This was first published on KSL.COM
There is almost no physical intimacy in my marriage and I miss the sexual activity I thought I would have when I got married. I find myself resenting my wife and feeling frustrated because I did not get married to see how long I could go without sex. I feel discouraged with myself because I should be able to "suck it up" and stop having these feelings of resentment. I keep telling myself that maybe this is a challenge I am supposed to overcome, yet I sometimes talk to a friend who says I'm crazy to put up with it. Any suggestions?
I get letters with basically this same question at least twice a week, so you are not alone on this one. I’d like to address the problem and then give some suggestions to both husbands and wives on fixing this situation.
For many, the heart of the problem is that while most boys grow up hearing positive things about sex, most women grew up hearing nothing but shameful negatives. Women who were sexual were seen as sluts, and sex was talked about like it was dirty and wrong. As teens, many women are still curious about sex, which means they are open to learning about it, but now they have the negative subconscious programming. Needless to say, many women from Christian families are ill-prepared for marriage and don't understand how important sex is in their relationship and how beautiful it can be.
Then, add to that resentment, hurt feelings and betrayals of trust that often happen (like criticism that makes a woman feel emotionally unsafe) or to find out that a husband has been looking at pornography (which makes sex feel more dirty) and many women lose interest in the whole thing.
This is a complex issue and it can’t be fixed in an article, but repairing the intimacy in your relationship is vital. You cannot have a healthy relationship without it. There is a reason they call it “making love.” It is the most meaningful way to express love for another person. Also remember the main reason you are here on this planet is to learn and grow, and especially to learn to love. Your marriage is going to be the most important class you will take on this subject. So whatever the disconnect is between you and your wife, you are both going to have to grow and become more loving to fix it.
Here are some things each spouse can do to start the process of repairing intimacy in their marriage.
1) Be more kind, appreciative and validating: Most women can’t feel amorous when they don't feel emotionally safe. Does your wife feel resentful, angry or walked on at any level? If you are prone to criticism, sarcasm, negative comments or if you just don’t give enough positive validation, this could be a huge part of the problem. Your wife needs to feel admired, appreciated and cherished. She needs to see that you feel lucky to be married to such an amazing woman. (If you have been disappointed because of her sexuality issues and she feels this, it could be making her pull away further to protect herself.) She needs to be showered with praise and appreciation for who she is, as she is. Nothing makes a woman more interested in a man than him thinking she is the most amazing woman in the world.
2) Be the kind of man she can look up to: If you are voluntarily slacking in your responsibilities either in or out of the home, you need to step it up. This may mean exercising and getting in shape, spending less time in front of the TV or finding a better job. You may even ask her what you could be doing that would make her admire you more. She may want to see you deal with some of your own self-esteem, abandonment, career or emotional issues. This could mean getting some professional help and working on you. If you do this and gain some confidence, that will also make you more attractive.
3) Be more generous and giving: This means setting aside your own needs and focusing more on what she needs. This may mean helping around the house and with the children more. It could also mean honoring her feelings when she needs a good night’s rest. Being resentful or complaining that she isn't meeting your needs, isn't showing love and it makes you just as unloving as her. Most couples find it works better if you let the woman initiate sex. I know you fear that if you do this, it will never happen, but being patient and giving her a chance to do this could reverse the cycle of her feeling taken from and you feeling rejected. Now, she might feel more motivated to give to you, and trust me, it will mean more to you when she does. Remember, women must feel emotionally safe and totally admired, accepted and cherished for every part of who they are before they can give sex as an expression of love. When you give more to them, they will want to give more to you. (If she doesn't respond to this, there are deeper issues in play.)
4) Avoid pornography: Pornography will harm your marriage in two ways. One, it will create unrealistic expectations that a normal wife and mother will not be comfortable fulfilling and two, it will trigger body image fears and feelings of betrayal that are difficult for a woman to get past. If a pornography problem has already created these issues in your marriage, you may both need some professional help to repair them. The good news is that you can repair them. They are not the end of the world, but you must get some help.
1) See a doctor or mental health professional: If you suspect a physical or psychological problem is in play, seek out some professional help. There are hormone imbalances and medications that can negatively affect libido. You also want to make sure you don’t have experiences in your past that are creating negative feelings around sex.
