At times we all live in the world of ‘I would never’, as in ‘I would never act that way’, ‘Live that way’, ‘Treat someone like that’; ‘I would never be a hypocrite’ or ‘cruel’ or ‘petty’. The problem with all that is…..we are all those things, ‘like that’, sometimes. It has taken me a long time to learn, (an incredibly long time to learn, but whose counting), but the cliche about everything being an opportunity is absolutely right.

The problem is, it is not always the opportunity that you are looking for or are prepared for, but it is often the opportunity that you need, for when you see problems as an obstacle and Not an opportunity, you are the victim in your own story. By seeing obstacles as an opportunity to be better, react better, change your mind and to see it differently, you are choosing to be in control, you are choosing to be in control of the situation, of your own life, of your ‘self’.

The other cliche is, ‘you can’t control anything but you can control how you react (feel) to/about it’, this is also true; but I want to take it a step further and suggest that you can more then just see it as an obstacle, a negative thing to get over or to make you better, you can also welcome it as a gift. Yup, a gift! But first you have to change your perspective about it, to view it the way you might view taking piano lessons for example; (not a great example but bear with me), when you start to learn the piano everything about it is a challenge, but you take lessons because you want to get better at it, you want to learn about it, there is a reason for subjecting yourself to the pain, a goal, a finish line; when you direct this level of abstract reflection at yourself maybe with a little tweaking you can begin to see everything as an opportunity for growth, no matter how bleak.

The point is, it’s not supposed to be easy, all the ‘cliches’ are again correct (or some of them anyway), if it’s easy you don’t learn, you only learn through pain to varying degrees. Some people are better at knowing what’s good for them then others, its just a gift, unfortunately, one that the gods didn’t fain to imbue me with. Largely….we all went to school and learned a bunch of facts and how to do some math and about some history, but its all so vague and arbitrary without experience. Just a bunch of symbols and points. But the real education occurred when the girl you were in love with went for the hockey star or the rocker and not you; or the bullies crammed you into the locker or dumped your head in the toilet. That’s where your true self was molded. You became a reflection of what you didn’t like; largely the product of learning how to be the kind of person that avoids what you hate, the kind of person that doesn’t get royal flushed. That’s why bullies often were bullied and abusers were abused. People become the byproduct of their experience when they are unwilling or unable to do the work, the work of self reflection, the questioning of why we do the things we do; often its easier to just suppress and deny.

If we just blame our abusers then we can be comfortable avoiding responsibility for our own actions. ‘It’s not my fault, don’t you know what happened to me!’. ‘The devil made me do it’.

Remember, you are not ‘obligated’ to think any particular way about anything. You don’t have to get upset, or annoyed or angry or frustrated, or seek revenge, these are choices, yup choices. You don’t have to let those that abused you win, they took what they took from you, and as long as you keep hurting yourself as a result, their still winning, still controlling you. Changing your thinking IS your life’s work and I know it’s hard in the moment, but if you reflect on your thinking in stressful moments you will notice the little voice in your head asking you how you would like to handle any given situation, and often, we rely on what we have learned or observed from others or how we reacted in the past. It can be a kind of lazy, reactive thinking.

Of course, these things are never so simple, or easy in the moment; sometimes we are rejecting something so fundamental to our being, such as retaliating for a slight or insisting on being heard or understood, that to change our general reaction to these events is wrenching. But I am here to tell you that its worth it. I can’t tell you how many relationships I have ruined by reacting passionately, or aggressively or vengefully and honesty the old excuse that ‘it felt good at the time’ is actually wrong, I hate myself while I’m acting those ways and I hate myself after I act those ways. There is a certain release that I feel when I give into those passions but that is honestly weakness, losing the grip on the mane, similar to addiction to a drug. Think of it as taking control of your own mind.

Most of us think we control our minds, that we decide everything, but if we look closely at our actions, we may see that a lot of the time we are behaving reflexively or emotionally, without making the conscious decision to act, in any of the ways we act, at all.

Writer, artist. brettcurley@gmail.com.

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