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The following was written by my wife Eve and republished here due to Posterous shutting down.

Adjusting Your Attitude = Happiness

I have been going through a massive learning curve lately — parts of which I have mentioned on here before. Some parts are private and belong only into my diary, but those that aren’t, I am intending to share with the world. Who knows, maybe one day someone will actually read this (someone other than my boyfriend, bless him, he always does — I think you’re amazing, my love) and it will on some level resonate with them. And if not, I tend to forget this little magic trick that I have learned so it will be an important reminder.

In order to make it clear how me now is totally different to me — let’s say — a year ago, I will have to describe what I was like, what I felt like, what I was seeing myself as, back then.

Probably the most poignant moments of the year 2010 for me would have been the two counselling sessions I had with Shaun (who is fantastic, by the way). I didn’t want any sort of crazy long-term counselling that digs deep into my childhood and looks for causes that don’t exist or aren’t important anymore. After all, it has been proven that memories aren’t all they’re cracked up to be and different members of the same family will remember the very same events differently. Plus the time factor plays an important role — the more time elapses, the foggier the memories get. I mean, come on, I don’t even remember what I ate yesterday; how can anyone expect me to relay events that happened when I was four with the precision of a Swiss watch?

Actually, after racking my brains for a little while, I had a sandwich, some coleslaw and one scoop of rum and raisin ice cream yesterday, and then a dinner that my very-much-loved man cooked for me, for those who need to know.

The therapy I wanted from Shaun was a brief, results-orientated one, something along the lines of ‘stuff happened in the past that you cannot change so let’s not dwell on it but instead look at what you can do to stop it having any bad impact on your life’. The one he picked, despite me insisting on it being Human Givens, was the Acceptance and Commitment Theory one, with bits of Transactional Analysis thrown in for good measure. I did manage to twist his arm a little so he implemented parts of Human Givens in our sessions, too — but it was the acceptance part that I found myself struggling with (the post on Depression sums up what I learned about acceptance so I shan’t be going into that here). This is what I like about Shaun — he will hand pick the approach he thinks will work and he was very much spot-on.

I don’t particularly wish to start going too deep into different models of psychotherapy or indeed into a description of the sessions we had but the upshot of these was that my feelings of worthlessness were stopping me in my life. These feelings were impacting on everything, they were the source of my depression, they were supressed but still very much present in my day-to-day life and behaviour. On the deepest level, they stemmed from my disappointment with my own behaviour and life. I know that how I should live my life and how I do live it are two very different pictures and this was causing me deep distress (and still is to a certain level, maybe not an awful lot or not as deep but still very much present). On a less deep but equally important level, they stemmed from how I was being treated by my back then boyfriend. And they were also partially caused by my mind. What you fill your mind with, that is what your life will become.

So my life was a little bit like this: I was depressed and always tired. I had no confidence in anything, least of all any of my strengths or abilities. I was convinced I was a total failure in my life, I could see no successes in my past 10 years or so, just ones in the time before then. I lived a life full of regrets and self-hate. After all, when you see no skills, no talents, no worth, no achievements, no reason to carry on living, then there probably is no reason to love yourself. I looked at myself in the mirror and I felt ugly and fat. I looked inside and saw an ugly soul. I looked at my mind and saw how unfocused and petty and lost I was so there was nothing to love there, either.

Over the years, I have distanced myself from my friends and I didn’t want to worry anyone so I never spoke to anyone about this. I was at the mercy of my mind and of the people I kept regular contact with — my colleagues, my clients, and my ex. Now my colleagues back then weren’t what you’d call the greatest of my friends. My clients provide a very false reflection of what I am like and if I was to listen to half the stuff I am told, I'd be hating myself even more. And my ex? Every conversation revolved around food. ‘Why do you eat so much? What have you eaten today? When will you finally lose weight? I have been limited in my life because of your obesity — I cannot take you out, I don’t want to be seen with you, I don’t want to encourage your overeating. Why can’t you just do this for me? Anyone else can lose weight but you cannot — what’s wrong with you? You’re not wearing that, are you? It shows your ARMS!’