2) Be more forgiving: I believe forgiveness is the No. 1 lesson you are here to learn in the classroom of life, and your marriage is the class where you will learn it. You must understand that you are no better than your spouse. You have the same exact value (even if he has made mistakes). You may not have made those mistakes, but you have made other ones, and your inability to forgive him is every bit as bad as his faults and weaknesses. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but you need to hear this. You are in here to learn to become a better, more loving person. If you don’t learn this lesson now and forgive him for being imperfect, the universe will keep bringing this lesson back until you do. I have written numerous articles on forgiveness that may help, and there are two forgiveness worksheets on mywebsite that might help. (Obviously, if you have an abusive spouse, then you need professional help immediately. But most of you just have a struggling, scared and occasionally clueless spouse who should be forgiven and given another chance, just like you. )
3) Be more generous and giving: This means setting aside your needs and focusing more on giving to your spouse and caring for him. This will mean initiating sex and doing it often. Sex is a more meaningful experience for all involved if the woman initiates it and enjoys it. A man desperately wants to be wanted by his wife and honestly gets more out of pleasing you than getting his own needs met. Your man wants sex to be an expression of love for each other, and a “quicky” that gets it over fast isn’t fulfilling to him at all. (Imagine how you would feel if he told you to go take a relaxing bubble bath as his gift to you — “Oh but can you just jump in and out real quick.”) That is not an expression of love. I know that as a mother you give and give, and some nights you have nothing left, but you must set aside time and energy to give to your spouse if you want a marriage that lasts and a spouse who takes care of you.
4) Work on your self-esteem: If you have body image issues or suffer from fears that you aren’t good enough, you are literally incapable of giving love the way you should be. Most women suffer greatly from feelings of inadequacy, and these feelings must be repaired if you want a healthy marriage. We believe most people need professional coaching or counseling to change this. Ask your spouse to help pay for this, because a confident woman has more to give.
5) Communicate: Tell your husband exactly what he can do or change that would make you more attracted to him. Be frank and honest and kind. If there is no way that you can get past issues, or the issues are things he can’t change, you need to be honest about that too, so he can decide if this relationship is right for him.
I believe you should try everything in your power to repair your marriage and learn the powerful lessons your relationship can teach you, but for some of you the lesson could mean loving yourself enough to get out, especially if the other person isn’t capable or interested in changing. Only you know which path is right for you. Just make sure you have done the work on yourself first and learned how to forgive. That way you won't repeat the same pattern.
I would say don't "suck it up live with it." Instead, take action and get some help to fix the underlying issues.
You can do this!
First Published on KSL.COMQuestion:
Life is not a happy place in our home right now. Our marriage is not great, I’m struggling at work and I can’t say that I even felt a shred of happiness all week. Do you have any suggestions when someone is just unhappy with life in general?
Tony Robbins says there are six basic needs you must have to feel happy and fulfilled in life.
You cannot wait for life to change. That would take too long and it is largely out of your control. So, you must focus on the one thing that is in your control — your perspective. You always have the power to choose how you feel in this moment, and your perspective will create your experience.
Most people think their reality creates their experience. They think reality forces them to feel a certain way, but it isn’t true. You get to decide how you are going to experience every moment.
It is your decisions, not your conditions, that determine your happiness.
If you are currently unhappy, then it is time to change your mindset and start choosing to experience certainty, uncertainty, significance, love, growth and contribution. I’m going to tell you exactly how to do this. Then you will need to practice these choices until the concepts cement into your subconscious thinking.
1) Change how you see yourself. (Read this out loud now) I choose to see my value with certainty and my significance as a given. I am a one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable, amazing, divine, human soul and there will never be another me. This makes me infinitely valuable and absolutely significant. My value is never in question and cannot change. I am a student in the classroom of life. I am here to learn and grow, but this is not a test, so I cannot fail. I am always good enough, even though I have more to learn. My value is certain and I have nothing to fear.
2) Change how you see your life. (Read this out loud now) I choose to see life as uncertain but with a purpose. That purpose is growth and my learning to love and contribute. I believe life is a surprising adventure because it has to be that way to facilitate growth. Every experience that shows up in my life is an opportunity to learn something, practice trust or become more loving. Every offense, every challenge and every disappointment is there to help me become a better version of myself. Life is uncertain but everything serves me in some way, so I have nothing to fear.
