To continue with yesterday’s theme, the first step toward changing any unwanted situation is softening the story you tell yourself about it.
Take a friend of mine who's going through a divorce. His 20-year-old daughter blames him and finds many ways to lash out in anger.
My friend can tell the story of this difficult time in their relationship in a lot of different ways — and those ways feel very different.
For instance, he can tell a story that makes him feel angry at her for lashing out at him.
He can tell a story that makes him feel disappointed because she doesn’t appreciate everything he’s done for her up to this point in her life, as well as what he continues to do for her (such as paying her college tuition).
He can tell a story that makes him feel guilty for ending his marriage and therefore messing up his relationship with his daughter.
He can think of his daughter as estranged from him. He can feel rejected by her. He can call their relationship challenging or fractured, damaged or ruined.
Or ... he can tell a story that feels a little bit — or maybe even a lot — better. He can choose to shift his perspective about their relationship.
In his case, the shift in perspective that made him actually laugh out loud (which clearly is an improvement) was when he thought of their relationship not as broken or troubled, but as tricky.
Tricky feels lighter and easier than those other descriptions of his relationship with his daughter. Tricky also feels less permanent and certainly not ruined. After all, lots of things are tricky, but that doesn’t make them bad or impossible. Learning to ride a bike is tricky, and so is learning to do algebra, but they’re do-able.
In short, the story my friend tells himself about this or any situation determines how he feels. My friend can tell a story that makes him feel angry or even outraged. He can tell a story that makes him feel rejected and punished. He can tell a story that makes him feel resentful. He can tell a story that makes him feel guilty and ashamed.
Or he can shift his perspective just a little bit and tell a story that feels softer, better, more hopeful. He can let this be a tricky situation.
If you try this technique yourself, you can feel right away if a particular shift in perspective is good for you because it will trigger a feeling of relief. In my friend’s case, the benefit of this particular shift in perspective was obvious: He actually laughed out loud.
And you can do the same. You can do it so that you’ll feel better in the moment, which is a good thing in its own right. And you also can use this technique so that you’ll soften, in a very literal sense. When you soften your perspective, you let go of defensiveness, hurt, blame, condemnation and the like. That’s when you’re able to come from — and literally live in — a more heart-centered place, and that changes everything.