01.04.2013 Relationships

Examine Your Life

Dr Charmaine Saunders suggests taking a look at our life when relationships get rocky

We all have preferences when it comes to our emotions. Who wouldn't rather be happy than sad, positive than depressed, calm rather than anxious? But I learned a few years ago that there's no difference, in fact, between various emotions.

It's all just energy and the surest way to hold onto negative feelings is to judge them, analyse them or try to pretend they're not happening. I used to be the Queen of Denial once because I was always so busy being cheerful, but these days, I try to motivate by honesty, reality and commonsense. We can't be cheerful all the time - that's a plain fact of life - but we can be happy. Even in the darkest hour, we can find the peaceful sanctuary that lies within each of us.

Some months back, I wrote about rejection and how I find it very difficult to deal with. I don't suppose anyone likes it much but if an issue has particular resonance for you, it will always keep coming up in your life. I have learnt not to take professional rejection personally because to follow your dreams, one must constantly be challenging oneself, taking creative risks and making yourself vulnerable. Of course, personal rejection is a lot harder to accept and much more painful.

It's up to each of us to conquer our personal fears and demons. What are you most afraid of - being alone, being unloved, being poor, being unimportant? I guarantee whichever it is is the one you have to grapple constantly. Take heart, you're not alone. We're all in that same boat. It's picking yourself up and dusting yourself off and starting again that counts.

I am always 'preaching' to my clients, radio listeners, readers and students that happiness is a choice, a state of being rather than a goal or outside events. Yesterday, on the net, I read a good line about this - "You can choose to be on the road TO happiness or on the road OF happiness." A very good way of putting it. I always try to live the second path but some days, some weeks, it feels impossible. Outside circumstances get so overwhelming, challenging and stressful that you feel you can't even breathe, let alone deal with whatever needs handling.

This is when attitude counts for everything. I try to live what psychologists call an 'examined life'. I use the difficulties as they occur and try to learn from them. I ask myself what the reflections are from my own attitudes and feelings. Have I been negative in my thinking to attract the difficulties; is there a lesson to be learned; what could I do differently?

My first response is usually that I have taken on too much and invited extreme stress because that is one of my ongoing issues.
So it's then time to stop and meditate on life's real purpose and enjoy the things that matter in the long run like nature and love and simple pleasures. We all stumble and fall but it's the accumulation of pressure that is a sure warning sign.

So do take heed of your own signals and don't let life get on top of you. You're the boss, remember!

I find that my happiness level is directly in proportion to how much time I have to just 'be'. I am reminded that we are human 'beings', not 'doings' as a colleague of mine always says and it's a good thing to keep in mind. It's a balancing act our whole lives.

Why do we overwork and overload our schedules? Is it habit, ambition, necessity or low self esteem? Probably all four.

Relationships are an integral part of everyday life, whether we have a family or are married and in order to operate healthily in this realm, we need to constantly check our own feelings, actions, motives and hang ups.

Every one of us is surrounded by the opportunities to learn every day. The key lesson I've learned recently is that I need to add a fourth point to my list of the things I am forgetting to do when I feel 'bad'. The three original points are trusting, staying positive and living in the present. The new point is caring for myself, especially in giving myself rest, treats and time. I have done the first three but not this fourth one in recent weeks. Learning is a lifetime's occupation and, yes, we repeat many lessons as we go along. But we must never get impatient or critical of ourselves, just start again and use the newfound knowledge to do better, feel better, relate better, live happier.

Jim Rohn, the well known motivational speaker and author, says these are the four emotions which help us change:

1. disgust - when we've had enough of a particular situation
2. desire for change
3. decision to act
4. resolve - promise yourself you'll never give up.

Let me leave you with another wonderful quote:

"One of the most tragic things about human nature is that all of
us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose
garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses outside the
window." - Dale Carnegie


Q. I've recently had my heart broken by my boyfriend who is now my ex. It's been really hard for me to let go and I think about him all the time. He won't talk to me and I'm trying my best to keep the relationship going. He never gave me a hint about breaking up. A few weeks ago, he was so in love with me and now, I'm nobody to him. How did this happen? How do I start to move on and begin forgetting him.

A. I'll start at the end and work back. You will start to move on when YOU decide to let go. Even though this guy took away your power of choice about the relationship, only you can decide what you feel now. It's obviously all over so waste no more energy in holding on. Let yourself grieve, cry, heal - give it some time and you WILL feel better.

As far as why, which is of course what we always want to know after a break-up, I can offer you two insights - either he was under a romantic illusion about you and realised he didn't really love you or he did love you and then got confused and/or afraid and pulled away. This is more common that you might realise. You didn't say but were you with your boyfriend about six months? This is a crucial turning point in a relationship and many don't survive past this. Keep an eye on my column in the next few weeks as I will be talking more about the reasons for this.

For now, go easy on yourself and don't fall into the old trap of blame either of yourself or him. He may well be as much a victim of his feelings as you.

Dr Charmaine Saunders

Dr Charmaine Saunders was a much loved relationships counsellor and speaker who wrote for NOVA for many years. She died in July 2013.