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Hi There!

Welcome to my island of sanity and serenity. I'm Sandra Pawula - writer, mindfulness teacher and advocate of ease. I help deep thinking, heart-centered people find greater ease — emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Curious? Read On!

How to Let Go of Your Stories & Be Happy Again

How to Let Go of Your Stories & Be Happy Again

If you want to let go of your stories, all those unhappy thought patterns and emotional quirks that permeate every part of your life, ones that are based on false beliefs about yourself, you must decide with complete conviction on these two things:

  • Your thoughts create your experience of the world.
  • You have the power to change your thoughts.

Complete conviction won't come immediately, it's something you'll need to develop over time.  But you can, in an instant, make a commitment to align with these truths as best you can.

Your Thoughts Create Your Experience of the World

Let's look at what these two phrases mean.

First, when I say your thoughts create your experience of the world, I’m not speaking about the Law of Attraction, which I don’t subscribe to.  Here's why:

4 Reasons I Don't Believe In the Law of Attraction.

What I mean is that our ordinary mind filters everything it perceives outwardly and inwardly so you rarely, if ever, see things as they truly are.  You simply see things as you believe them to be, based on your habits, beliefs, and conditioning.

When I say "thoughts create your experience of the world," I don't mean they necessarily create your experiences in life, but rather your experience or perception of what occurs.  If something bad happens to you, it doesn't mean you created it with you mind.  But once it's occurred, you can choose how to relate to it.

We could point out uncountable examples of this principle, but let’s start with a few simple ones.

Think of a person you dislike.  Are there other people who like them?  Your experience of that person is simply an idea in your mind and the feelings this idea evokes within you.  The fact that another person likes them verifies that in themselves they are not inherently likable or dislikable.  It all depends on the perceiver.

In the same way, you may be head over heals in love with a person for a while and then fall completely out of love.  While the person may have changed somewhat, it’s just as likely, if not more, that your perception of them changed.

Likewise with a flower, you may find it beautiful.  Your friend may feel averse to it due to allergies.

This is what it means, at least in part, that everything is an “illusion.”   It doesn’t mean that the person or object doesn’t exist.  It means your perception of another person, objects, thought, or emotion as decidedly this way or that, good or bad, beautiful or ugly is a misapprehension. It’s merely your momentary perception covered by many veils of habit and conditioning.

In "Hamlet," William Shakespeare reminds us:  "There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so."

Shakespeare Quote | Hamlet
Shakespeare Quote | Hamlet

As Shakespeare suggests, we constantly entangle ourselves in all these misapprehensions as if they were real and unchanging.  This gives rise to negative emotions, harmful behavior, and all our discontent.

The process of positive personal change involves patiently removing one filter after another, day-by-day, until you attain a clear view and are able to see things as they actually are.

You Have the Power to Change Your Thoughts

Secondly, if you’ve ever changed a habit, you know you have the power to change your thoughts.  You went from believing you “couldn’t” to believing you “could.”

Or let’s say you went to a party and got to know, in a good way, someone you felt indifferent towards or previously disliked, and thus had a change of heart towards them.

With awareness and intention, you can change your thoughts, beliefs, words, and actions.

Sometimes, your response can be so instinctive, it might seem like your emotions are in charge, not your thoughts.  But behind every emotion there’s a thought or a belief.

It may not be obvious at first, because many thoughts and beliefs operate on the level of the subconscious mind.  But if you take a closer look, you’ll be sure to find a belief hiding in the recesses. I wrote about about how, as a child, I developed a particular pattern of thinking and emotional response rooted in insecurity and fear in this article:

How to Deconstruct Pesky Thought Patterns and Wacky Emotional Habits.

There might be exceptions to this, but I think it surely works as a general idea applicable to most of us.

What Happens When You Don't Own Yourself?

When you don’t take responsibility for our own perceptions, you can, and most likely will, fall into victimhood, the blame game, and/or aggression.

You become like a leaf blown about by the wind.  You might feel light and airy one day, only to be slammed into the wall the very next, all due to the way you perceive the words and the behavior of others.  You might even cycle through ups and downs several times in a single day.

If instead you recognize, accept, and act on these two principles, you can take charge of your mind and heart and by so doing radically improve the quality of your life, or at least your perception of your life.

This is the only way to let go of your self-deprecating stories and be happy again.

Do You Believe Your Thoughts Create Your Experience?

So let me ask you this, how much do you believe - really believe - in these two principles, to the point that they govern your daily life?

I believe these truths now more than I ever did before, but I don’t embrace them fully.  I still indulge in flings with, “Woe is me.”  I still feel flashes of anger when I recall a person or situation that exacerbated my experience of traumatic stress.  I still feel tempted to cover it up when I make a mistake.

In those moments, I’m no longer practicing self-responsibility. I have remade myself into a victim. I feel helpless and small.  And, I’m in danger of blaming, lashing out, and creating disharmony in my relationships.

That's why it's so important to remember these two truths, again and again.  They can help you snap out of that victim place and realign with what's true.

How Can You Change Unhealthy and Unhappy Patterns?

