“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.”
Eckhart Tolle’s wise quote covers my home screen, reminding me that only I hold the keys to my emotional state. Simply put, I cannot blame my unhappiness on anyone or anything. I must own it.
If we’re having a down day, it’s natural to accuse outside sources for our feelings. However, when we pause to reflect about the cause of our unhappiness, it is usually our thoughts that are the culprit, not the situation or another’s actions. Most likely, we’re trying to control our environment, assuming a past occurrence will happen again, or reading into what another’s words or acts mean. The reality is we’re making ourselves miserable, nothing else.
But aren’t others’ actions or occurrences in our surroundings the reason for our sorrow?
Certainly, unpleasant situations and what another says or does may instigate an emotional response, but how we choose to react is what determines our happiness. I repeatedly heard this concept while growing up, as my mother would always remind me that no one, but me, could make me unhappy.
Perhaps you’ve known someone who has never been able to let go of a loss, an injustice, or a past occurrence. This “thing” may sound insignificant to us, but they feel permanently scarred by a particular event, and it has almost become a component of their identify. It may seem as though whenever we’re around them, this topic always arises. Or they may use this situation as the reason they say no to life. Their inability to release the past has kept them stuck, unable to commit to their next job, invitation, or relationship. Perhaps it’s prevented them from moving to a new city, seeking an adventure that’s been calling them, or having the courage to follow their dream. This “holding onto” not only keeps them small, but it’s also often causes more pain than the original situation. In order for them to find happiness, they must release their grip on the grief.
I don’t mean to sound calloused, as if to suggest that people need to just “get over it.” No, time is necessary to heal. But there comes a point when we must move on. Otherwise, we remain stuck, unable to proceed on our own life journey.
If we take a moment and consider the source to our unhappiness, it’s clear that we get to choose whether or not we allow ourselves to fall down that rabbit hole. I think you know what I’m referring to, the downward spiral that we travel after rehashing those oh-so-familiar stories in our heads, the ones where we are the victim, innocent of any wrong-doing. We blame others for our sorrows, our lack, our fears, our anger. Or perhaps we inflict the judgment on ourselves, berating our beings for saying the wrong thing, missing the opportunity, or acting inconsiderately. While our stories may initially hold some truth, over time they become exaggerated, lopsided, and, inaccurate. No longer do these tales serve us, as they continuously cause our vibrations to sink, resulting in sorrow, anger, fear, blame, or shame. This — our uncontrolled thoughts — is the reason for our unhappiness.
But if our thoughts cause us pain, then we have the power to change them, right?
We absolutely do!
While it is anything but easy, we possess the ability to shift these patterns that inhibit our mind. One of my favorite strategies is to say, “STOP” as soon as I begin thinking a less than positive scenario. Then, I try to substitute a more uplifting idea or ending to what’s happening. Not only does this prevent my brain from spiraling downwards, but it also serves to raise my vibration, or at least maintain it.
The critical voice inside our head is not who we are — I’ve named mine Lilith, after Frazier’s ex-wife on the sitcom. This voice is only a piece of our being that is trying to keep us safe. Yet, in the process of trying to protect us, it prevents us from shining our light, ensuring that we remain small, under the radar, in our comfort zones.
Now is the time for us to stand up to this voice. Perhaps show gratitude for its effort to shelter us, but then dismiss it. We do not require its services any longer.
While we will never be able to dictate what happens to us, we always have the power to decide how we respond to whatever life throws our way.
“I cannot always control what goes on outside. But I can always control what goes on inside.” – Wayne Dyer