3) Change how you see your mistakes. (Read this out loud now) Life is a classroom, not a test. This means mistakes don’t diminish my value. A mistake is just a learning experience and I must embrace the lesson, make amends where I can, then let it go. I am here to learn love and forgiveness even toward myself. My mistakes do not affect my value and they make me wiser. I have nothing to fear.
4) Change how you see your body. (Read this out loud now) My body is no more “me” than the shirt I am wearing. My genetics are a class I got signed up for here and though they are creating interesting lessons in my life, my body isn’t who I am. My love is who I am. I am wise and take care of my body (like I would my car) because it is the only one I get, but I don’t identify myself by it. Instead of trying to impress people with my appearance, I go get them with my love. My love can bring all goodness to me. I have nothing to fear.
5) Change how you see money. (Read this out loud now) Money is not the scorecard of my worth. If I see money as the scorecard, it will create a scarcity mindset. Instead, I see money as a resource that helps to facilitate my growth and contributions to the world, but is a resource that is always coming in and going out. I see it like the waves of the ocean, which ebb and flow, but are nothing to fear because they always come back in. I have an abundance mentality around money and trust I will always have all I need and more. There is nothing to fear. (Download theMoney Fear Worksheet from my website if this is a big issue for you.)
6) Change how you see your relationship. (Read this out loud now) The biggest misconception people have about love is they think love is something to get. This is inaccurate. The only love I will ever have is the love I have to give. I forgive my partner on a daily basis for their faults, flaws and fears, which make them incapable of giving love to me. I choose to focus on giving love, not getting it. (Unless this is an abuse situation where leaving may be the more loving choice for all involved.) I understand that my being more loving is the magic that will create the happiness I seek.
Tony Robbins says, “Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life's deepest joy: true fulfillment.”
I promise if you will choose a more accurate mindset, make a bigger commitment to love, connect and contribute to those around you, while understanding your value is certain, even though the journey isn’t — you will experience amazing growth and feel happier.
You can do this!
First published on KSL.com
My husband is very sarcastic and I have struggled to know how to cope with his sarcastic remarks. Some of my hurt comes from fear that he is actually feeling what he says and that sarcasm is his passive-aggressive way to convey what he really feels. I have a hard time deciphering what is joking versus what is real when he talks. I have tried to talk to him about it, but he says I need to lighten up. I'm trying to combat it from within but need a little bit more of a boost. Can you help with this?
You may want to ask your spouse to read this article because once he understands why he is sarcastic, he may be more motivated to change it. Oscar Wilde said “Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.” This is because sarcastic comments, though humorous, are usually passive-aggressive, mean and uncomfortable for the people receiving them. The dictionary defines sarcasm as “the use of irony to mock or convey contempt; a sharply ironical taunt; sneering or cutting remark.” None of these sound like validating communication to me.
If you use sarcasm you must ask yourself, what are you trying to accomplish with your communication? What kind of relationship do you want? Are you striving to be funny at the expense of others? Or do you want to build relationships of trust and love? Do you care how other people feel? Or are you only interested in entertaining yourself?
Sarcastic people often see teasing as tough love and believe people should be able to handle it. They also think saying “just kidding” after a sarcastic remark makes it OK, even if it hurts. They usually see themselves as funny people, even if they are the only ones laughing. In reality, sarcastic people usually have a fear problem. (I know some of you aren’t convinced yet, that every problem is a fear problem, but keep looking at it because it’s true.) They are usually battling either a fear of not being good enough (the fear of failure) or the fear of being taken from (the fear of loss). They need to step back and figure out why they need to be sarcastic.
Here are some common reasons you might be sarcastic:
1. You fear you aren’t good enough, so you subconsciously put others down so you can feel superior.The worse you feel about yourself the more biting your remarks toward others could be. Insecure people have to put others down or tease them, in order to feel important and of value themselves. If this is your issue you may need some professional help to improve your self-worth.
