My grandmother had a saying that has altered the way I think. She repeated it frequently and ended all of her letters with it: “Let nothing disturb the harmony of your thoughts.” This was a gentle reminder that we own our own thoughts and beliefs and we can choose how they impact us. We are hearing a lot about how changing your thinking, changes your life.
Women are notorious for taking on the feelings of others. Your feelings, beliefs, and thoughts belong to you. No one else has the capacity to change them unless you allow that. Many women have come into my office and said, “He made me feel so small or worthless.” The truth of the matter is that no one can make you feel. You decide how something affects you. Although you are human and people’s reactions have a certain impact you get to choose how it affects you. You then get to decide whether you believe them and internalize it. You own the choice, not them.
Consider the following example:
I frequently work with mothers with children who don’t keep their room clean. As a result, the mother feels the child is being disrespectful by not following the rules. I encourage the parent to readjust their thinking. The child does not intend to convey disrespect. Attaching this meaning to the action doesn’t help the situation. It keeps the situation emotionally charged. When the parent takes the interpretation out of the behavior, they are better able to redefine what the consequence should be.
I run groups that teach clients to revisit their beliefs and reconstruct them in a gentle way. Working in groups can be helpful because the energy of a group can provide wonderful support.
I worked with a woman whose husband was an alcoholic. When he drank, he would frequently neglect his family. She “chose” to believe he didn’t love them. This kept her feeling unloved, unworthy, and in a one-down position. It reinforced her low self-esteem. When I worked with her husband, it was clear that he did love his family. However, his disease (alcoholism) took precedence over everything, including his family. This woman needed to use what I call the three Rs:
• Readjust her thinking and not give him the power to affect her self-esteem.
• Redefine his behavior as his issue (e.g. he wasn’t neglectful because he didn’t love them, he was neglectful because he suffered from alcoholism).
• Realign her own power by determining her limits and boundaries.
I encouraged her to go to Al-Anon, a support group that teaches and empowers people how to cope with alcoholism and this improved her self-esteem.
Altering your thinking is life-changing. It empowers and feeds your self-esteem. It won’t happen on your own. You need to retrain how you think. Find people (support), places (groups like Al-Anon), and things (books) to assist you in making those needed changes. A great book to teach you how to take the emotional charge out of situations is Loving What Is by Byron Katie. Ms. Katie writes from personal experience and the book models going to one of her workshops.
Your feelings, beliefs, and thoughts really do belong to you and only you have the power to use them in a way that is healthy for your self-esteem. So, the next time you are stressed, just remember, “let nothing disturb the harmony of your thoughts.” You can produce your own serenity!