Shit Happens- but why does it always happen to me?
‘Shit happens...but why does it always happen to me?’
‘Turning Struggle into Adventure’
by Tony DeLorger ©2010
‘Shit happens....but why does it always happen to me?’ How many times have we asked that question? We sometimes feel paranoid, singled out, and the butt of a joke that God himself has perpetuated. Sitting there on his cloud, waving his omnipotent finger at us - mere mortals with endless flaws, too many to consider let alone deal with. Then, randomly throwing lightning bolts into our complex lives, God screws up just about every damned thing we do. If God himself is against us, what hope have we got?
Life can look damned dismal looking from that perspective. In fact, attributing our failures and misguided actions to anything or anyone, including God, is our first mistake. Let me explain...
Isn’t it amazing that every time we get a little extra cash in our hand: bonus, tax return, whatever, the very next day a bill arrives. And wouldn’t you know it; it’s about the same amount. That little breathing space, that potential reward is torn from our hands, so close yet so far; so why is that?
When you think you struggle with bills, just make ends meet, never have enough for those little luxuries, that’s exactly what happens. You expected it, so that’s what you get. Simple: succinct, truth, reality.
So let’s get back to our question...’Shit happens...but why does it always happen to me?’ It happens, because that’s what we believe, it’s how we think, and it’s our rotten, stinking attitudes . So who can we blame? Who’s gonna take the wrap for this one? Yep, you got it- we’re to blame, lock, stock and barrel.
You see the answer is simple, but often simplicity escapes our attention. We live such frantic and stressful lives that it’s not easy to gain a broad perspective. Instead we live in a cocoon of security and safety and see little of what’s happening around us. The fact is that ‘how we think and what we think’ shapes our lives in extraordinary detail. Our circumstance, our income, our standard of living, friendships, relationships, our entire day-to-day life is a result of our own thinking, one way or another. And this is no esoteric hypothesis , this is a fact that you can easily prove for yourself. Today, I’m going to show you how.
Are your heads starting to spin? There’s a few interesting expressions out there, I'm sure. ‘God, my thinking must really suck!’ ‘There must be someone else I can blame?’ ‘Who the hell is this guy?’
So who am I , you may ask? Who am I that I can simply hand you this seemingly implausible revelation?
Personally I’m an inquisitive person, I like to know how things work, and more importantly I’m open, open to new concepts, to change and I creatively aspire to understand more about this life journey we share.
I’ve worked in advertising, sales, marketing and management; I’m a qualified hypnotherapist, a graphic designer, a professional artist, a musician, a novelist, a poet and a motivational speaker. I’ve studied all the above as well as Iridology, Reflexology, and Numerology, practiced as a psychic medium and taught meditation and spiritual development. All this was in pursuit of the truth, about life, how we think and perceive our world and how we can make it better, for ourselves and those around us. I’ve been married three times, had five children and presently have four Grandchildren.
My unique experiences bring to the table ‘understanding’ from a vast and diverse pool of knowledge, information and practises that I have used and proven to work over a long period of time. In 2007 I first published my book entitled ‘The Code, ‘ in which I constructed a simple, easy to follow course in life skills that could both inspire people, and change their lives for the better. This article is based on that course.
Back to our task- So how the hell did we get this way? Why are we living a life that we clearly have control over, yet give ourselves such a hard time? Why?
Our negative thinking and attitudes are created by conditioning, what we have already experienced. Whether good of bad, conditioning creates bias. When at first we respond to something in a certain way, when a similar circumstance arises again, we remember consciously or subconsciously, and simply repeat the response out of habit. Given enough repetition we can create a pathway or ‘groove’ in our brain (metaphorically speaking, of course). So whenever a similar circumstance arises, we go straight back to the old response every time, slide down that groove to a response not even considered. It’s simply a bad habit.
I remember my Grandmother when I was a kid, still convinced the Japanese were taking over Australia some 40 years after the war. She was completely racist, so entrenched with bias and memories of WW2, she couldn’t let go of the thinking. I remember walking down the street with her when a hapless Asian would pass by. She would give them the death look and mumble some disparaging comment under her breath. It was embarrassing at the time.
