There are many things in life that you cannot change, but you can change how you respond to those things. This is often times a central focus of therapy. One of the most beneficial things a person can get out of therapy is an awareness of the power of a shift in perspective. When you take a negative perspective on life everything you experience gets filtered through that lense of negativity and you end up giving yourself unnecessary suffering in the form of pessimism. By taking a more positive perspective in life, you open yourself up to more good and happiness.
I often use the example of work expectations. If I go to work thinking “I’ve got a whole bunch of things to get done, I don’t have enough time, and I’m never going to finish everything.” then when one of my coworkers comes into my office in the morning to say hi, I’m liable to get frustrated and annoyed because “I don’t have enough time and I knew something like this was going to happen!” Whereas if I just came into work in the morning knowing I have a lot to get done, but not amplifying it with negative expectations, then I would be able to receive my co-worker’s greeting as the friendly interaction it should be. In therapy we talk about approaching life with openness and curiosity, meaning I am open to whatever happens, and I’m not going to assume anything, but wait and see what happens. When you take this kind of approach to life you are better able to live in the moment and increase your overall happiness.
The most common place I see couples get into trouble with each other is when they get stuck in default behaviors and are not mindful of each other. Often times when life is hard/stressful we automatically switch into auto pilot and think/behave in ways that can cause unhappiness and tension in relationships. Therapy teaches us to be mindful of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. If you can learn to be mindful and take a postive perspective, you will find yourself one day being able to choose to be happy. The challenge of daily life, and a goal of therapy is to choose and construct your own reality, rather than feeling like you’re just along for the ride of whatever life chooses to throw at you. The following video beautifully captures this.
*****This blog post used to have a really good video in it, but the video has been taken down from youtube several times for copyright infringement claims. This is actually a really sad story. After battling depression for much of his life, the man who gave this speech, David Foster Wallace, committed suicide in 2008. It is sad that his estate has claimed copyright infringement against the creators of the video I used to have embedded in this post. It was a good one that could help others struggling with depression. I am checking back in on this situation occasionally to see if they might change their mind. You can find the video that used to be here on youtube. I’m too afraid to post it here, for fear of being targeted by a lawsuit. But in the meantime, the video below is a recording of the speech the video was based on.*****