I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. I used to wait in line with my kids to get the latest book at midnight on the release date. I’d read the books aloud to them after supper each night so they wouldn’t argue about who got to read it first. We even adopted a Yorkie-Maltese puppy and named him Fang. Yep, it was pretty bad.
Recently, I found myself feeling blue and decided to console myself by going to see “Fantastic beasts and where to find them”.
One of the characters in the movie, Credence, is an abused child who’s surrounded by all kinds of awful. He’s been adopted by a fanatic, used by a powerful wizard as a spy and just can’t seem to catch a break. As someone who came from a very bleak start, this pulled at my heartstrings in a way that I have difficulty putting into words.
I know what it’s like to wake up feeling hopeless every single day and to feel like crying all the time for years on end. I’ve felt utterly and completely alone in the world with nowhere to turn, tried to reach out and been turned away, been bullied and misunderstood.
Toward the end of the movie, the main character tries to help Credence, but is unable to do so, in part, because he’s simply unable to trust anyone. He’s terrified and has lost faith in any good coming to him at all.
I’ve been there. Have you?
I’ve chosen this rather dramatic example to illustrate that we humans tend to view life through the lens of our early experiences and use them to define ourselves and to determine what possibilities life holds for us.
If we’ve come to believe that our dreams are not possible and that life holds nothing but pain for us, we will tend to create experiences that validate our viewpoint.
If you understand the impact your early experiences can have on your life and relationships, you’ll have a great head start toward making positive changes.
Start by looking at the ways in which you relate to people. What are the stories you tell yourself? Do you think that you’re alone, you can’t count on others, or that you’re not good enough to have what you want? Are you able to trace these patterns back to where they originated?
Consider the notion that your ideas are simply thoughts, nothing more. They are not reality. You made these ideas up in response to what was happening in your life at a very early age so that you could make sense of your life.
Much has changed since you created these ideas. You’re an adult now. You have more resources and you know much more than you did then. You no longer need to depend on your caretakers to meet all of your needs. You have other options now.
If you could invent these ideas, you can make up new ones that serve you better, because they’re just ideas.
So although it is true that you’ve suffered, had some crushing disappointments and that they probably weren’t your fault, these things don’t have to define your life. You can always make a new choice, but you have to see how first.
Simply knowing that you have a choice can help immensely. You really do have a say in your own future. You’re not at the mercy of the fates, your past, or anything else. You can decide who you will be and how you will look at your life today. You can make a new choice.
The events that happen in your life are simply events. It’s up to you to decide what they mean.
Did the person you smiled at on the street not smile back because she was distracted or because she thought you were unattractive? Was the guy who cut you off in traffic cruel and inconsiderate or late for a meeting? Were your parents unable to meet all of your needs because they were determined to ruin your life or because they were stressed out and simply didn’t know how?
If you’re having trouble with something in your life right now and it’s a situation that comes up repeatedly, try journaling.
Ask yourself questions such as: “How does my current situation resemble events from my past?” “How does the person who’s hurt me resemble other important people in my life?” “What choices did I make that helped to create this situation?”
It can also be helpful to think about how you may be able to benefit from the situation. For instance, during a particularly painful breakup, I was able to see how my ex had taught me many valuable lessons that I needed to learn about communication.
I also realized that although the way in which he left me was cruel, it made me never want to see him again and thus able to move on with my life instead of hoping that he would return someday.
It can also help to practice gratitude. I often write lists of everything I love about life. This can help shift your perspective into one of finding joy in even the simplest of things, such as a cup of coffee in the morning or the warmth of the sun on your face.
Can you see examples in the world of those who have what you want? That shows you that what you want is possible. If others can have it, so can you. You can remind yourself of this fact the next time you feel discouraged.
Think about others who have what you want and see if you can figure out how they got it. You can read books on the topic, watch videos on YouTube, or simply ask them.
Step outside the story. See that the events that took place don’t mean anything about you. They were simply events. In this way, you can wake yourself up from your own trance.
I was having a really hard time recently and called my brother sobbing. I told him how lost and alone I felt and he said “No way, that’s just not true. Everyone loves you and you’re never alone.” He was right. I just wasn’t able to see past my own story at that moment.
The next time you feel alone, reach out to someone. Don’t assume that no one cares. You may be surprised at how much they do if you let them in.
If you don’t get what you need from the first person you reach out to, try something else. Keep trying. Make up your mind that you can and will find a way.
The circumstances under which we were brought up and what we make them mean can have an enormous impact on the way we look at life and what we allow ourselves to have or achieve. It’s never to late to ask questions and to decide what we want to be true going forward.
We always have the power to examine our own thoughts and to make new choices.