Recently I had a conversation with Laura, who was unemployed and desperate about her situation.
"I didn't get that job I applied for," she said.
"And?" I asked
"I'm disappointed. I really wanted that job. I've tried to fight the negative feelings, but I'm getting more discouraged all the time. Now I don't even have the energy to look for another one."
"And THAT is the problem, kid."
"What do you mean?"
"One inconvenient thing happens, and you throw away everything you have. You believe you have nothing, and now you can't even move. Do you see that?"
"That's no answer. You're just agreeing with me because you don't want to talk about this. You keep creating this condition, so now you're faced with a choice: Do you want to learn to do this differently, or do you want to keep living in frustration and depression? You feel alone, for example, and then you behave in ways that contribute to people avoiding you, and then you're even more alone."
"It's true that I keep making the same mistakes. It still takes very little for me to feel worthless."
"And the instant you feel worthless, you're believing the messages you've heard all your life, instead of believing and remembering the love you've been getting lately from quite a number of people. You're trusting lies instead of the truth."
"Doesn't make much sense, does it?"
"No, and if you keep pushing away the love you're getting, people will begin to get tired and will go away. I'm not saying they're justified in doing that, but it's what happens. They're human. They're giving you the gift of their love--and mostly they don't expect anything in return—but if you throw away their gifts, eventually they give up. And then what?"
"I'm alone again. I create the very thing I fear most. Part of me sees that you're simply telling the truth and that you love me enough to tell me that truth, but another part of me is discouraged. I feel like you're telling me I'm hopeless."
"It's all a choice, kid. Make a choice. On the whole, you don't make conscious choices. You just react blindly to pain and potential pain, often imagined."
"Okay, I choose to see that you're telling me this because you love me."
"Keep going. You're just warming up to what's true and to what you could choose."
"For quite a long time now, you have loved me again and again and again—in person, on the phone, on Skype with video, by text, and by email. I have mountains of evidence that you love me no matter what I do: when I don't listen, whether or not I have a job, when I am in debt, when I choose to be in unloving relationships. It goes on and on, and yet when you tell me the truth about myself I often choose to hear it in a disapproving voice, and then I feel afraid that you won't love me if I don't do this perfectly."
"Believing the lies of the past again. What else are you doing?"
"I'm not trusting you. I'm throwing away the love—the gold you're giving to me—again and again. When things don't go my way, I get so distracted by surviving that I completely forget what I do have."
"And if you would CHOOSE to REMEMBER that you're loved, the urge to simply survive—which isn't really living at all—would go away. You'd also realize how much of your thoughts and efforts have little importance."
"Then I make you do all the work: asking me questions, telling me again what you've told me many times before. I become so afraid of being wrong that I act dumb, so I won't be responsible. Oddly, though, while I act dumb, I'm being arrogant, trying to justify what I'm doing. It's kind of crazy."
"Yes, it is."
"I can believe that other people are lovable, but not me. Just yesterday I spoke to someone new in Real Love. I loved them, and I meant it, so obviously I thought THEY were lovable. But I have a hard time believing that I am. When it comes to myself, I get confused and lost and helpless."
"You actually CHOOSE to be helpless. It's a form of pathological laziness, which is part of victimhood. I'm not criticizing you here, just informing you that often you want everyone else to do your personal work and make things easier for you--me, other people in Real Love, your family, your coworkers. You even wanted your recent job interviewer to make things easy for you. But you neglect your own responsibility, and that can't work. Everything can change with a different choice on your part. I know this is hard to hear, but I care enough about you to tell you the hard things."
"You're right. I like to think I'm not lazy because I 'get things done,' but those are just 'things.'"
"Exactly. The 'things' are meaningless. You're lazy about the important things, like taking responsibility for how you feel."
"I spent my whole childhood being criticized, and having people question everything, so I learned to avoid all that by just letting other people make my decisions. It was safer."
"I understand completely. Remember, I know your parents quite well."
"That doesn't justify what I do, though, because for years now I've been taught a better way to live."
"Now we're back to your making a choice again. Right now. Do you want to keep living as a child?"
"Sometimes yes, I do! Part of me doesn't want to be responsible. I want to be taken care of. But not really. I've chosen to be responsible enough times that I know it makes me happier--even when it's difficult."
After a pause, I said, "I'm still not hearing you make a choice."
"Our feelings and behaviors flow naturally from what we believe. So make a choice about what you believe."
"I choose to believe that you love me."
"When you believe that, how do you feel? Do you feel afraid?"
"Who else loves you?"
Laura named several others who loved her. "And you've all loved me consistently for a long time."
"And when you remember that, how do you feel?"
"Even though you don't have a job?"
"Actually, yes. That's amazing."
"So what is your overall choice about how you believe?"
"I choose to believe that a lot of people love me, which means that I'm worth loving, even when I'm unemployed and don't know what to do next. I feel happy."
"And it was all a choice."
We really can choose how we believe. In our defense, most of us can't see the choice to believe we're worthwhile, because we've consistently—always, in many cases—been taught otherwise. If you're afraid, remember that your fear is a result of a lie you are choosing to believe. Figure out the lie, and choose to believe the truth instead. This will change your feelings and the way you behave.
Replace your anger & confusion with peace and happiness.
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