2. Sarcasm is also a way of asking for what you want when you are scared to ask for it directly. You might crack a joke about your wife’s crazy shoes because you don’t know how to just say you don’t like them. But your sarcastic remark leaves your wife unsure about what you really think. Were you joking or serious? If you don’t know how to say things in a way that won’t hurt, you make a joke, which usually still hurts, but creates a space where if she takes offense, it’s her problem. If this is your issue, you need to improve your communication skills.
3. Sarcasm may be passive-aggressive anger. This happens because you feel taken from, insulted or annoyed by this person and you really want to take a jab at them. Sarcasm is a way to take a jab without being seen as mean. A joke absolves you of responsibility for their feelings. If this is your issue, you need to learn how to resolve the issue you are angry about.
4. You may feel angry at life for the disappointments or abuse you have suffered. Sarcasm can be a way to take out your anger toward life or vent your frustration. The more life does you wrong, the more biting your remarks toward others could be. If this is your issue you need to learn how to use your life experiences to make you better not bitter.
5. If you were teased in a cruel way, put down or made to feel inferior as a child, you may be subconsciously trying to get the upper hand now. You may look down on others and jokingly strike at them as a way to feel superior and powerful. Again, you may need some help to improve your self-esteem so you can show up with love.
6. You like to get attention by entertaining those around you with humor. You probably need this attention to validate your worth. You need this attention so badly you will do it at the expense of other people. Fear creates subconsciously selfish behavior, but this can be fixed. There are lots of way to be funny without hurting other people.
Just take a minute, if you are the sarcastic person, and honestly ask yourself if any of these issues could be behind your sarcastic comments.
John Haiman, a linguist at Malcalester College says “People who use sarcasm are rarely kidding. The words come from an authentic place, but it’s wrapped up as a joke for protection. Essentially, sarcasm is a survival technique for the insecure. It’s used to make yourself appear stronger and better, but it’s not said with enough seriousness for anyone to accuse you of being a jerk.”
You may need to practice “think before you speak." This means checking yourself before you make a comment. Is it... true, helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind. You can be funny all you want, but if you do it at the expense of other people there will be consequences. People will not feel safe with you or like you. If the people on the receiving end of your sarcasm are your friends and family this cost will be high.
If you are living with a sarcastic person here are a couple suggestions for dealing with it:
You must also continue to work on feeling bulletproof, no matter what anyone does or says. As you become stronger your husband will be forced to see his own insecurities for what they are. I hope he will be open to changing, but either way you can be happy and feel good about yourself. Just keep reminding yourself that his comments can't diminish you. Your value is absolute.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular coach and speaker.
First Published on KSL.comQuestion:
How do I get my family to appreciate all I do for them? I feel largely taken for granted and am rarely thanked. Sometimes I go overboard to do something nice for them, and I hardly get a thank you. Sometimes they even complain about the one thing I didn’t do. How can I get them to appreciate me?
Cynthia Ozick said, “We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” I would add, we often take for granted the people who most deserve our gratitude, too. Parents and spouses are often taken for granted because their service or help is expected, and therefore not seen as anything special.
There is no question this is wrong. We should appreciate every act of service, however small, done on our behalf. But it is a tricky thing “getting” the people in your life to appreciate you, especially if they weren’t raised with a gratitude attitude. You also have no control over other people, but there are some things you can do differently that may change their attitude toward you. This will mean changing your attitude when you serve people and creating a healthy balance between serving others and taking care of yourself.
1) Make sure you have a healthy sense of your own self-worth
If you suffer from low self-esteem, you are always in need of validation from other people to make you feel better. The people in your life can subconsciously feel your neediness, and it makes them see you as a taker, not a giver — even when you are giving to them. It makes them feel that your gifts have strings attached. You are giving to them so that you will get the appreciation and validation you need. Over time, this will even make them resent your gifts of service because they are really about you, not them. When you give gifts of service as real gifts of love, needing nothing in return, it feels like a real gift to the receiver and it is more likely to be appreciated.
(You can’t build healthy relationships if you are drowning in fear that you aren’t good enough. You may need to work with a counselor or coach to fix your self-esteem.)
2) Make sure what you are doing is really for them — not for you
What I mean is make sure they actually want or care about what you are giving them. Do you know their love language? Do you know what makes them feel loved or are you giving what you wish to receive? For example, I have seen housewives work hard to keep a perfect house when no one in her family cares about having a perfect house except her. You can’t expect them to value what you value. If appreciation is your goal, then do things that are meaningful to them.
