As many of you know I am in school and one of my classes this semester is “Psychology of Modern Life.” I read an article by Arnold Lazarus and Allen Fay titles Unhappiness Is Self-Created and it made me think of my dad and how often he tried to teach me this very lesson. Once again, you were right, dad. ❤
The gist of this article focuses around the old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” The way Lazarus and Fay explain it is very simple. The way Lazarus and Fay explain it is very simple. As children, we are taught this saying about sticks and stones but we don’t take is seriously as adults. When something upsets us we say “His remark upset me!” “It made me unhappy when he left.” “He made me angry.” We are putting the blame on someone else when in reality we should be saying “I hurt myself over his remark.” “I made myself upset when he left.” and “I allowed myself to get angry when he acted in such a way.” As long as we incorrectly blame outside sources for our unhappiness we will never be able to do anything about them.
The first step to remedying this habit is to ask “How exactly am I upsetting myself?” If the answer to that question contains a lot of negative self-statements, challenge each one of them. You will hit a point where you realize the control resides in your head and not in external forces.
The second way to help change your behavior is to talk to your friends, family, and coworkers about the relationship between external events and people’s reactions to those events. Teaching/talking is a great way to learn something yourself and put it into action.
And last but not least, whenever you catch yourself falsely attributing your own feelings to external events, write it down. Keep a record of it in a notebook or in your phone; somewhere easily accessible. And make the notation as soon as possible so you don’t forget it! Then the following day, give yourself a few minutes to reflect on the times you wrote down the previous day. Correct the faulty reasoning and move on.
Mind you there are always exceptions to this rule. For example; if your sister, mother, brother, daughter, friend, etc. were to be raped or intentionally hurt you should be upset and stand up for those injustices. It’s how you stand up for the victim that can cause you problems, but that is another topic entirely.