So when that bill arrives and your salary isn’t paid for another fortnight, and you start worrying about paying it, you are adding to the construction of a groove, an expectation that all bills will be difficult to pay. So if you do that often enough your thinking creates that scenario, tying you to that negative circumstance.
And isn’t it amazing, no matter how we worry and stress about these kinds of issues they all get resolved in the end. Every day the sun keeps rising and we’re still standing here wondering why we keep putting ourselves through this torture. Of course paying bills is just an example. Any repeated worry about anything can create and keep perpetuating a negative circumstance.
It’s just habit, and we humans are habitual beings. Ironically it makes us feel secure , knowing what’s going to happen, repeating the known. But I ask you, is this the security we want? I don’t think so.
All we want is to be happy, isn’t it? So what is happiness? I think this is an apt definition... ‘Happiness is a feeling of self-assuredness in our ability to cope and a positive demeanour that is both the result of practice and an appreciation of what we have in life, regardless of money, status, success or circumstance.’ The stark reality is that ‘Happiness is not the result of anything, it is simply a DECISION ’.
Most of us are slaves to the thought that we need something to make us happy, a new job, a car, the latest TV, a new relationship, winning the Lotto, whatever. The truth is that although these things may make our lives easier in some way, they don’t make us happy, that alone is our decision and that decision is made regardless of anything else.
You see it all depends on our view, how we perceive the world. As I understand it there are two basic mentalities... ‘The Survivor’ and ‘The Victim’ . The survivor sees the glass half-full and regards obstacles in life as simply challenges. The victim sees the glass half-empty and regards obstacles as the world and everything in it, picking on them . Again, which one you choose to be is up to you. But considering now you know how your thinking can affect your life, do you think the victim’s negative reinforcement and self-propagation is going to make life better? Perhaps not!
We spend so much effort on how we present ourselves, our clothing, the car we drive, our connections, our possessions, yet the process that creates all this is completely disregarded... OUR THINKING.
So, to change your life for the better some decisions have to be made, some simple decisions and perhaps a shift of focus that can absolutely transform you. Now let’s get back to our conditioning.
So, how do we overcome this negative conditioning and start thinking our way to an easier more enjoyable life? How do we turn ‘STRUGGLE INTO ADVENTURE’ ? Well, congratulations, you’ve all just passed the first requirement... ‘Knowing that this thinking problem exists’ .
Remember, we created this life of ours, with all its biases and rotten thinking. Imagine if we could turn all that around and transform negative thinking and attitudes into positive ones. How much better would our lives be? Hell, we could be sipping French Champagne on a yacht in the Mediterranean, or climbing Mount Everest or in fact any damned thing you want... There are no limits. Do you think the universe gives a damn whether you’re wealthy or poor; that’s up to you. You can have exactly what you want and all it takes is a little work. And let’s face it, you’re working, but maybe not getting the results you really want.
‘Oh, and if by chance you’re sitting there thinking that you are happy and have everything you want in life, then you're in the wrong place. ‘HAPPY PEOPLE WITH EVERYTHING’ must be on another blog.’
At this point I want to tell you a bit about me and my personal experience, because my journey will demonstrate even better how this process works and how it can change your life.
I was an only child growing up in the southern suburbs of Sydney in the 50’s. My parents relationship was always tenuous, my father with his infidelity and my mother’s denial of it to protect me, until one of my father’s women got pregnant. My mother had a nervous breakdown and was hospitalised. When she returned home nothing was ever the same. I remember as a little kid lying in bed watching a mouse near the fridge in the kitchen, the muted but hostile voices of my parents fighting in the lounge room almost every night.
My father suffered from clinical depression but back then it was never diagnosed. He had great jobs but would throw them away through anger, a sideways glance from a boss or some ridiculous principle in his mind. I was 18 when my father decided to leave. The surprise was delivered to my mother during Christmas lunch with all her family present. He was going to be with his long lost girlfriend at 14. Ironically it was also my mother’s birthday.
Being an only child and from that day forward, my mother smothered me with her emotional needs and abandonment issues until I too abandoned her, to save myself. I got married at 21, and had a baby within a year. My little daughter died at 4 months after 8 life threatening surgeries and a journey that defied understanding. I couldn’t go into a hospital for 3 years after that.
