Thoughts + Feelings = Quality of Relationships
Last week I wrote a post about some things we can do to untangle differences in our family. It generated some conversation! Readers added other important elements in their comments. They said, “We need boundaries. We need to value and respect ourselves. We need to make sure others know lines they cannot cross. We should never allow abuse.” I agree with all of those sentiments.
But I also know that in everyday families most things can be worked out as we choose to remain calm and kind. I also know from mentoring many years that there are two things that are key to helping us be calm and kind.
In one of the comments by a reader, both items were mentioned: “Thus changing how we think…and react … can change the dynamic of the relationship.”
Controlling the story we tell ourselves about what is happening can help us control how we feel and ultimately how we respond. A better response gives us a better outcome. We are able to remain calm and kind.
Many of you may have a difficult time accepting you can control how you feel by taking charge of the story you tell yourself.
I mean, if the kids are acting crazy, it’s going to make you feel crazy. If your spouse doesn’t notice how nice the house looks it can make you feel unimportant or undervalued. When money’s tight or your spouse isn’t helping you out, you feel overwhelmed. If you feel unsupported or if you have a health issue, all of this is going to mess with how you feel, right? At one time in my life, I knew the answer was a big fat yes!
Let me share one of a number of experiences that opened my eyes to the truth that our story can and does create how we are going to feel and in turn how we will respond to problems. We have control over our response!
My daughter, Jenny, had been hit head on by a drunk driver. He’d been going eighty miles an hour on the wrong side of the freeway. Those few terrible seconds changed Jenny’s life forever. She was ready to graduate with her BA but the accident left her unable to walk or find words for simple things such as orange or shoe. She couldn’t track conversations or make sense out of what people were saying. Her center for receiving social cues was damaged.
In 2012, Jenny’s six-year journey to get her life back ended when she graduated with her Master’s degree in Speech Therapy. When I think of Jenny’s experience, I know her recovery was because of a crucial step she took long before the accident. She had decided to take control of her thoughts.
Quotes decorated her walls and reflected how she wanted to view herself and life. When something bad, confusing, embarrassing, or hurtful happened to her, Jenny would recite one of her quotes in response. Then she would move forward.
In a time of darkness, confusion, and both physical and mental pain, she chose to look at life through a
lens of light. She decided to embrace happiness no matter how hard the day. She controlled her thoughts, and she controlled her words. She controlled her story! I don’t want you to think the years after her accident were easy— they were long and painful—but she had decided to believe life was beautiful and there were lessons of value in each experience for her as a result.
Despite all of the difficulty and loss, Jenny would not discuss, in negative terms, the man who hit her. She wasn’t going to waste one minute on anger. Jenny wouldn’t verbalize the bad but chose instead to think and talk positively. She behaved this way before the accident and maintained this way of being after the crash. Jenny told her story in a way that did not include her as a victim.
One of my favorite writers is Viktor E. Frankl, a Holocaust survivor. He reminded us in his book Man’s Search for Meaning the one thing that can never be taken from a person is their ability to choose how to respond. I would add that their responsibility to mentally write a story leading to the best response is also completely within their control.
Perspective is an amazing thing. It is, simply put, the story we tell ourselves: what we think is happening in our lives right now, what we believe happened in the past, and even what we think will happen in the future.
Once we have our story, feelings are generated. These feelings move us to an action or response. Our response produces a result, either good or bad. This little scenario repeats itself hundreds of times each day.
You change your story by controlling your thoughts. You manage your emotions by controlling your story. When you do this, you take more positive actions and you get better results. Jenny has proven this to be true! I’ve proven it to be true in my own life as well.
In what ways have you been able to take control of your stories? In what ways do you still struggle to believe that no matter what happens you can control how you feel? Have you learned how to stop being a victim? I’d love to hear your responses in the comments section.
Next week I will talk more about how the stories we tell ourselves affect our response. The week after that, we’ll look at how positive stories can increase your inner resources, helping you better handle the things that come along in every family.
Here’s to more joy,
P.S. You can learn more about controlling your thoughts and emotions for better family relationships in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. You can also receive a chapter from the book on Touchpoints, creating points of connection rather than points of contention, FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com It can be life changing for your family. I promise!