You may want to actually ask them what gifts mean something to them. If a perfect house is important to you, then clean it for you and don’t worry about appreciation. Men who work night and day to make more money may want to ask their spouse and children if they value having that much money or if they would rather have more time with a happy dad.
3) Make sure you are taking care of your own needs
This means sometimes saying no and not doing as much for them. When you start feeling bothered by the amount you are giving and the lack of gratitude, it is usually a sign that you are out of balance. You are probably giving too much and neglecting your own needs. If you give too much and are constantly sacrificing yourself for other people, you are setting a bad example. Yes, that is what I said. You are actually teaching them that YOU don’t matter as much as they do. If you do this for a long time, they will come to see you as less important. They will expect you to sacrifice yourself all the time and they will take those sacrifices for granted. You will also start to resent them for not appreciating you, and this will further damage your relationship.
You must get your family used to seeing your value as the same as theirs. This will also make them appreciate the times you sacrifice to serve them. Your gifts will have more value if they are a little more rare. If you have a healthier balance between giving and taking, you will also feel happier and have more to give. Remember it is your job to make sure your needs are met. You must take time every week to nurture yourself and have some fun. Trust me, you will be a better parent and spouse if you do a little less for them and a little more for you.
4) Set an example of gratitude
Children learn gratitude by example. Let them see you sending thank-you notes or going out of your way to thank the people in your life. Encourage them to send thank-you notes for every kindness they receive. Make sure you are grateful for every act of kindness or service they render to you. Make appreciation a family tradition. It will also help if you make serving those who are less fortunate a regular family experience. My children had the opportunity to work in orphanages in Mexico growing up, and these experiences created lots of appreciation for their blessings. They also gained a new appreciation for having parents.
5) Tell them how much you appreciate their appreciation
Thank them for being thankful. This models good behavior, but it also helps them see themselves as a grateful person. People will become what they think you think they are. If they think you think they are kind, appreciative and grateful, they will want to live up to your high opinion of them.
I had the chance to interview Jeffery Froh, Ph.D., and Giacomo Bono, Ph.D., authors of the book "Making Grateful Kids," on the "Matt Townsend Show" in March. They have done some groundbreaking research on how kids excel in life if they learn to be grateful. Children who learned gratitude when they were young went on to create better relationships and experience more success in every area of life than those who weren’t. I highly recommend their book for great tips on raising grateful kids.
Instead of nagging, begging or asking for more appreciation, try taking better care of yourself and needing it less while modeling a gratitude attitude yourself.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of www.claritypointcoaching.com. She is also the author of the new book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a coach and speaker.
First Published on KSL.com
I honestly feel my difficult situation is hopeless and it is ripping me apart. I would love some advice on how to cope when you feel all is lost because right now I am just miserable. I’m not suicidal or anything though, just really discouraged by my lot in life. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. What advice do you have for helping me pull myself up in spite of a hopeless situation?
I appreciate you mentioning that you aren’t suicidal, but if your dark, hopeless feelings don’t go away with an attitude shift, you may still want to visit with a mental health professional to make sure depression is not a factor.
Hopelessness is defined as believing your situation is beyond any optimism, impossible or incapable of solution or improvement. It is not a state of depression, but a discouragement in that your just situation can’t be changed. Hopelessness is often a self-fulfilling prophecy too, because when you believe your situation is hopeless, you usually don't try too hard to change it. Then, when you do nothing to change your situation, and nothing changes, you think you were right.
Aaron T. Beck, the father of Cognitive Therapy and creator of the Beck Hopelessness Scale, found that everyone has negative, hopeless thoughts that pop up spontaneously at times. The problem is that if you spend too much time in these hopeless thoughts, you can start to believe them. Beck helps people identify their hopeless thoughts, evaluate them for accuracy and change them. This simple, but not easy, process almost always leads to greater happiness and more solutions.
The only way to escape the hopelessness cycle is to question your belief about the situation being hopeless. If you can change the belief, you will then put more effort into changing things. However, this can be very hard to do if you've been dealing with your situation for a long time. Just start by choosing to stay open to miraculous possibilities and change your mindset about why this situation is showing up in your life.