My marriage quickly broke down, too much to deal with at that age. So I fell in love with my best friend’s wife , as you do, and took on her child as well as eventually having two of our own. My mother then developed breast cancer and by the time she admitted it to herself, the tumour weighed almost 2 kilos. After radical surgery and a small period of remission, the cancer went to her liver and she died within 3 months. Escaping my raggedy life I left Sydney to start over and within 9 months my wife ran off with one of my friends, deciding not to be a parent any more. I lost a house, a recording studio business and went back to Sydney with all the kids and with my tail between my legs.
I wrote radio and TV commercials and soon fell in love with my children’s nanny, as you do. Within two years I remarried and had two more children. My father then succumbed to lung cancer, with cancer of the brain thrown in. After burying him I then escaped Sydney again, and moved to Adelaide for a quieter life. After settling into a new job and finding the expectations and stress of it all too much to bear, I collapsed. One morning I simply couldn’t move and that scared the hell out of me. That was my first major panic attack.
Not long after I was diagnosed with what’s known as ‘Double Depression’- Dysthymia, a long-term low-grade depression and cyclical Clinical Depression. I had experienced this disorder from around the age of eighteen and didn’t know it- over thirty-five years. The news brought many things into light and explained some of my behaviour over the years. This experience has taught me a lot, and the treatments and therapies I have since been through, have helped me to understand a great deal about how we think and what can result because of it.
When my psychiatrist suggested that I write down in chronological order what I felt to be crisis points or traumas in my life, I thought nothing of it. That is until I read the list. I guess we feel that life is as it should be and relatively normal, for us. Perhaps I was wrong.
So, let’s get down to tin tacks. Being aware of your thought processes is certainly the beginning of discovering how you think and the attitudes you have adopted and why.
Depression is a deceptive and insidious illness that alters the very thought processes we’ve been talking about. So my journey is a fitting and probably extreme example, to demonstrate to you how thinking can affect us and how we can learn to turn that thinking around.
Having depression, anxiety and being overstressed takes a toll on our minds and bodies. The brain, in a state of chemical imbalance, produces mood swings that can all but tear us apart. Feelings of failure, inadequacy, lethargy and abject helplessness can overwhelm us and render us non-functioning on a daily basis.
Initially, I was on the couch for about two years, slowly and thoroughly dealing with all the emotional baggage I was carrying. I hadn’t seen it as that, but we all accept our lives as being normal, what else do we know? I just wasn’t aware of the toll this had taken on me. The therapy I received was CBT or ‘Cognitive Behavioural Therapy’ Best explained by this- Remember the grooves in our brains- formed by habitual experience?
Under the blanket of depression it follows- You experience something that connects to a similar past experience. The feelings associated come to the surface and you slowly slide down that groove until you are overwhelmed, reliving the escalated trauma of the original negative experience. The reasoning and understanding that CBT perpetuates, puts into perspective and thus desensitises the original experience so the negative feelings dissipate, therefore disconnecting the experience from a habitual response.
So when a like experience reappears, instead of those feelings rising up, you can deal with the present in a new and pragmatic way, and not go off on some emotional tangent.
But even with medication and years of CBT, I still found instances where I went down into a depressive episode for anywhere between a week and three months at a time. I could not work; sometimes not even get out of bed. My life and my marriage were in tatters.
It wasn’t until I learnt about MBCT or ‘Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy’ that my life truly changed. This is a process of meditation techniques that teach you to be mindful of the thought process and to remain in the present , not drift into past or worry about the future. For me, this was the clincher! ‘I didn’t have to have a depressive episode’.
Sounds simple, but I’d always thought that depression was something that occasionally took hold and I was helpless under its influence. I could lessen its affects and live with it, but not having it at all was beyond my belief. I was so wrong. I just didn’t understand the power of thought.
Since that day and the course that followed, years ago, I have not had one depressive episode. Daily I can feel my brain chemistry change and I still have to take medication, and occasionally it can have a physical affect on me, with symptoms of fatigue, or lethargy. I know a few simple techniques that keep me on track and I’ve learned to physically work through these symptoms and ignore their deception. And when I exercise, I feel energised again.
