Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformationby Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.
Contentment comes in waves. There are some times in life when happiness seems more a regular state of being than a nice surprise. Then there are others when you find yourself tracking the calendar, desperately willing the year to be over. Our emotional states rest on a lot of factors that are beyond our control – sudden financial crisis, sickness, or tragic loss.
Yes, Scripture admonishes us, “Rejoice in all things,” “be anxious for nothing,” “in everything give thanks.” But it is only human to sometimes find worshipping in spirit to be more difficult than it once was. After all, even Jesus was anxious at the prospect of the Cross.
So how can we avoid this? What can be done to safeguard contentment?
A lot of it has to do with where you place your happiness. In his book “Mindsight,” Dr. Daniel Siegel uses the example of a man who pursues romantic relationships with women who are not interested in him, and inevitably sabotages the relationship after they get together. But why would someone do this to himself? Siegel says it’s because the man is trying to fix the past. He grew up with an emotionally distant, and occasionally abusive mother. Now he pursues women who don’t want him in an attempt to prove he is lovable. He withdraws from that love when he secures it because he does not trust it. In the past he approached his mother for affection, only to be rebuffed. Now he withdraws from his romantic partners in a defensive attempt to avoid being hurt again.
This man’s behavior is understandable, but it causes a lot of unnecessary unhappiness. He stakes his self-worth in getting other people to prove he is lovable. It is a perilous strategy because not everyone you meet is going to like you. That’s just the way things are.
Accept What you Cannot Change
Also, he’s trying to fix his past through his actions in the present. That’s impossible. Nothing he can do now, short of building a time machine, will ever alter what happened in his past. People who subconsciously live in the past, and allow it to control how they live their lives going forward are setting themselves up for serial disappointment. The methodology is kind of like the symbolism involved in Old Testament animal sacrifices. The Israelites were required to offer animals to God in order to atone for their sins. But the real purpose of the ritual was to show that they could never keep with their waywardness. There would never be an end to their need for forgiveness. What they really need was a one-time sacrifice that would cover everything. They needed Jesus.
Life Changing Christian Counseling
That is what the man in Siegel’s book needed. The only way he was going to find true happiness in relationships going forward was to accept the trauma of his past, and that he could not fix it by trying to recreate the same circumstances, and “get it right this time.” He needed a one-time radical change that enabled him to overhaul his outlook regarding his capacity to be loved by others, and how to go about creating a healthy romantic relationship.
But how could he do that? One way is by getting in touch with a professional Christian counselor. A therapist can help you understand where you create opportunities to cause yourself unhappiness, why you do this, and how to stop. A Christian counselor will use biblical principles and therapeutic techniques to help you improve your self-image and relationships.
Flowers Against Sky II Watercolor,ʺ courtesy of Clyde Robinson, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); ʺIn the Shadow of a Flower,ʺcourtesy of Hamed Saber, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)