From Dr. Jane's Notebook

Thanksgiving ~ Resolve to make changes

            The quintessential American holiday, Thanksgiving, reminds us to pause and be thankful. For many, this has been a difficult year. Some of us have lost loved ones, some have lost jobs, some may have lost face at home or in their community, and these losses may feel insurmountable. Fortunately, one of the miracles of life is that over time, human beings can recover from loss, regain their sense of optimism, and move forward. While we  can be thankful for life’s resilience, feeling good is not automatic. To improve your life and your relationships, I recommend getting a head start on some New Year’s Resolutions. Here are a few suggestions.

·        The Resolution not to tell lies. There are few things worse than concealing the truth. Whether the lies that we tell are lies of omission or lies of commission, withholding the truth from loved ones drives a wedge through relationships. It is painful to conceal information from those we care about, and it takes a lot of energy to work around the truth in order to avoid certain topics. The more energy it takes to cover up our lies, the easier it becomes to simply not talk at all. But without communication, even the closest of relationships will eventually deteriorate, leaving behind a legacy of guilt and deception.

·        The Resolution not to be critical. In contrast to the Resolution not to tell lies, it is not always necessary to share our opinions. People often mistake their own opinions for statements of fact. No doubt, sharing our opinions makes us feel smart and expressing our criticisms makes us feel brilliant. But our opinions (and especially our criticisms) are often not constructive. In contrast to the truth, it is often smarter to withhold negative thoughts. When we casually criticize the efforts of others, we may underestimate the damage that we cause. Careless words can cut like knives and undermine the efforts of those around us. Negativity can rob us of positive experiences, it can diminish good intentions, and cause others to feel pain. Like sticking a pin in someone else’s balloon, being critical of others may make you feel better temporarily, but it will not make you a better person.

·        The Resolution to seek balance. The quality of our lives is closely linked to our state of balance. As human beings, personal balance works much like a pendulum that swings back and forth in continuous motion. We alternate between work and play, we alternate between awake and asleep, and we alternate between being with others and being alone. Throughout the day, we breathe in and we breathe out and it is this continuous state of movement that allows us to smoothly meet our needs. Problems arise when we try to violate the movement of the pendulum through excess or deprivation. While it is appealing to try to beat the system and do things our own way, too much or too little of anything can throw off our natural balance. When we fail to take care of ourselves, the resulting state of imbalance is costly both to ourselves and to others who must then take care of us.

·        The Resolution to be self-confident. It is wrong to hurt others and it is wrong to hurt ourselves. Just as it is hurtful to criticize others, it is hurtful when we criticize ourselves. While it is impossible to lead a perfect life, life is full of some very perfect moments and precious experiences. Self-confidence grows when we recognize our successes and acknowledge our improvements; self-hatred grows when we count up our short-comings and dwell on our failures. Self-confidence and self-esteem are gifts which only we can give to ourselves. If we rely on others to make us feel good and worthwhile, we become dependent upon them for constant praise and approval. A less costly and less demanding approach is to encourage and positively motivate our selves. In spite of what you may have learned in childhood, self-confidence will not make you conceited. It may however make you less emotionally needy.

While some aspects of life are clearly beyond our control, many goals are within our reach. We can be grateful that not all of life’s burdens are resting upon our shoulders and we can be thankful for opportunities to correct our mistakes. We can be thankful for our ability to make our own choices most of the time, and thankful that we are able to meet most of our own needs. Accepting that none of us is perfect makes it easier to forgive others and easier to forgive ourselves when we fail to meet our own expectations. Thanksgiving and other holidays that will follow during the coming months are excellent opportunities to repair injured relationships and rebuild trust. When we let go of old hostilities, we unburden ourselves. By letting go of old pain, even hearts that have been broken can develop a new lease on life.

Happy Holidays to All and my personal thanks for reading!...Dr. Jane

©Copyright, 2008, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.            

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