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Taking charge of our own well being

Taken from:
Saanich News- March, 2004

Individual, Couple, and Family Counsellor

Dear Paul,
Out of your experience working with couples what would you say is the most important skill in making a relationship work?”

Les, there is a skill that makes all the difference.

In my counselling couples, I notice a big trouble maker. Most of us are not responsible for our feelings. What do I mean by that?

I mean when we have uncomfortable, upsetting, feelings we say “they did it.” They “made me feel.” We blame the other person. As an example, we come home late and there’s no dinner, we say, “I’ve worked late. And no dinner ready! You know it makes me furious. Why won’t anyone help out around here?”

When we operate this way we create a lot of mischief. First, others can’t hear us without becoming defensive. More importantly, when we blame others for our upsetting feelings, we give up our power to look after our well being – our own happiness, our experience of okayness, our satisfaction…the good feelings within us.

You are responsible for your well being. Each one of us is for ourselves.

By “responsible” I don’t mean you are at fault, or to blame. I simply mean we can take care of our feelings much better than we usually do.

Consider this. Any specific situation can’t “make you feel” anything. Not having dinner on the table when you get home, in itself, cannot upset you. The long “line up at the bank” does not make you angry.

When you arrive home and dinner isn’t prepared, you can be perfectly fine. Make a cup of tea. Order pizza. Make dinner. Call the team together. You can be perfectly okay in a long bank line-up. You can.

To see this can bring about a miracle. Why? Because you can then look after your well-being - independent of the circumstances in your life.

Well, you might ask, if the events themselves don’t “make us feel” a certain way, then what does?

The answer: the meaning you give to the events. Your experience is caused by what you make the events mean- what you believe to be true, about dinner not being made. That the dinner isn’t ready means something big to you. Perhaps it means “ He doesn’t support me”, or “I do it all alone” If that is what dinner not being ready “means” to you, you will be upset. It’s your meanings that gives your experience. What we are saying to ourselves about the events. Many rarely notice this simple fact.

And notice we are constantly saying lots of things to ourselves ! We often become lost in our personal meanings. They add so much drama to life.

Will Rogers once said: “I’ve had many terrible experiences in my life. Most of them never happened.”

Look in the places in your life where you are stuck or not happy, and I will bet you are blaming someone. With blaming, we get to avoid responsibility. It has a pay-off and it has a big cost.

The good news is we can take charge of own well being. How? By taking responsibility for what you make the events of your life mean.

Question your meanings. When dinner isn’t ready as you expected, does it really mean “He doesn’t support me. I’m on my own around here.” Really? Drop trouble-making meanings. Invent new meanings. We do it all the time. It’s called “gaining your perspective”. When you have “gained your perspective” you have looked after your well-being. Then you can act and communicate easily and effectively. Life works.

Waiting in the bank line up. Does it mean: “ Good grief, just how long is this going to take? The inefficiency drives me crazy.” Is that what it means?

Or does it mean: “ I got a few minutes to stop and relax. This is just the break in my day I need.” Or: “ I can write my shopping list. ” Or: “ Let’s get that book out.”

In the world of meanings, it’s a candy store.

To be responsible for our own satisfaction, by looking after the meanings we give to the events in our lives, is to look after our own happiness. This, Les, is the one of the most important skills in relationship I know.

Paul Beckow M.Sc. R.P.C. is a trained individual, marriage, and family therapist with over 20 years experience. If you wish to ask a question you can e-mail him at pbeckowLETSTALK@shaw.ca. or call 250 721 2477. Paul’s work can be seen on www.paulbeckow.com

For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.

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