Do you feel lucky?
Do you feel lucky?
“You’re so lucky”, “you should be grateful”, “you’re so fortunate”, “think positive”, “look at the bright side”.
Those are some loaded phrases right there.
What do I mean by that?
What I’m about to share are thoughts that came about while raising children through adoption. I have heard so many times “your kids are so lucky to have you” or even people telling our children directly “you’re so lucky…”. In truth, perhaps they are right but there’s also a good chance that they are wrong. It is not for us to decide what other people should feel lucky about. Maybe they don’t feel as “lucky” or grateful as we imagine. What happens when we dictate to others how they should feel, is that we make them feel shamed for not feeling the way we expected them to, and shame, oh boy, that’s a whole other topic!
This really applies to so many scenarios and situations. Have you ever been told “look on the bright side”? or “at least it wasn’t worse like what happen to….”? I know I have heard that time and time again. When my feelings don’t align with what I’m told, along comes the guilt and shame.
I really believe that most of the time when someone is pointing out the bright side to us; it’s coming from a good place. When we see someone
who we care about going through a hard time, it could be uncomfortable for us to just sit with them in their pain. We automatically want to try and help them find the “good” or the “bright side”, because we are making it all about us, expressing how we feel and what we can or cannot handle. Yet, if for a moment, we take ourselves out of the equation, and really focus on the other person, we can be so much more present and so much more supportive.
It can be confusing.
You see, when something happens to us, either deeply painful or something that was not part of the life we envisioned for ourselves, we do try to implement the practice of looking for the good within the challenge. It’s ok and even important to seek the brightness for ourselves (if we are present with all our emotions, even the negative ones, and we give ourselves space to grieve). That is what personal growth is all about, our own journey for us to travel. We Shouldn’t put that journey on to someone else. That has to come from within, on their own timeline, at their own pace. The best thing you can do for someone who is struggling is to be brave enough not to make it better, not to point out all the reasons they should be happy and grateful. Just be there with them in their pain or frustration.
Trust me, it will go a long way.
As a mom, I attempt to instill in our kids a sense of appreciation for the good around them and how to look for the positive aspect in seemingly negative situations. However, I struggled to find the right way to do it without coming across as shaming or telling them how they should, or shouldn’t, feel. This is especially hard, when you have a child that is a glass-half-empty kind of kid and has a much easier time seeing the negative in everything.
One of the therapists that our family has worked with, gave me a great suggestion years ago and we do it every day without fail. Every night at dinner we go around the table and each of us, adults, children and even guests, say something we are grateful for that happened that day. It is through this that we start to train our mind and enable it to access that part of our brain. So, if your child chooses to find the good on a terrible day, they will have the tools to do so without anyone sermonizing to them. Trust me, we can all use the practice :). At times, I have hard time with it myself!
Naturally, when a loved one feels heard, when they know someone empathetic is there with them, and some time has passed, they could be asked “are you open to hearing my perspective which may be a bit different from how you see it?”. It is then, if they allow, that I share with them my Jewishly ingrained viewpoint that is optimistic and bright, but knowing when to do it, Is key.
I try to refrain from saying “well, you should be grateful for this or that…” as one of my kids is struggling. I used to do it all the time, but I recognize that that’s coming from a place of personal discomfort or fear, as “I don’t like to see my child struggling” or “I get frustrated because they are always so negative,” and I worry about how this will develop as they get older…and I begin to spiral. It’s not their problem that I am uncomfortable or fearful.
Instead, I take a deep breath, try as hard as I can to listen, express empathy and just be the safe person they can moan and groan to, while hoping deep down that one day they will use the tools we practice every night at dinner 🙂