What Used to Be
By the time you get to about 40, you start seeing what everyone who went before you has already warned you about. Things start repeating. People who vowed to never, ever be like their father are looking in the mirror at his “spitting image.” People, who swore they would never choose a relationship like their parents, look over at their partner and say with chagrin, “Yep. I married my mother.”
We see repeating patterns in our relationship and work decisions as well as our food, dress, and living choices. What may seem even worse is that we see ourselves repeating what we feel are negative behavioral patterns. No matter how hard we try not to, we self-sabotage. Without realizing it until later, we do things that undermine our ability to have what we really want. Over and over, we fall short of achieving the goals we did everything possible to achieve. It almost seems predestined.
Well, in a way, it is. Once we have, like little human sponges, absorbed the good, the bad, and the ugly attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs of key people in our lives from childhood, we are pretty well set on a certain course. We tell ourselves that youth, enthusiasm, and commitment to plowing through obstacles, will take us far. Sometimes we get where we hoped, and often we don’t. Oddly, we sometimes get there only to realize it is an empty place to be, or even, a place that no longer feels right.
In a way, most of us move through life blindly following scripts that others wrote for us. Cultural and social conditioning are both powerful forces shaping our deepest beliefs about others and about our own worthiness. Family norms and influences likewise direct our footsteps far beyond our first step toward independence.
The reason for this is that most of what drives us is under the surface. Our expectations and beliefs, empowered by our feelings, create most of what we ultimately see before us. Our own behavior invites the responses we get from others, some of which we like and some of which we don’t. Our lives may also reflect the beliefs that others hold about us. Do you recall meeting someone who got the message over and over that they “wouldn’t amount to anything?” Have you known someone whose family just expected them to succeed no matter what? Those family beliefs influence our beliefs about ourselves quite a bit. The recognition of the power of our beliefs and unconscious patterns to shape our lives is one foundation of psychology and informs many approaches to achieving psychological wellness.
Spiritual leaders mirror this truth. Abraham-Hicks (https://www.abraham-hicks.com) talks about how we attract life experiences from the “field” created by our thoughts, beliefs, and feelings. If that field holds a fear of failure coupled with a belief that nothing comes easy, you will probably see a whole lot of anxiety-driven hard work with little to show for it.
Wayne Dyer (https://www.drwaynedyer.com) said that the first step to change is to recognize that we create our own lives. Once we recognize how we do this and claim our lives as our responsibility, we open the door to doing it differently. Louise Hay offered the same message when she first recommended the use of affirmations to heal health conditions in her book, “You Can Heal Your Life” (Louise Hay). Even Jesus taught “it is done unto you as you believe.” (Holy Bible, King James Version, Matthew 8:13, https://biblehub.com/matthew/8-13.htm)
Being the Change That You Wish to See
If all that is true, then the solution lies in our own hands, and in our own attitudes. Mr. Dyer said: “The more you see yourself as what you’d like to become, and act as if what you want is already there, the more you’ll activate those dormant forces that will collaborate to transform your dream into your reality.” He also said, “You’ll see it when you believe it” (Source of quotes: https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/2960.Wayne_W_Dyer). Another way to think of it is, you have to be it to see it. ‘Being it’ means feeling it, and believing it without being distracted by what is actually showing up in front of you at that moment.
Wishin’ and Hopin’
In one of the songs that made her famous, Dusty Springfield counsels her girlfriend that wishing for a guy’s love and attention won’t make the relationship happen, but acting like you care will. Like the time-disproven method to determine if a guy loves you by pulling petals off a flower, wishful thinking won’t make it so. You can listen to it on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycbgHM1mI0k.
Wishing and hoping are the antithesis of knowing something to be true. When we wish for things we pre-suppose that they may not, or, probably will not, occur. Yet, if we say affirmations to ourselves like, “I am successful,” when we have not been, and we see no reason to believe that we will be, our statements only evoke disbelief, even though we are saying the “right” words. Knowing takes a deeper faith, that what you have chosen is, in fact, to be. When we say affirmative statements over and over on top of a core of skepticism, we will probably not see them changing our reality. It is more effective to say what we are open to believing, such as “I believe that it is possible that I can succeed in this endeavor and I am open to believing it completely”. At least we are heading in the right direction!
First things first: we need self-awareness. We can break through patterns that hold us back most easily when we recognize and understand them. There are many counseling techniques that promote this, and a sincere desire for the truth coupled with a period of contemplation may also get you there. Meditation joined with counseling is the most reliable path I have found. In meditation, we hone in on our inner experience without external distractions pulling our attention away. We can then bring unconscious patterns and habits to our awareness without automatic defenses blocking us. Over time meditation and counseling helps us get clear on what we really want. You could say that these tools take us out of what used to be into what we choose to be. A spiritual practice helps move us out of the illusion of a limited self into an awareness of who we really are.
Today is a great day to begin! Start with a commitment to meditate every day, at least for 10 or 15 minutes. Whether you seek to break habits, create a better tomorrow, become more self-aware, boost your brain health, de-stress, or just relax, short daily meditations will help you. If meditating does not come easy for you, or you are not yet a meditator, find a local class or use an online resource. You might also consider that today is a good day for taking the first step toward finding a counselor. Counseling offers you a safe space where you can get in touch with what you really want, and gives you the support you need to make the change.
Meditation and counseling; it’s a winning combination for moving beyond wishin’ and hopin’ for change.