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Gloomy looking womanHave you ever heard of the term, “Debbie Downer”?  This term, based upon a fictional “Saturday Night Live” character, refers to a person who is frequently negative and complaining, thus bringing down the mood of everyone around her.  Sadly, I have to admit that I can be this person at times, and since my name is Debbie, that makes it even worse!

I don’t mean to complain a lot, but there are times when I catch myself spouting out all kinds of negativity.  At least I catch myself more often these days, but I am still dismayed when I realize I am whining and complaining.  My husband gets the worst of it, and this normally very tolerant man has been known to lose his patience with me on occasion.  Yesterday was one of those times, which is what has prompted me to write this post.   I will look at why we complain, when it’s okay, and how to reform our tendency to gripe and moan.

Why We Complain

Why do we complain?  Often it stems from a need to vent our frustration and feel “heard” by others.  We want to be validated for our pain and aggravation, and sometimes we feel better after we get things off our chests.  We’ve all heard the saying, “misery loves company,” and when we complain to others, we often find people jumping on the bandwagon to add their own grievances to the mix.  But do we really feel better when others share in our disgruntled state?

Sometimes we complain because we’re looking for solutions.  In my opinion, that may be the only time when complaining is really okay.  If the person to whom we’re complaining is in a position of power to change the situation, that’s a best-case scenario.  Unfortunately, however, the people to whom we gripe often have no influence over our circumstances and can do little more than helplessly listen to our complaints.  I’ve known some wise souls who have cut habitual whiners off at the pass by simply suggesting, “Why don’t you tell this to someone who can actually do something about it.”  At the very least, that sentiment might make the whiner think twice before complaining to that person the next time around.

People Want to Help

The people who are closest to us want to help us.  They want to see us happy and doing well in life.  If we come to them with a legitimate problem and ask for their help in solving it, they will generally do their best to help us find tangible and reasonable solutions.  However, if we don’t heed their advice and keep coming back to them with the same problem over and over again, they may lose patience with us. We may wear out our welcome with them, no matter how much they love us.

We need to temper our impulse to go to our friends and family with problems on a regular basis.  Our close relationships should be based upon much more than a friendly ear and a shoulder to cry on, although those elements are both desirable and important.   We need to strive for balance in our relationships and ensure that the enjoyable experiences outnumber the trying times as much as possible.  If you think back to your last five encounters with a given loved one and remember complaining to them on more than two occasions, perhaps it’s time to inject a bit more fun into that relationship!  Resolve to either cry on someone else’s shoulder or heed some of the advice you received from a prior confidante.

Taking Advantage?

I often complain too much to my husband because I don’t have many other people in whom to confide.  When I go to him with problems, I feel that I am genuinely looking for solutions, but I have to admit that I often don’t take the good advice he gives me.  I go back to him hoping for different answers instead of first giving one of his useful tips a try.  When I do this, I’m not being fair to him.  I’m taking advantage of his good nature and his love and concern for me. Doesn’t he deserve to have a happy wife instead of one who whines and complains about the same things ad nauseum?

Moral Obligation to Act Happy

Radio talk show host Dennis Prager would say so.  For close to fifteen years, he’s dedicated one of his fifteen weekly broadcast hours to the topic of happiness (he has also written an excellent book on the topic called “Happiness is a Serious Problem”).  Prager asserts that we have a moral obligation to act happy, even when we don’t feel happy.  He believes that happy people make the world a better place while unhappy people contribute to the ills of society.

While one may assume that Prager is advocating inauthenticity with his prescription to act happy, that is far from the truth.  Rather, he values honesty and clarity in interpersonal relationships and believes that we should be open with our intimates about our life challenges.  However, those topics should not dominate our interactions with loved ones by any means.  We owe it to the people who love us to work on cultivating a happy disposition and to overcome our tendency to focus on the negative aspects of life. We should always endeavor to act as happy as possible and we will often be pleasantly surprised to find ourselves feeling more upbeat as a result.

Breaking the Complaining Habit

So how do we break the habit of complaining?  It is helpful to consider the distinction between actions and reactions here.  Often we simply react to situations in our lives without any consideration.  This is the proverbial stimulus-response chain which is cultivated through social conditioning, much like the salivation of Pavlov’s dog upon hearing a bell ring.   But there is another way!

As human beings, we can and should involve our powerful intellect instead of merely acting upon instinct.  It is helpful to take a breath and pause before responding.  During this brief time-out, it is helpful to consider the following related to complaining:

  • Is the person to whom I’m speaking in a position of power to change the situation?
  • Is what I’m about to say constructive?
  • What type of response am I looking for here?  Do I want advice, or am I merely looking to get something off my chest?
  • What is the ultimate result I’m wanting in this situation?

