Finding joy in life seems hard these days for all too many. There are several reasons for this. For one, the very way some of our daily lives are structured can easily suck the joy out of living. And, if we happen to be in a relationship with a disturbed character or have to deal with such a person on a regular basis, life can indeed get pretty miserable. So, how can folks in circumstances such as these reclaim a sense of joy?
Last week I wrote about the behavioral formula for depression. (See: Helplessness Need Not Become Hopelessness.) Focusing attention on and investing emotional energy in people, places, or things you can’t possibly control is a sure pathway to helplessness. And feelings of helplessness can eventually lead to feeling hopeless. That’s how depression often sets in. That’s its formula. But there’s a behavioral formula for joy, too. Focusing your attention on and investing your emotional energy where you truly have power is inherently vitalizing. And, of course, the one place you have virtually infinite power is over your own behavior. So, while trying to get others to change is frustrating and eventually depressing, taking action on your own behalf is positively energizing.
Taking action on your own behalf – that’s the key to finding joy again! And remaining humbly open to the learning the lessons that inevitably flow from the choices you make is ultimately empowering, although it might not always seem so at the time. Still, patience, faith, and persistent honest self-reckoning, enables us to grow in both awareness and character.
Being the Change
Ghandi famously said that you have to be the change you want to see in the world. And Dr. Martin Luther King both embraced and lived out this philosophy. The message is simple and clear: You have to embody what you want to see others manifest. And you have to do the very thing you want to see done. That’s the way you truly mature emotionally, spiritually, an in character. And it’s also the way the world eventually heals and is converted, one heart at a time.
We humans are notorious complainers. And make no mistake, in our character-impaired times, there’s plenty to complain about. But we haven’t the power to change others. We only have the power to change ourselves. And we’re obliged to do so regardless of what others might do. And when we muster the courage and resolve to better, the effects go beyond us. That’s because we’re all connected. And when one part of a system changes, it necessarily influences and impacts all the others.
Waking Up and Coming Alive
Folks in relationships with disturbed characters eventually wake up to the reality of their circumstances. And most of the time, it’s a rude, painful awakening. Moreover, wresting oneself from a toxic relationship, picking up the pieces, and moving on is a most daunting task. But waking up to yourself is perhaps the most daunting task of all. Knowing yourself – your fears, insecurities, unresolved issues, etc. is challenging indeed. But the rewards that come with it are abundant and definitely worth both the pain and the wait usually involved.
Folks who’ve exited toxic relationships often have much to grieve. That’s because they’ve generally lost a lot, especially in the way of emotional investment. (See: The Slot Machine Syndrome discourse in In Sheep’s Clothing.) But in the end, it does little good to lament what such a relationship may cost you. While the price may have been steep, you can turn it to profit by heeding the lessons the experience afforded you. Of course, most survivors are so angry and hurt they just don’t want to let their ex-partners off the hook. But perhaps the biggest thing you lose in any toxic relationship is yourself. So, letting go of all those things over which you no power anyway and taking action is the surest way to find yourself again. And it’s also the secret to finding joy again.
Disturbed characters generally don’t relinquish the grip they had over you easily. They typically do all they can to keep you ensnared in some way. But you always have the power to refuse to assent to their ploys. I’ll be talking more about that in the coming weeks.