Mental anguish, emotional despair and physical disease are on the uprise. More and more people are coming into my office with serious problems than ever before. They come in not just with complaints of physical pain and discomfort, but also with complaints that their lives are in turmoil–which of them is losing their home, whose teenager is in serious trouble, who has developed cancer, diabetes or cardiovascular problems, who’s working to death just trying to make ends meet, and the list goes on.
Like anything else, you cannot come up with solutions unless you understand the real reasons these challenges have visited you in the first place. If you have an enemy that is invisible, how can you possibly defeat it if you do not know what it is, what its behaviors are or what it wants to take from you? You would only find yourself swinging punches in midair, getting frustrated, angry, along with a host of other emotions rushing into your body like it is Black Friday at Walmart.
Have you ever seen Monsters, Inc., the animated movie that depicted two different worlds clashing for survival? The monsters on one hand need to capture the screams of innocent children to power their city, and at the same time, the children battle their typical childhood fears that monsters are “going to get them!” The monsters also have fears that if touched by a child, they will get contaminated by “it” and pay the consequences.
Although this film was marketed for children, it really tells quite an adult story about a classic case of misperception. The “lesson” of it all is that a collaboration of both worlds is a much better solution than exploiting the fears of each other.
Misperceptions and internal battles may also be going on in your world and you might often wonder “why me”? In order for change to happen you must learn to realize, life does not play favorites; you may perceive it does, however, in reality it puts no meaning on anything or any person, rather, you yourself do. Nothing is good or bad, only neutral. Again, the only time things become good or bad is when YOU place a meaning on them.
As a spectator watching this film, one can clearly see the good and the bad on both sides. In life, when you are in the midst of the battle, you can usually only see your side, the side of survival. In the movie, it is only when one of the main Monsters, Sulley, starts to question his past perceptions and then follows his compassion for his enemy that the gift of a better solution is revealed. In the end, getting the children to laugh brings much more power to the “energy containers” instead of the children’s fears– laughter becomes much more powerful than screams.
Time to stop screaming.
Your view of life and its challenges is from one thing and one thing only – your perceptions of your past experiences. Nothing is right and nothing is wrong until you place meaning on it. This is why one person will think something is the worst while another thinks “it rules”. When you change your perceptions, you change your reality.
The first step in changing your perception is to recognize that the challenges you face are for your benefit and not a detriment. It is only then that you will embrace the gifts life brings you. Yes, they are all gifts!
I have used the following simple example for my patients more than once—What if you were a farmer and I gave you a rotten apple? What would you do with it? The response I usually get is this, “I would throw it away.” A true farmer, however, may take the seeds out of it, use the apple as a fertilizer and then plant the seeds to harvest an abundance of apple trees. In order to be successful, he has learned how to take a negative and turn it into a positive.
If you want to hear from people other than me who triumphed through tragedy and found the gift within, I refer you to the hundreds of Thank God I… stories and practical how to information on www.thankgodi.com.
I will tell you this, there is always and I mean always a gift in every adversity. If you look at your challenge as a problem, you will see all of the adverse meanings that are attached to it. If you look at the challenge as a gift, the solution to your present predicament, then you can enjoy the rewards that it brings.
When I say “Kill the monster when it is young”, I am obviously not referring to performing an execution on something. I am asking you to execute your perceptions in such a way that you can see the benefits life is presenting to you. These challenges are not enemies for you to defeat, but friends to embrace who are giving you “tough love.”
Think about it–who did you benefit more from, the teacher who allowed you to do the minimal amount of work, or the teacher who challenged you and kept you accountable to help you transcend any barriers that you and others placed upon you?
As a teacher (doctor means teacher) I am going to dare you a bit to do some easy homework. You can click off this blog right now or have some fun with this.
Step One: Write down your biggest present day challenge. Some of you may feel more comfortable starting with your smallest one first. Either is fine.
Step Two: Visualize a stranger (since there would be no emotional attachment) telling you of the exact challenge that you are experiencing. Then, write down what solution you would tell him or her to do. Be as detailed as possible. This allows you to be the spectator as if you were watching a movie.
Step Three: Take the solution you gave to the stranger and ask yourself how it relates to you? Summarize this in one to two sentences and give an action step to do immediately. Commit to doing this within one to two days.
If you cannot find a benefit, let me give you a simple step to guide you…
I would suggest to look at your challenge and ask this question, “If I were to overcome (say the challenge), what feeling would it give me?
For example, if your challenge is a health issue, if you no longer had it, what feeling(s) would it give you? Let’s say it would allow you to feel secure. What action step could you immediately do? Maybe you can start eating healthier because you realize the foods you have been eating emotionally make you feel secure while at the same time they physically damage you? This way of eating makes your body healthier and secures its future success against disease.
If it is a money problem, what would it make you feel it you had tons of it? Let’s say it would make you feel that your life would be more stable. Maybe you need to take a wealth management course or sit down with a financial advisor to help you obtain financial security thereby causing you to feel stable in your life.
This is what these challenges are telling you. It is not the actual challenge that needs to be focused on but the meaning it is trying to communicate to you. Since it cannot speak your language, it speaks in experiences which are much more powerful than words.
After making these kinds of changes, if you still cannot find a benefit, then working in collaboration with a life coach or someone you know who will not enable this behavior, will help you find your gift.
Of course, although this sounds simple, it may take coaching to find your “monsters” or resistances that are blocking you from good health, financial wealth or any other challenges or struggles. Starting this process is a first step towards enjoying the journey of discovery for your own monsters, and will change their behavior. You never know, your monsters may even do a standup comedy routine for you, as Billy Crystal’s character, Mike Wazowski, did at the end of the movie!
Now that you are starting to understand that the monsters you face every day have a gift in them if you choose to see it, in Part Two of my blog, I will explore how your challenges are not coming to you but from you.