I love this line from "Impossible," the inspiring song from Rogers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella:" “The world is full of zanys and fools/who don’t believe in sensible rules/and because these daft and dewy eyed dopes, keep building up impossible hopes/impossible things are happening every day.”
You know it’s true, miracles happen.
I see them all the time. People who thought they couldn’t change who do, and marriages everyone thought were doomed turn around and start to thrive. So don’t throw in the towel too quickly on anything, unless your gut says your perfect journey is to move on. Your inner truth always knows what’s right for you.
If your gut says to keep fighting though, don't give up. Start by telling yourself it is possible to change this situation. Even if the situation won’t change, you can always change, or you can change the way you are experiencing the situation and that could change everything.
There are many factors that lead to hopelessness. Here are five of those factors and some possible solutions:
1. Not finding an easy answer. The reality is that most problems don't have an easy answer, but they do have an answer and you are meant to find it eventually. If you can’t see the solution or a way to change your attitude about your situation, it doesn’t mean there isn’t one. It just means you still have something to learn from the situation the way it is. When the lesson is over, you will find the solution and things will get better. Just don’t give up until then. I've seen couples struggle with their marriages for 20 years and then finally change it. It wasn't easy, but they kept trying until their efforts paid off.
2. Feeling powerless. You could be in a situation where you feel like you have no power to change anything. In these situations remember you can always change the way you are experiencing the situation. Viktor Frankl, who suffered through the concentration camps during WWII, was powerless to get out. He did, however, discover that he still had power over one thing: to chose his attitude. He chose to find positive things to focus on and to see meaning and purpose in his suffering. You have the power to choose your mindset about your situation too and this will make a difference. You can choose to see life as a classroom and the main purpose of life is to teach you things and help you grow. This means every experience is here to serve that purpose. You can step back from any negative situation — even a hopeless one — and ask “I wonder how this situation is going to help me become a better person?” The answer will put you one step closer to getting the lesson, seeing the situation accurately and getting out. You should never feel powerless because you always have this power.
3. You think you've tried everything. How many times have you said "I've tried everything!" Realistically, you haven't tried everything because that would be impossible. There is a great worksheet on my website resources page that takes you through a brainstorming process to find solutions. The worksheet won’t let you stop until you think of 50 possible solutions. I promise you there are things you haven’t tried, people you could go to for help and resources you haven’t tapped into. Remember this is a lesson and you are going to get something positive from it, and it is most likely meant to be solved.
4. You're focusing on what you can't change instead of what you can change. There are some things you simply cannot change. Don't get caught up focusing on those things. One of my clients told me that her father was diagnosed with a terminal illness and she watched him experience all the stages of grief, including denial, as he came to terms with dying. Finally, he chose to focus on changing how he viewed the situation — the only thing he could change. He decided to look for some good his dying could create. He told his children, "Your mother has always lived under the shadow of supporting me...you just watch and see how she will grow now." He chose to see a benefit in a very difficult trial. Again, even if you can’t change anything else, changing your attitude can make a huge difference.
5. You believe that what you can't change is essential. We don't get upset about unimportant things, we get upset about things we believe are essential. So you have to decide if what you're feeling hopeless about is really essential? You might have a relationship that is ending and feel like you can't live without it. But you lived without it before you were in the relationship, so chances are, you will be able to live after it. A client once said, “I can never be happy unless my wife changes.” I don't believe that is true. You can place those kinds of conditions on your happiness if you want to, but you could also choose to be happy now if you wanted to. Also, remember that you don’t have to carry years of suffering with this difficult situation today. You only have to get through this hour, or this minute choosing to be happy with things as they are. You only have control over how you feel right now. Don’t worry about how you will feel days, months or years from now. Focus on today and choosing happiness in spite of what’s missing. Also, don’t place conditions on happiness.
Take it one hour at a time and you can do this!
Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of claritypointcoaching.com and is a popular coach and speaker. This article was co-written by Lisa Stirland, a Claritypoint Life Coach.
