities thrust upon her.  Without batting an eyelash, I assumed as much of her load as I was suited to handle.  Her young daughter spent the better part of a year with me going home at night just to sleep.  I did whatever else I could do. The past never occurred to me.  This is why thoughts are more powerful than words or deeds.  My response to her suffering that resulted in a beautiful win-win for all parties, was only possible with a pure heart.  If I had continued to have a grudge, I could have felt vindicated.  I may have enjoyed some twisted sense of satisfaction that ‘she got what was coming to her.’ I promise you, this would have caused subconscious self-loathing and an unintended negative spiral that I would not believe I deserved!

Instead,after a couple of years, my decision to force myself to feel compassion instead of resentment (even when I didn’t mean it at first) reaped a harvest that continues to feed my soul today.  I have in her, a most loyal friend.  We have trustworthy friendship based on respect, personal responsibility and generosity of spirit.  Perhaps even more importantly, I gained so much self-respect by honoring the Golden Rule.  Gold it is!