The Habit Of Giving Meaning To Life's Events, How It Robs You Of Your Happiness And A Simple Way to Claim Your Power Back
By: Shahina Lakhani
"Human beings are meaning making machines." My NLP teacher Christopher Howard repeated it so often during the training courses that this statement is now etched in my memory.
I have pondered it often. I have also seen it work automatically in my own life and in the lives of others. The scary thing is that most of the times we are not even aware that we are constantly giving meaning to the events small or big.
It is this meaning we automatically assign to an event that evokes emotions and therefore determines our reaction to these life events. Have you ever said, "I don't know why I feel like this but I am really ____." You can fill in the blank with any emotion here.
What is the source of these unwarranted emotions? Have you ever wondered about it? Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you did not automatically react to stuff?
Of course we want to keep some automatic responses. For example, if a lion was chasing us we want to be able to automatically summon all our strength and run to safety quickly.
But then what if someone cuts in when we are driving and all of a sudden we are upset? Or what if a friend, sibling or a parent makes a statement we don't really appreciate and in a split of a second we feel sad, unworthy, judged or a number of other emotions? Do we really need to put ourselves through havoc because of what someone else says, does or does not do?
I am sure you have heard or read countless times that it is impossible to change others. So what are we doing? Why do we expect ourselves to be miserable over something that we have no way to change or control. As a result our happiness and sense of self becomes totally dependent on other peoples actions and behaviors.
You don't believe what I am saying? You think other people may be like this but you are better than that and do not let other people control how you feel and what you do? Perhaps you are right. May be you are different but just for argument's sake lets play a game, shall we? After all you have nothing to lose, do you?
So here is how the game goes. Next time when your boss says something not so nice to you, or your friend or spouse gives you a cold shoulder or if someone cuts in when you are driving, I want you to notice your thoughts, emotions and actions.
There is no need to make your thoughts and actions right or wrong, just observe, write them down and then ask yourself, "would I have felt or acted in the same manner if this event had not happened? What is the meaning of this event to me?"
In other words, if your boss had not said what s/he said, would you have still thought or felt what you felt or thought? Be honest to yourself. The answers may surprise you. You might just find that the moment someone else disagrees with you there is an intense desire to prove that you are right and therefore the other person must be wrong.
You may also find that a "disapproving look" or a "disapproving remark" from some people perhaps a parent, spouse or a boss makes you question if you are good enough or worthy. As a result, you either feel worthless/ like a failure or you put up a fight or act defensively to prove them wrong.
What if you could acknowledge another's actions and words and then learn to drop the need to give those actions and words a meaning? What if you allow things to be so without judging them to be right or wrong, good or bad, for you or against you? What if when faced with differences in opinion you were to say, "People are different and have different perspectives. It does not mean one is right and the other is wrong. It only means we have different opinions."
I recently took a coaching client through this exercise and her response really amazed me. I asked her to look at her mother's response to what was going on, which was very different from her own, and instead of saying her mother was wrong just say, "Her opinion is not right or wrong it is just different."
At the end of this exercise my client said, "It feels like a heavy weight is off my chest. I don't have to prove anything to her or to me. My mind chatter is not there anymore, my heart feels open. I feel so much peace."
Now obviously, this client has gone through some intense coaching, self reflection and personal transformation so she was able to feel the impact of this exercise deeply.
But even if you are an average Jane/Joe who is not as committed to personal empowerment, this exercise has a potential to give your life back to you. Letting go of the need to give meaning to every event, comment and circumstance will free you up from a lot of unnecessary stress and drama. It will help you to step out of the habit of reacting to life's events and lead you in the direction of living powerfully.
Just think about it, if Jesus, Mohammad, Joseph, Abraham, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa took every difference in opinion, every cutting comment, every rock thrown at them as a reason to think they were unworthy or that they needed to crush others to defend themselves where would you and I be today?
Yours in love and peace
Shahina Lakhani, RN, MSN, NLP Master Practitioner, Reunion Kinesiology Facilitator, Theta Healing Practitioner: Shahina has been a nurse for over 25 years. She has worked as an educator, Nurse Practitioner and a Hospice Nurse. Shahina is a holistic change expert. She empowers people to feel safe during major life change – divorce, serious illness or even if death is staring you in the eye. Her passion is to help you experience well-being and living powerfully until your last breath.
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