First Published on KSL.comQuestion:
I have a pretty negative outlook on life. Not sure why, but things bother me and I get bent out of shape by people and situations quite often. I am pessimistic and I can’t stop being this way. It is just the way I think. Though my family complains about it, I can’t seem to think any other way. How can I change this, when there really are a lot of negative situations around me?
You first must fully accept that your thoughts are in your control. Nothing can make you upset or feel negatively about anything unless you choose to. As a matter of fact, every situation and circumstance is basically neutral and means nothing — until you apply meaning to it.
It appears that your subconscious programming (that has been running the show since childhood) is mostly fear-based, so you’re running on negative autopilot most of the time. But you can change this.
You can consciously choose positive thoughts in any moment. This is simple to understand, but it is going to take some practice to master. In every situation you must stop and use your brain to make a change. You must change your mindset by asking yourself these simple questions:
I was not happy about this.
My automatic response was to be mad and even make her feel bad for being forgetful. But in that moment I chose to stop and use my brain to change my mindset. I decided the only way I could see this (going back) as a good thing was if going back had just saved us from a horrible car accident up the road. If I chose to imagine this outcome, it would completely change my attitude towards my daughter. I might even thank her for forgetting her things and saving our lives.
I realize this was a stretch of my imagination, but it still made good sense to experience it this way, because I was going to have to go back no matter what. The only thing in question was my attitude. I could have a negative attitude and make her feel bad, or I could choose to trust the universe that everything happens serves me (even when I can’t see how) and treat my daughter with kindness. Which option feels better to you?
I also asked my daughter (in a loving way) to be more careful next time, but I didn’t make her feel guilty because I had chosen to see this detour as our perfect journey.
When I get a flat tire, or lose an opportunity, or lose a friend — I chose to trust the universe it knows what it's doing and this circumstance is here to serve me in some way. The universe knows what it's doing.
In his amazing book "Man’s Search for Meaning," Viktor Frankl (as a prisoner in a concentration camp) discovered this truth about choosing our thoughts. He found that he had complete control over nothing but his inner state and could choose his attitude even in the worst of circumstances.
He further explored this principle as a psychotherapist after the war and taught his patients to look for another reason (even a good reason) that a bad thing might happen. He believed if they could see a positive purpose for it, if the bad thing at least counted for something good, they would suffer less.
He explained this principle by telling the story of an old man who came to him for counseling. This man’s wife had passed away, leaving him alone and terribly depressed. Frankl asked the man what would have happened if he had died first, leaving his wife alone. How would she have fared? The man told Frankl that being left alone would have been terrible for her. She greatly depended on the man for support and would have suffered horribly alone.
Frankl then proposed the idea that maybe the universe had given him the beautiful opportunity to save her from suffering. What if there was purpose in her passing first? If given the choice wouldn’t he have wanted to spare her that misery and taken the years of loneliness in her place?
When the man saw his situation in this light his perspective and his attitude shifted. He could see the good in his situation and it did lessen the suffering. It also helped him to turn the tragedy into a human achievement. He chose to use his time alone to become a wiser, kinder, more giving person instead of a bitter, lonely one.
You have this same choice in every situation. You can choose to see positive and grow from a tragedy or setback. You can choose to see every experience as a lesson in your classroom journey. You can use your conscious mind to choose meaning in it and create a more positive picture.
Frankl defined conscious as “the intuitive capacity of man to find out the meaning of a situation.” He believed there is unconditional meaning in everything and you can find it if you take the time and put your brain to use.
This is the bottom line — you are going to apply meaning to everything anyway, so you might as well do it consciously and choose something positive — don’t let negative thinking run your life.
If life is a classroom and you are here to learn and grow (especially to learn to love) then when anything happens (you lose a job, get a flat tire, break your leg, lose an important paper or lose a loved one), stop and ask yourself: What could this situation be here to teach me and how could it help me become more loving?
In every negative there is a lesson, a gift of knowledge or a positive side. There is order in the universe and every experience is here to serve your growth and learning. Life is your servant, serving your education — not your enemy.
It would change your life if you chose gratitude and curiosity instead of negativity. In my book "Choosing Clarity: The path to fearlessness," I recommend writing an official policy about the nature of life and how you are going to choose to see it. Then read the policy out loud daily. This simple practice will create a more positive attitude, I promise.
You can do this!
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.