If you simply want to “vent,” I suggest that you either write in a journal about your feelings or set a time limit for your complaining (e.g. “I can vent for 5 minutes, and then I will work on solutions”).  If what you are considering saying will not be constructive, perhaps you should consider not verbalizing it at all.  It’s entirely possible that both you and your companion would be better served by conversing on a more pleasant topic!

Remember the “Law of Attraction”

In closing, it is helpful to remember the Law of Attraction in regards to complaining.  Simply stated, this “law” states that like attracts like.  In other words, when we focus upon something, we attract more of it into our lives.  Focusing on the negative will only serve to attract more negative, and none of us want that!  Instead of looking at what’s wrong or lacking, I suggest you heed the advice given by Michael Losier in “Law of Attraction.”  Ask yourself, “So what do I want?” Then focus on what you need to do to create that result.  Easier said than done, it’s true, but much more productive and sanity-producing than complaining!

Related Posts:

  • Key Principles – Part 1: This post summarizes some of the key philosophies of Louise Hay, author of “You Can Heal Your Life,” the book which is the foundation for The Healing Project.   Among the principles examined is “we are each responsible for our own experiences” and “every thought we think is creating our future.”
  • Missing Tile Syndrome:   As human beings, we have a tendency to focus on what is missing instead of on what is present.  This post focuses on a concept introduced by author Dennis Prager in his book, “Happiness is a Serious Problem.”  I present an overview of the concept of the “missing tile syndrome,” as well as the three main ways for dealing with it.
  • The Decision: This post outlines a life-changing decision I made in August 2009.  Prior to that decision, I had become increasingly fearful, negative, and pessimistic.  I wrestled with many issues and was worrying my life away.  What I decided was something I knew before, but not “in my bones.”  I get to choose how to approach my life and how things will affect me.  I set the powerful intention to live in the moment and face life with a positive attitude.

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Before I dive into working on the “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book(basically a workbook for “You Can Heal Your Life”), I want to share the progress which I’ve made thus far with my Healing Project.   I firmly believe that my focus on and commitment toward healing myself and my life has already resulted in some wonderful and surprising changes.   I am confident that I am on the right track and that more positive outcomes will happen in the coming months!

Improved Attitude

The best change I’ve noticed thus far is that my attitude is greatly improved.  I wake up each day with a much more positive mindset than I had prior to beginning this journey.  I used to wake up with a feeling of either indifference or dread, whereas I now awaken feeling increasingly more hopeful about the day ahead and my future in general.   This more positive outlook is also improving my sleep.  In the past, I would lie awake for thirty minutes or more before falling asleep.  Thoughts would be swirling around in my head and I’d be worrying about the coming day, my to-do list, and what I saw as my many problems.  Now I find myself drifting off to sleep in ten minutes or less!

Increased Productivity

In the past few years, I’ve really struggled with getting myself going in the morning.  I’d get up at a fairly reasonable time, but then I’d proceed to procrastinate on really beginning my day.  I’d surf the internet, spend too much time on email, and wonder where the time would go.  I was lucky if I got started on my critical tasks before noon each day!  I’m now done having breakfast, exercising and showering before ten, which represents a definite improvement.  While I may never really be a “morning person” in the true sense of the term, I am finding myself being much more effective in the morning hours.  This has increased my overall productivity tremendously, and I am feeling much more successful in my day-to-day life.

Increased Confidence & More Business Opportunities

My increased confidence from getting an earlier start each day and accomplishing more overall has helped to attract more work projects to me.  While I am not yet thriving in my business, I have received several new projects, as well as some inquiries regarding potential work.

For the first time in quite a while, I feel as if my career is on the upswing and that I am moving in the right direction.   The simple act of writing this blog has helped to cement my identity as a writer as well as a web designer, so I am attracting both types of work as of late.   My clients in both areas have been pleased with the work I’ve done, which is always a good thing!  Client satisfaction not only helps me to feel good about what I’m doing, it also leads to more work, either from the same clients or through word of mouth.  Win, win!

Better Relationships

Finally, I feel that several of my key relationships have improved.  I’ve had positive interactions with both of my parents in recent weeks, including a nice visit with my mom in her new post-retirement home.  In addition, I’ve also had some wonderful conversations with a few longtime friends and have been reaching out to more people than usual.

These improved relationships can be attributed to my more positive attitude.  When I am feeling negative and in despair, I have a tendency to withdraw and shy away from interacting with others. I find it difficult to act happy when I’m not and I am hesitant to reach out for support when I’m in a slump, especially if I feel that I should be able to pull myself out of the doldrums all on my own.  Whether or not this is the right way to be, it’s a long-term pattern of mine.  Yet, the bright side is that I DO reach out when I’m in a more positive space, which has been the case as of late.

