Being the Light You Want to Shine

Being the Light

Being the light we want to shine all around us is difficult. But I sincerely believe it’s everyone’s calling. Ghandi phrased this mantra differently. “Be the change you want to see in the world,” he famously said. And no truer words have ever been spoken. If we want things to be different, it has to start with us. Each and every one of us.

Wishing and hoping that others or circumstances will change is inherently frustrating. For one thing, we have no power over other people, places, and things. We only have power over ourselves. And even then, our hangups generally hold us back. Still, we have the power to choose and to act. So, if we want the world to be full of light, it has to start with us.

Sadly, I’ve know too many folks who sank into depression because the change they sought eluded them. But perhaps more sadly, I know that their depression resulted because of where they were looking for change: without instead of within. Spending time and energy yearning for things you haven’t power over only breeds feelings of helplessness. And helplessness can easily morph into hopelessness, then depression. (See also: Helplessness Need Not Become Hopelessness.) There’s no light there, only darkness. But when we refocus, on the light within, and make the decision to let it shine no matter what, everything begins to change, including this often dreary, weary world.

Finding Joy

The behavioral “formula” for depression is focusing on what we can’t control. (See: pp. 144-145 in In Sheep’s Clothing and p.140 in How Did We End Up Here?). Accordingly, the behavioral formula for joy is focusing attention, time, energy, etc., where we have ultimate power: our behavior.  While the formula is simple, it’s not easy to put into practice, especially when we’re already stuck in an emotional rut. Still, it’s the formula, not only for our own healing but also for the world’s.

If ever there were a time for being the light we want to see in the world it’s now. We’ve been in a period of substantial darkness. But it appears the light is beginning to shine again. It started in the hearts of a few and is spreading. Its continued spread depends on all of us. So, please, be the light.

Darkness can never overcome the light within. It doesn’t have that kind of power. Only our wrongful focus can snuff it out. And that’s an easy trap. There are many bad actors out there. And they and their behavior invite us to focus externally. That exacts a heavy price. But there is a way out. Look within instead. Embrace what you find. Then, share it and the joy that comes with it whenever and wherever you can. Let’s brighten up this darkened world, okay? And let’s do it like it was always meant to be done: one heart at a time, starting with our own.

10 thoughts on “Being the Light You Want to Shine

  1. Dr. Simon,

    All of the above make so much sense and are true, in my experience. I’m better able to recognize when I’m off track and stuck in a rut.

    Do you have any suggestions for dealing with/accepting/healing the deep, painful, sense of betrayal, grief and loss? It’s so much harder for me with my daughter than it was with my parents. I’ve been working on acceptance, but my heart and head can’t seem to fully grasp it. I seem to swing from full acknowledgement of who she is and what she is capable of then drift back into hope and wishful thinking (maybe she’ll get help and be respectful and a better person – because she had sought therapy and is insightful and self-reflective). Which sometimes results in the rut. I’m looking internally, but I think I’m stuck in the bargaining stage of grief and am having trouble moving out of it. I know I have no power over what she does or does not do but am having trouble healing the hurt and betrayal and letting go of the hope.

    1. Hi Mindful,

      Your words resonated with me as I too am experiencing the grief of betrayal and losing a relationship with my daughter. It compounded the grief of losing a long-term relationship with an abusive ex. While I try to focus on my own behavior, what is sometimes hard to control is the tears that come from the deep hurt. It puts me between a hard place and a rock, because I try to keep it from the kids as it’s not their problem, but when they accuse me of keeping secrets and ask for more openness, I tell them of my sadness (with no blame on anyone) and they blame me for dampening their spirits and tell me to shut up. When I ask for respectful behavior and communication, they turn it back on me, citing their sister who has complained about me, accusing me of being a narcissist and abuser when I have been the one abused by my ex and my daughter.

      At the end of the day, directing my behavior where it leads to long-term fulfillment is all I can do. I fully accept my emotions and give myself the compassion that I am not getting from my daughter, and refuse to buy in to her accusations and blame. Expressing needs is one thing, destroying a relationship by accusing, judging and blaming is another. Losing a relationship with a child is very painful, but in the long run, it is the price to pay for self-respect and emotional health.

