How do we understand change, especially our thoughts about changing bad situations into a learning environment? Victor Frankl, a famous psychiatrist once said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Another relevant saying: “Change always comes bearing gifts” (Price Pritchett). Finally, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote, “Nothing that is can pause or stay; the moon will wax, the moon will wane, the mist and cloud will turn to rain, the rain to mist and cloud again, tomorrow be today.”
If you decide that you want to change your relationships, you have to realize that it can only happen with a conscious effort to understand yourself. However, if many of our thoughts, processing and understandings are subconscious, how do we better understand ourselves? Of course, we could all go into therapy, but before doing that let’s realize means of self-disclosure and understanding. By virtue of a thought being subconscious, we are not aware of it. What we are not aware of we can’t take control of and change. So we have to purposefully be more aware of our thought processes to be in control of our thoughts, feelings and actions.
How can bad situations produce good results? In fact, research has shown that many people diagnosed with a serious illness make significantly positive changes to their lifestyles and relationships. For example I recently had a parent in my office that was very upset that her fourteen-year-old son had “gone off the derech.” When I asked her what effect this has had on their home, she was hesitant to answer. She then described how she and her husband had initially gotten very angry with their son, who in turn got very angry with them. As the anger in the family grew and started taking a toll on the family relationships amongst the various family members, they were able to re-evaluate the situation by stepping back and taking a look at what was happening to each of them. They were able to see that the anger was tearing them apart more than their son’s behaviors were and they were becoming reactive to him and each other. This couple, with great effort and work, was able to let go of some of their anger, which they realized was actually more of a disappointment in both their son and themselves, and they were then able to see the bigger picture.
In fact, when they were able to better understand the situation by rethinking their understanding, they were able to let go of many of their negative feelings, making room for more productive and creative thoughts. In turn, they found themselves concentrating on loving their son and found themselves opening up their home to other kids who were either rediscovering, or discovering for the first time, their Yiddishkeit (Jewish feelings).
They were actually surprised how good they felt about themselves and how these good feelings could replace the disappointment they had felt for their son. By releasing themselves from these negative feelings and transferring the good feeling of helping others, they found more energy and positive reinforcement for their own son. Without all the negativism, their relationship with their son was improving.
The lesson we can learn is that we must first re-think and evaluate what the bad situation is. Sometimes we need help stepping back and seeing things from a new perspective, re-thinking what we thought was obvious. Finally, with a new perspective we can better understand the situation and make a conscious decision to try a new way of entertaining the relationship or situation.
We should all use our ability to look at the world both through the “me” perspective as well as the “us” perspective to see the immediate situation as well as the bigger picture. As we learn to step back and re-think we can be in more control of our relationship with others.
Mr. Schild is the Executive Director of Regesh Family and Child Services in Toronto, Ontario Canada. He is also a family therapist and certified specialist in Anger Management and conducts many therapeutic workshops in various topics. Regesh runs many programs helping families and youth dealing with personal and family issues in their lives. To arrange a speaking engagement, contact Mr. Schild. He can be reached at 416-495-8832 extension 222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.