The “Law of Attraction” At Work…

The Law of Attraction is at work in my life since beginning the Healing Project.  I am focused on healing my life and attracting more good into the sphere of my being.  Like attracts like, so my focus on the positive is bringing more positive things into my life.  There is a still a lot of healing to be done, but the journey has only just begun…

My next post will focus on “deservability,” a term coined by Louise Hay.  I will share some of my wants for the future, as well as my feelings on what I do and don’t deserve in my life.   I will be working through the exercises in Louise Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book.” I will share some of the exercises in my blog and invite you to work through them with me.  However, if you’d like to read the support material and work through all of the exercises, I suggest that you purchase the book through Amazon.com (it’s just over $12 at present – I’m not affiliated with Amazon but frequently buy books that way) or at your local bookstore.

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In order to further lay the groundwork for “The Healing Project,” I would like to highlight some of the key principles which Louise Hay outlines in “You Can Heal Your Life.” I will list each principle as stated by Louise Hay, and then I will explain this principle in my own words and relate a bit about what it means to me personally.  As there are a number of principles which I would like to cover before delving into the deep work of my personal healing project, this is the first of four posts on this topic.

“We are each responsible for our own experiences.”

Louise Hay advocates personal responsibility.  Although she asks people to explore their childhoods and past experiences through the exercises in her book, she cautions her readers against laying blame upon anyone else for his or her current life condition.  While it is true that our past experiences and interactions with others have shaped who we are, we are the only ones who are truly responsible for where we are in our lives today.

There is both good and bad news to this principle.  The bad news is that we don’t get to blame anyone else or hold anyone else responsible for what’s happening in our lives.  The good news is that it is completely in our power to transform our lives wholly and completely.    This is, of course, a double-edged sword.  It is in our power to change, we are free to change our lives in both small and great ways, but it is US who must make those changes.

I am completely willing to own that I am responsible for my experiences.   This means that if I fall into “victim mode,” which happens to all of us at times, it is up to me to pull myself out of that abyss and step back into ownership mode.  I am responsible for what I think and what I do.  I am responsible for doing what I say I’m going to do and for honoring my commitments to myself and others.    This is a tall order, but it affords us great freedom to be and to create.

“Every thought we think is creating our future.”

We each think thousands of thoughts each day.  We are unaware of the majority of these thoughts and many of us have more negative thoughts than positive ones.  Our thoughts have both energy and creative power.  Like attracts like and through the powerful Law of Attraction (see “The Secret by Rhonda Byrne for more information), our thoughts are basically bringing about our experiences.

We all have a negative inner voice which exerts power over us.   This is the voice that tells us we’re not good enough, that we’re foolish to want what we want, and that we’ll never accomplish the goals which we’ve set for ourselves.  This voice is sometimes referred to as the “Gremlin” (see “Taming Your Gremlin” by Rick Carson) and it’s amazing how miserable this gremlin can make us!  I once did an exercise in which I recorded all of my negative thoughts over the course of an eight hour time period.  I literally had hundreds of negative thoughts and many of them were repetitive!  This simple exercise helped me to understand how I was limiting my energy, my creativity and my happiness by my limiting and destructive thoughts.

The good news is that positive thoughts are MUCH more powerful than negative thoughts.  If we consciously replace some of our negative thoughts with positive ones, or if we deliberately think positive thoughts throughout the day, we will notice a big difference in our sense of well-being.  One example of an easy positive thought to think is the declaration “I approve of myself” which I mentioned in my last post.  If you find yourself thinking something negative, either replace it with its opposite, say “cancel cancel” to clear the negative energy, or use a mantra like “I approve of myself” to turn your thoughts and your energy around.

“The point of power is always in the present moment.”

We cannot change the past and we have no control over the future.  The only time which is under our control is this moment, right now.  So often, we spend so much time and energy lamenting what we did or didn’t do in the past and worrying about what we might do and what might happen in the future.   These thoughts and worries are really a big waste of time and usually serve to make us less happy instead of more happy.

If you want to be happy and joyous, focus on the NOW.  Not only is this one of Louise Hay’s key principles, but it is also set forward as a precept among many thought leaders, including Eckhart Tolle, who published the best-selling book, “The Power of Now.”

This is a simple but not easy concept.  When one is first starting to live in the present moment, he or she will often find the mind drifting backwards or forward.  This is the time to gently nudge yourself back to the now, just as one might clear their mind or return to a mantra during meditation.  If you find yourself worrying about the future, it can be helpful to ask yourself the following two questions (from “The Big Leap” by Gay Hendricks):

  1. Is this worry realistic?
  2. If so, is there anything I can do about it right now?

If the answer to the first question is no, then bring your attention back to the present moment; likewise if the answer to the second questions is no.  If the answer to the second question is yes, then do something to remedy your worry.  Even something minor can be helpful.   Then bring your attention back to the here and now, the point of your power.

I will be covering all of these principles in greater detail in this blog moving forward, as they are all critical to the healing project.  In my next blog entry, I will be discussing several more of Louise Hay’s key healing principles.  Stay tuned…

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