So let me give you the concept. Let’s turn ‘Struggle into Adventure’.
Being aware that our negative thinking and attitudes make our lives less than perfect, we can now focus on changing those negatives to positives. First catch yourself going down those grooves, those pathways to outmoded attitudes and responses and treat every experience in the ‘now’ as if for the first time. If you feel your thinking wander, into past, future- pull yourself back by focusing on the present- your physical feelings at that moment: what you see, what you can smell etc. This exercise grounds you and attaches you to the present.
Mindfulness keeps you away from old thinking habits and free from bias and negative attitudes. The more you practice the easier it becomes and you’ll learn a lot about who you are and how you became to be, and the old thinking that has held you back. ‘Living in the present’ is not a new idea but one that can enliven your appreciation for life and enrich your experiences by making your life easier. And isn’t that what we want, a happier less stressful life.
It all sounds simplistic, but that is the unmitigated truth. If we are aware of how we got to where we are, then if we wish to change something, we can, by the same process of thinking that first got us there. Simply changing negatives to positives isn’t all that difficult when you know how it will change your life.
The concept of ‘thinking to physical manifestation’ or ‘your thoughts creating circumstance’ is a simple one that psychiatry is only now beginning to recognise. The ‘placebo’ medication is a perfect example of the power of belief. If we are in control of our thoughts- not clouded and out of control thoughts, but calm and decisive ones, anything is possible. That’s why meditation is a useful practice. It allows us to calm our thinking and to have more control of our thoughts. When that is achieved, what we want and think about comes to us quickly and without difficulty- our lives completely changed.
Apart from the process of our thinking there is one more concept that needs attention and that is the concept of ‘Balance’. Everything in life, both physically and mentally, exists in a state of balance. In other words if something is out of balance, there is a consequence and an ultimate return to balance. Albert Einstein came up with that one.
The consequence is the one we’re all familiar with, to get back to the example- getting that bill after the extra cash . The worrying creates imbalance, the bill arrives to return the circumstance to balance. Likewise if you believed that you would always have extra cash, then you would have, and all would remain in balance without consequence. I know it’s hard to believe, but don’t take my word for it. Try it and discover the truth.
So, how we get through each day, how we respond and deal with work, friends, neighbors, family and everyone and everything in our lives has a profound impact on our own circumstance. Negative responses come back to us in negative ways to restore balance. And of course Positive responses bring positive circumstances as a consequence. And I’m not talking about morality here; this is simply science, a ‘universal law’ if you like.
Even with the disadvantage of suffering from Clinical Depression, it is possible to not only overcome the symptoms but live a productive and successful life. This is achieved by understanding how the world works and how our thinking dictates our circumstance.
We are the Master of our journey, forging a life that reflects our attitudes and thinking. There may well be an omnipotent being who has set this earthly stage for us, but I believe it is we who command our daily lives. It is not ‘what we do, but how we do it’ that is important.
So, if you are unhappy in any way with your circumstance, then modify your thinking and you can overcome any obstacle, and have exactly what you want in life. Struggle then becomes obsolete and life becomes an adventure , where anything at all is possible.
How to Move from Victim to Survivor
1. Being a survivor is a conscious decision. It is not something that just happens.
2. Make the decision to no longer sulk in self-pity and feel that the world is out to get you when you experience disappointments.
3. Instead of being miserable when things don’t go the way you wanted, ask yourself what can you do now?
4. Don’t immediately give up and start wallowing in grief. Keep working towards your desired outcome no matter how many times you get rejected or have doors slam in your face. This applies to life’s challenges as well as facing the long and emotional road to recovery after being the victim of a sexual assault or trauma.
5. Being a survivor is a state of mind. A survivor keeps going in the face of adversity. A survivor must cultivate the tenacity of a tired hiker on a steep hill with no peak in sight.
6. Although it will feel like an uphill battle at first, as you move consciously from victim to survivor you will begin to see small improvements and over time, it will change the entire quality of your life for the better.
It is easy to fall into all the trappings of victim mentality. I found myself in this position not long ago. Some people think life sucks, while other people love it. This is the same difference between living your life as a victim or a survivor. It’s all about attitude.
You can view other articles and learn more about the author at HayleysComments.com.
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