I came across a beautiful article in Quartz by Massimo Pigliucci last year that I still refer to from time to time. The article, To be happier, stop focusing on things out of your control, opens with the Serenity Prayer, which seems to be universally recognized. According to Pigliucci, the prayer has roots in Buddhism and Judaism and dates back to second-century philosopher Epictetus, who believed we could obtain a state of tranquility anchored in sincerely knowing the difference between what you can and can’t control, and acting accordingly.
When this article showed up in my life, it came with serendipitous timing. I think things do that when we are receptive to messages in our environment. At the time I had been dealing with a particularly difficult person in my life. This person was mentally and physically abusive to the people in her environment. Our dealings brought so much toxic energy and stress that I got to the point where I had to block all communications. I also had to recognize that the way she was expressing herself had absolutely nothing to do with me.
The simplicity of the message in Pigliucci’s article – that we only focus on our own behavior struck a chord with me. Bad things and uncomfortable situations are always going to happen. When we internalize those things as our fault even when they are not, we give energy to them and create demons that cause us to act in irrational or harmful ways. We begin to write checks against our future happiness.
I say, don’t be afraid to block people from your inner circle. Especially those that show up in harmful ways. I think that negative energy feeds on negative energy, but positive energy blocks it. It sounds like such a hippie notion to talk about energy – but I believe we can feel it more than we realize. Think about an encounter with someone who makes you uncomfortable, but you are not sure why. That feeling you get is the energy generated from their thoughts and actions, and we can feel when things aren’t quite right.
Most of us walking the planet have experienced something traumatic or crappy in our lives, it’s what we do with it that makes the difference. While it’s ok to empathize with people as they work through things, you have to understand that it is not your job to save them. Accepting this comes in the form of focusing on how people and situations show up in your life, owning only those things that are under your control, and letting the rest go. By focusing on our own behavior, we give ourselves permission to feel peaceful and happy.
What do you think?
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