Belief Systems ~ Attitude ~ Change By Jan Engels-Smith
I spent several years in therapy like many others. I had varying degrees of success, but I still viewed my childhood as something that wounded me terribly. I spent much of my adult life healing.
I was in a workshop one day and we were asked to come up with a happy memory from our childhood to hold in our minds as we continued with the exercise. I searched and searched for a happy memory. If an event presented itself with even an inkling of happiness, it proceeded to run itself out in my mind to a disastrously unhappy conclusion. I had no purely happy memory. My unworthiness issues were magnified because I felt like I was the only person in the whole group who could not get a happy memory. I felt awful. I realized that instead of healing during years of therapy, I had learned to understand what had happened at an intellectual and behavioral level. I still felt much pain had a hole in my soul, and my spirit felt fragmented.
My spiritual life developed more and I was introduced to extremely different philosophies from those I had been raised with as time went on. New awareness filled my being. I started to understand that I had choice in this earth-walk and that the experiences I had as a child were ones I had chosen in order to develop my soul and myself.
I began to review my life from the perspective of choice and realized that I could view my life’s experiences with judgments of blame and remorse, or view them as opportunities for growth. I saw the bigger picture eventually of my life’s experiences. This “eagle vision,” as I was later taught to call it, is the ability to see personal experiences distantly but holistically.
What was my soul working on in this lifetime? What were the patterns? What was I continually recreating in my life at a subconscious level that allowed me the opportunity to choose a higher level of being? Was my soul evolving in a good way, or was I stuck in my own predetermined drama? Bitterness, victimization, anger, and grudges are all choices that trap the soul and prevent it from growing. They inhibit the soul like a jail inhibits freedom. Understanding this, I consciously chose to see my entire childhood differently and to view my life as experiences that promoted the choice for my soul to evolve into a higher state of being.
Years later, I found myself in a group setting again. This time, we were asked to write a story about an event in our childhood. I know that the intention of this assignment was to process again the events that had led us all to counseling. But this time I had a totally different perspective.
I wrote a story about a great fishing trip we took as a family and the fun we had, my family’s spirit of adventure, and how many fabulous opportunities I had as a child. I was amazed at what poured out of me. I had such a profound realization; my past had not changed, but my perspective on it had. The American psychologist William James once observed, “People can alter their lives by altering their attitudes.” Those unhappy negative experiences, which I had dwelled on for so many years, took on a new flavor. I now viewed them as opportunities to learn how to love myself and others, how to claim my own worth, how to step away from the judgments of what others had done to me, and how to be thankful for the success in developing my own soul.
This was a huge step forward in my own development. It was not the writing assignment that caused this shift in focus, but it brought it to my awareness. In the time between the two workshops, I had chosen to change my belief system. I had adopted a philosophy that created healing. With this shift in my perception, I was able to internalize at an intellectual, emotional, behavioral, and spiritual level. My life has been extremely different ever since.
Another powerful example of attitude occurred when I was working with a client. I greeted my client as he arrived for his appointment, and realized immediately that he had a severe problem. His head was down, and his arms dangled at his sides. He was completely slumped over, and his eyes were closed. When I asked what was wrong, I received no answer. He came through the door, slowly, very slowly, dragging his feet and holding on to the railing with extreme effort and difficulty. It took him fifteen minutes to get in the door and to the chair in my office where he finally collapsed.
Eyes still closed, slumped in the chair to almost a fetal position, chin resting on his chest. He sat exhausted from the effort of entering my office. I was being shown, quite literally, how terrible he felt-the fatigue, the pain, the exhaustion of movement, the weariness of being alive. I watched him with concern. After a few moments of sitting in silence and listening to his arduous breathing, I asked a few questions but got a barely audible response, “I can’t, it is too hard.”
I finally asked my client to say the words, “I can” for one minute. I said with authority, “Begin.”
He started mumbling the words, slowly repeating the phrase as directed. After about 25 seconds, he opened his eyes and his body started to move. His shoulders came up, he straightened his back, his head came up, and he actually looked at me. His voice was now stronger and clearer. At the end of the minute, his entire attitude, disposition, and posture had changed. It was amazing.
We then talked about what had created his burden of depression. It was fear-his fear of the future and of not being able to handle the changes and the challenges confronting him. His fear monopolized his thoughts, literally crippling him with fatigue. He had been saying, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t,” and those words were destroying his life.
This simple experiment to change the negative thought and the words he was saying to himself, changed his entire energy. My client literally transformed in front of my eyes. His life situation was still physically the same, but his attitude toward it was different. We continued the session with a new hope.
Granted, this did not solve his problems, but it confronted the “I can’t” attitude, which was destroying his life. He had been physically displaying the manifestation of his thoughts. I had a choice either to enable his woe, comforting his obvious distress, or remind him of his other choice. The task was not mine, but his. He had to experience firsthand the power of his thoughts and how he could be in control. His physical condition was in direct response to what he had been saying to himself. Thoughts will either support you or destroy you. Try the following experiment with yourself:
Every morning when you wake up start saying, “I can”