Our minds are like a telescope. The more we focus on something, the larger it becomes. As a child, we begin with a starter telescope, and this makes it hard to get locked into one perspective. As we age, we evolve to giant telescopes, with a great capacity to focus in on a single point of view. As we zoom in on a perception or a belief (and this creates an emotion), the mind then expands upon that over and over.
Anger begets more anger endlessly
In the recent weeks of politics, most of us were exposed to ugly, anger-filled moments, anger often hidden behind harsh judgments, nasty comments and tones of disrespect. These moments expanded to even more intense anger, which soon extended to even more extreme expressions of anger. And it’s easy to see that many seem to thrive in this environment, provoking even more anger. The rules don’t change, whether prominent politician or humble parent at home with a child. The expression of anger often feels good in the moment like, “I really got it off my chest.” The problem is that there is no resolution in this path as both children and adults show increasing anger the more that anger is expressed. In fact, anger fights to justify itself every single time. In this way, anger’s future is guaranteed. If we truly discovered that there was no justification for the anger, it would instantly dissipate. We see this in our children when they get angry, as you can’t talk them out of their anger. The same is true for spouses and partners, as most fight viscously to defend the position that justifies the anger. The point here is this: In our home, in our conversations and in our media viewing, exposure to anger comes with a price; sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes not. Most of us end up feeling more frustration and anger after viewing the news and commentary. This becomes a more serious detriment to happiness as we engage actively in conversations filled with animosity. Yet, we seem to love it in a sick way, don’t we? It feels good in the moment to talk about what frustrates us. We seem to get something out of it. But let’s be honest—it is a waste of time as NOTHING changes. And, looking forward, we are just ensuring ourselves an angry future with more ability to focus our lens on frustration and more easily moved to anger, which limits our happiness!
Gratitude begets more gratitude, love and optimism endlessly
Interestingly, when we study the expression of gratitude (offered sincerely), we notice a parallel to what is proven with anger. The more we express it, the more it expands! It brings with it all the sweet allegiances of gratitude, which include love, kindness, optimism and light-heartedness. We also see that gratitude expressed today will likely lead to more gratitude tomorrow and the future. This changes how we feel about our lives, and it inevitably spreads to those we love and who are the recipients of our gratitude. Gratitude also justifies itself and cannot be undermined with a cynical or negative attitude. Findings continue to grow, emphasizing the almost miraculous power of authentic gratitude. This is not about a euphemistic phrase where we say, “Oh, I’m so grateful for my life.” That hardly matters. What does matter is the filling up of one’s day with thoughts and actions reflective of appreciation and love. This works magic on the perception of life and is the antidote to negativity, anger and depression. Gratitude does beget more and more of the good stuff. It’s the stuff that makes life worth living. It feels good, and we yearn for more and more of it. For most of us, it’s what we want to the utmost for our kids and for those we love.
The choice is here: What you focus on will expand
When we wake up tomorrow, many forces will begin to exert their influence upon us. The mood of our family, TV commentary, our social media accounts, the headlines, the complaints of the world and so on. Not to mention our own thoughts and emotions, which have their own momentum. We can follow those forces, or carve our own path. The path of anger is readily available and easily reinforced. Anger is seeking the company of more anger. Will you be its victim? Or will you choose the alternative path of gratitude, love, and optimism? The practice of seeking ways to discover gratitude and an infinite number of ways to express it will transform your home and you as well. For the holidays, I encourage a simple, life-enhancing practice: Turn away from the voices of anger and judgment. The path of anger will cripple efforts toward happiness. Instead, dig in deeply to find every opportunity for gratitude in your life. From the big stuff to the tiniest of moments, turn to the internal state of gratitude. Your capacity to use your internal “telescope” to zoom in to gratitude will inevitably expand, and the evidence will be present in the easeful joy that unfolds in your life. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
Dr. Randy Cale offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. For more information visit www.TerrificParenting.com.