Once you accept these two principles of self-responsibility, it’s all about catching and redirecting yourself.

Self-Responsibility | Self-Empowerment | Intentional Living
Self-Responsibility | Self-Empowerment | Intentional Living

At first, you might not catch yourself until you’re in the middle of an emotional drama.  With practice though, you’ll be able to catch yourself before you get in too deep.  Eventually you’ll be able to catch yourself before you engage.  Ultimately, you’ll no longer be tempted to engage.

One way to start is to make a list of all the unhealthy beliefs that regularly influence your life. Rationally, you may know they aren’t true, but look deeply for the ones that influence you unconsciously.  Here are a few that came up for me:

  • I’ll get in trouble if I make a mistake.
  • If I work hard enough, I will be loved and accepted.
  • If I isolate myself, I’ll be safe.

This list represents your life path to becoming whole through eradicating one false belief at a time.  Awareness of these beliefs will empower you to walk around the danger zones.

Now let’s look at two core methods for progressively letting go of your story.  These aren't the only methods of healing, you could dance, paint, and embody joy in many other ways.  But these two methods are fundamental to understanding yourself and how you can best move forward.

Using Awareness.  You simply observe whatever thoughts, emotions, and stories arise in your mind and allow them to dissolve on their own.

In this process, you learn to align with your awareness, the “one” who is aware of the thoughts, emotions, and sensations rather than with the thoughts and emotions themselves.  You stop seeing all the activity of mind as “you.”  Pesky thoughts and troublesome emotions gradually lose their power.  You develop the capacity to shape your experience instead of being shaped by your experience.

This is the approach of mindfulness meditation.  By cultivating awareness in meditation, you develop the capacity to be aware in everyday life as well.  More and more you’re able to notice disturbing emotions before they sweep you away, whether you’re sitting in meditation or moving about your day.

As you become more proficient at mindfulness meditation, you’ll notice that old stories, wounds, and memories begin to surface more and more, precisely so they can be healed in this way.  In meditation, you'e not suppressing emotions.  You allow them to arise, but they begin to weaken if you don't add fuel to them.

Although you can go far with mindfulness meditation, it won’t heal all your cognitive and emotional patterns on its own.

For example, when you place a glass of muddy water on a table top and leave it alone, the dirt will settle to the bottom, that's like allowing your mind to settle in mindfulness meditation.  If you pick up the glass and move it around, the dirt will rise again, which is what can happen when strong emotions suddenly appear.  Eventually, you need to add more advanced levels of meditation if you wish to uproot your patterns completely.

But you need mindfulness meditation as a foundation and even as a start it can be life-changing.  Here is my best advice for learning to settle your mind:

21 Meditation Tips You Need to Know As a Beginner.

Pema Chodron Quote | Self-Aggression | Mindfulness
Pema Chodron Quote | Self-Aggression | Mindfulness

Using the mind.  If you have very strong and deep recurring emotional patterns that you’re not able to address with awareness alone, as many of us do including myself, you can use your thinking mind to embark on healing by reflecting, examining, asking questions, and working with the answers you receive.  For example:

  • Who is it in me that is choosing to suffering?
  • What belief is causing me to engage in this unhelpful train of thought or behavior?
  • How did this belief come about?
  • What am I afraid of?

When you journal, try to think things through, engage in talk therapy, soothe yourself, or talk about the issue with a friend, engage in positive psychology methods, you're using the  analytical or “thinking” approach   Using affirmations or thought replacement would also be part of the conceptual approach.

When you go through this process of self-exploration, remember to bring in the positives as well, for example:

  • What's going well?
  • What are some of the positive steps you've taken?
  • What are some of the ways you've changed for the better, even if they are small changes?

If you only focus on the problematic, you might reinforce it, activate your inner critic, or feel discouraged.  So be sure to balance introspection with positives too.

Understanding can bring relief, but often it doesn’t fully change the pattern.  Many of us, including myself, have deep emotional wounds.  We may need to go through a process of healing using the mind and the heart for quite some time before we feel ready to use the approach of meditation.

Once you’ve had an  “aha” moment around your issue though, you may be ready to use awareness to catch yourself from falling into emotional traps again and again.

In its purest form, I would consider intuition to be an aspect of awareness.  However, intuition could fall into the category of analysis if it involved asked many questions, thinking about the process of receiving, or examining what was receiving.

Emotional release can also take place in body-centered therapies, which could involve awareness of the body alone or analysis of the experience as well.  In fact, body awareness can be very powerful.  You can read about how I'm healing fear and trauma through body awareness here:  How to Soften Your Fear, Calm Your Heart, and Find Ease Again.

Compulsive Thinking Brings Suffering

It’s simple:  Attachment to the wrong beliefs about ourself, compulsively thinking about them, and acting them out is the major source of our suffering.  You must see this again and again if you want to change your life for the better.

So try to remember and act on these two truths everyday:

  • Your thoughts create your experience of the world.
  • You have the power to change your thoughts.

Your happiness and your ability to create a sphere of happiness for others depends upon it.

Do you agree?  What are your thoughts on this?  I would love to hear.

Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious!  Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always.  With love, Sandra

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