  2. Hi Erin,

    Thank you for your reply. I’m sorry to hear that you too are grieving the betrayal and loss of you daughter as well as your relationship with your ex. It’s such a painful experience.

    It sounds like your children are copying some unhealthy behavior. Don’t know how old they are, but sometimes getting intervention early can help them immensely with the unhealthy thought and behavioral patterns. Your ex may also be pumping them for information. I didn’t realize how much my ex was gaslighting my daughter and using her to hurt me. I wonder if your ex is doing the same. My daughter and I were very close and had a great bond. When my daughter was younger he would tell her things like the child support was supposed to go directly to her (not for housing/food/clothing/etc..) and that I was stealing her money. He wanted to drive a wedge between us and wanted her to distrust me. I explained that that was not true. But my guess is that he did it with everything. If they hear it often enough, especially from a parent, they start to believe it.

    I think for me a large part is that I’m also grieving that she was brainwashed by her father. I’m grieving who she was and is not any longer. I see glimpses of her in their and it gives me glimmers of hope. I’m also grieving that I was not able to protect her. She deserved/deserves protection. He destroyed our relationship to punish me. At this point, I think she doesn’t trust anyone (except maybe her father?) and I’m grieving that too. She tries to get people before they get her. Such a lonely, scary place to be. I’ve been trying to earn her trust back, but I don’t know if that’s possible. I certainly cannot trust her at this point, and it is likely that I never can.

    “At the end of the day, directing my behavior where it leads to long-term fulfillment is all I can do. I fully accept my emotions and give myself the compassion that I am not getting from my daughter, and refuse to buy in to her accusations and blame. Expressing needs is one thing, destroying a relationship by accusing, judging and blaming is another. Losing a relationship with a child is very painful, but in the long run, it is the price to pay for self-respect and emotional health.”

    Well stated.

    I was hoping that Dr. Simon would offer his insight. I don’t know about you, but sometimes when you hear something from someone else it just clicks into place and you can move forward, get unstuck. He used to be more interactive with folks.

    I wish you peace and healing, Erin.

    1. You said: “I think for me a large part is that I’m also grieving that she was brainwashed by her father. I’m grieving who she was and is not any longer. I see glimpses of her in their and it gives me glimmers of hope. I’m also grieving that I was not able to protect her. She deserved/deserves protection. He destroyed our relationship to punish me. At this point, I think she doesn’t trust anyone (except maybe her father?) and I’m grieving that too. She tries to get people before they get her. Such a lonely, scary place to be. I’ve been trying to earn her trust back, but I don’t know if that’s possible. I certainly cannot trust her at this point, and it is likely that I never can.”

      Exactly. I hurt because of betrayal, but I also hurt for my daughter. She has no contact with her father now but still buys into what he painted about me when she was growing up. I want so badly to reach out to her, but I also know she doesn’t want it, and would probably use it against me. As for the younger kids, taking them to counselling in the past has not ended well due to interference by their father. I have sole custody which he doesn’t respect and he tries to control much of their lives.

      As I lay awake about this recently, I suddenly connected with the adult, healthy part of me, was able to see and give compassion to the sad, helpless, hurting part. The comfort was enough to soothe my feelings, accept my current situation, hold my head high, find a sense of agency and control, and send me back to deep sleep! I was so broken I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to function at work but connecting to the healthy part of myself really helped.

      Thanks for sharing, Mindful, it’s good to know that I am not alone in this.

      1. Unfortunately, I think there’s lots of us out here. It is helpful for me too to know I am not alone in this. Haven’t shared it with most people (outside of here and Alanon) because I do not think they’ll understand. But perhaps I’m mistaken.

        As an aside, I was reading a transcript of a recording of a call a certain high profile leader made to browbeat another government official into doing what they want – an illegal something – and was so emotionally triggered. It’s the tactics that have been used against me all my life. (They really seem to love using threats.) But I wanted to step back and see it for what is was. To see the tactics and the intended reaction. Was able to do it pretty well, yay. But the after effect was that it activated old anxiety/panic (PTSD). Was biting my nails and couldn’t get my body calmed down. Like you, I found that if I connected to that in a supportive way, and, in my case, I used healthy self talk (I can protect myself now, I see it for what it is, I’m safe right now), I was able to relax immediately.

        It’s so much easier when you have the tools and can see things for what they really are.

        Thanks, Erin.

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