And this routine would be repeated several times a day — my mind being my enemy, hating my body and soul, the person closest to me not being able to see past the fat and recognise he was becoming a major problem in my life, my mind being blind to the cause of my stress, my friends I saw so rarely that even though they saw it, they never dared tell me how wrong a match we were. The very few who had the guts to tell me are the people I treasure most. I know they will tell me the truth if I need to hear it and I can rely on that. My mum, too — she is awesome and saw this crap for exactly what it was but apart from gentle persuasion, she let me do my own thing. I don’t know if I could do that for someone whom I care about. She was wise and knew I had to see it for myself. Her reaction when I told her about the breakup? Total silence and then ‘thank goodness’ — although she was gutted about me being on my own, miles away from her. ’Tis what mums do, they worry, it’s in their job description. :)

I asked my ex to be part of one of these sessions and he was in a state of shock when he heard me speaking of myself with such hatred and lack of care. I don’t think he realised just how much of an organised hate campaign he had launched in my life. Things did improve for a little while but something Shaun said to me then had stuck in my subconscious mind and finally came out more than half a year later. Shaun listened to me describe my relationship with my ex and said ‘hm, interesting — as long as you know the possibility of splitting up is always there’ and I was left speechless. I had actually not seriously considered it (it had crossed my mind several times before but I banished it from my mind quickly) and it came handy when one day in March, the ex was supposed to be coming over and I was thoroughly stressed about this and suddenly I thought ‘actually, I don’t have to put up with this stress’ — it was one of them lightbulb moments, and I phoned to let him know not to bother. It was an amazing liberation and it has opened my eyes. The learning curve that has followed since has been steep and exciting and soul-enriching.

I learned a lot of things about myself since then; I observed how through the years, I had dropped more and more of my standards for everything from relationships through education to my physical appearance. I learned a lot about relationships — how I seem to be able to put up with a lot of crap and not speak up and just explain it away (‘he loves me really, he would just love me more if I was slim’ or ‘I have till August to lose the weight or he will leave me — but he’s doing this out of love’ yes, I really was that thick). I dropped the complete and total disregard for myself and replaced it with paying attention to myself a little more. Like listening to my body — I had to re-learn to know what it’s like to feel hungry vs. thirsty (I was unable to distinguish before) or properly tired vs. just bored or depressed.

And then last week, I realised that my attitude still needs adjusting on how I see myself. Yes, I am overweight, no one can deny that. No, I am not a complete beauty — actually, I am rather plain, but I don’t think I'm ugly anymore. I definitely don’t think my soul is ugly, or my mind — I let my mind run away with me before and abuse me but no more. I had one major obstacle to go and that is my self-hatred. I was thinking about this one day from a different perspective. The same perspective I hold on suicide. Here goes:

God created me in His image. He gave me my body, my mind and my soul. Everything I have I only have because He gave it to me. The sheer fact that I am here writing this post is becasue He created me. What right have I got to hate this body? Yes, I have abused it and made it unsightly, but He gave me the strength to change this. What right have I got to hate myself? If God loves me, then I have no right to hate his creation. It was easily the most humbling experience I have had in the last ten years.

The things that often came out of my mouth were shocking. I thought about how I would feel if I had a child whom I loved and this child would come to me and tell me the things I was often saying or thinking about myself. This is how my heavenly Father must have felt so many times, and it made me weep. If my mum said these things to me, or my close friend, or — God-forbid! — my man? How would I feel then? I was shocked, and horrified at how ugly my thoughts have become over the years, I was left speechless at how I haven’t seen this before. And on that day, I decided to start loving myself, just a little.

But I had no clue how to go about it. How does one learn to love oneself? Is there a guide because I would have loved to have read one at that point.

And then this magic trick that the mind does kicked in. It’s called adjusting your attitude. I have experienced it many, many times before and yet, I always seem to forget how it works.

First, you need to look at things from an objective point of view. If you cannot do this, look at the situation from different angles. Go down the ‘if this was my child telling me, what would I say/how would I feel?’ route. Speak to a friend, ask them their opinion. Ask your family what they think.

Second, once you’ve completed the shift in perception / point of view, you need to adjust your attitude. If God loves me, how can I hate myself? If God gave me my life, then it isn’t mine to take away. If my problem really isn’t as huge as my mind tries to make it, then shouldn’t I calm down a bit and not stress about it as much?

Third, and this is where I usually start fretting — what action do I take? And more often than not, thanks to our innate tools to support our needs, no action is required. Everything falls into place — all you need to do is relax, sit back and enjoy the show. Of course I know how to love myself — the same way I have been loving my God, my friends and family, and my dog, and most recently, my Man. If I can love someone else, I can love myself.

And lastly, commitment. You know how to do the things you need to do in your life, so now you need to commit to this new way of thinking, feeling, acting, being. Without commitment, the hard work of steps one and two goes straight out the window at the first sight of any trouble.

It felt like I have discovered America, but in fact it was something I have seen and felt before, and not once. Maybe now that I have written it down, I will finally remember it. And maybe someone else will benefit from it one day — who knows?