City Social Magazine

MAR-APR 2018

City Social Magazine in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

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Dr. Nicholas Abraham is a writer, speaker, musician and licensed professional counselor in private practice. He can be reached at drnick@nickabraham.net. Resetting Default 33 W HAT ' S IN Yo UR CAN? Henry Ford is known to have coined the phrase, "whether you think you can or think you can't, either way, you are right." The automotive industrialist who developed and manufactured the first automobile for middle-class Americans is definitely one who walked his talk. His I CAN attitude led to mass production of inexpensive goods, coupled with high wages for his workers. I've used his phrase more than a few times as a way to help reshape the thinking of many clients, simply because it's true. After many years of working with people who are suffering from debilitative habits, and who think they are somehow stuck in the same routines with the same outcomes, I've become more curious about how strongly rooted the phrase "I can't" has become in people's attitudes. Whether we wish to admit it or not, we all have automatic tapes and messages that start playing whenever the least bit of threat to our preferred way of thinking comes knocking on the door. One of those automatic tapes is the simple phrase "I can't." No half-way decent parent or teacher ever intends to hold back one's enthusiasm or desire to achieve. But it happens nonetheless. Too often, we're told, and even convinced, during childhood that something was out of our league. That we couldn't do it. That no matter how hard we might work at something, we would fail. Perhaps our adult teachers were fearful of how we would handle failure. Perhaps they felt that they were protecting us from harm, from embarrassment, from bullying. Perhaps they themselves were living with and passing on the "I can't" attitude. My conclusions, tentative though they are, are not made so as to lay blame at the door of parents and teachers. They are simply to make the case that, to many of us, telling someone that "YOU CAN" falls on deaf ears. It falls on the doorsteps of disbelievers who think that any change of behavior or attitude is simply not in the cards. Therefore, to get someone to say "I can" is quite the challenge in my line of work. We're often more comfortable with our deficits than our courage and inner resources. And so, the belief "I can't" continues to shape reality and yes, anyone who says "I can't" is right— that is, until someone comes along and tells the client that they can. They can raise their shoulders and stand tall, they can resolve a problem that seems overwhelming, they can get unstuck from what feels like cement between their toes and they can look at other options and walk down other avenues. One of the greatest confidence builders I have ever witnessed is when I say, with the firmest of convictions, "YOU CAN DO THIS." It's as if I have validated someone's ability to make a decision for the first time, including decisions that they've been putting off, or encouraged a literal face lift without the need for a surgeon. Yes, people seek help sometimes because they need to be validated for who they are—as human beings, worthy of love and being listened to. They need some genuine attention given to their suffering with a healing balm of compassion. But people also seek help because they need validation for their abilities, resources and inner strengths. They need someone to tell them that they CAN and, with a little push, will begin a new pattern, a new way of seeing themselves in the world and a new way of living. And let me be clear, it is not to my way of thinking that's important to the client. It's theirs. When someone has determined that they want to make a change in their behavior, they need people around that believe in them and their ability to make the change, even in small doses. Here are a few of the items I'd love to see put in people's CAN, starting today. Tell yourself these five "I CAN'S" and watch your whole world change before your very eyes: 1. I can make choices that are in the best interest of everyone, including myself. Too often, I put everyone first and find myself resentful from lack of appreciation. Therefore, I CAN and will make sure that I am thinking of my interests, needs and values, as well as those of others. And if there is conflict that ensues from my change of behaviors and setting of boundaries, I CAN handle the conflict and work toward a resolution, believing that resolutions are available and attainable. 2. I can adapt to my surroundings, being flexible instead of rigid, and remain steady and alert without feeling threatened. By being open to change and alternative plans, delays and detours along the way, I CAN be more at peace and more determined to enjoy the journey and not simply the goal. No matter what may lie ahead, I CAN not only survive, but find myself in a much more fruitful chapter in life. 3. I CAN go with the flow of life instead of fighting it and experience mystery in the never-ending appreciation of a power greater than me or anything I might be leaning on for security. To go with the flow and resist the urge to run away from suffering, I CAN find comfort even in the midst of discomfort and peace even in the midst of conflict. I CAN be strong in my belief system without putting another's down, appreciative of my culture while interested and open to those with other customs and traditions. By flowing with life instead of fighting it, I CAN live without judgment and fear of those who are different from me. 4. I can accept the reality that life offers only 24 hours a day, not a second more and with the acceptance of that reality, I CAN learn what is important to fulfill within that period, taking out what is pure waste, and filling my life with what is nurturing. With knowledge of limits, I CAN commit to what I'm passionate about and say "NO" to that which reduces my dignity and the respect I have for others. I CAN set my own goals and pursue my own interests without overlooking or competing with the interests of others. 5. I can experience the joy of solitude, the tranquility of rest and the pleasures of other people's company, knowing that all 3 are fueling my soul toward love and kindness. I CAN achieve balance in my life, believing that solitude gives me the ability to be myself with others, rest gives me the ability to work and produce a better world and socializing gives me the ability to belong to something greater than myself. The operative phrase in every challenge that may come our way is "I CAN." These 5 I CAN'S are a beginning point. You can continue the list on your own. I have given you a start only, a list that I believe in. Of course, there are things that I can't do, and places I can't just drop everything for and go tour. I realize that I can't have more than 24 hours a day and that I can't find pleasure every minute of the day. I also realize that I can't expect to enjoy every hour of work, or every part of another loved one. There are certain limitations in life. And to learn them and accept them is a part of human health. But I CAN accept the quirks of others, be open to the rollercoaster of work, expect some nights to be harder to sleep and release any and all hatred or resentment that I have toward my past hurts. I CAN accept my limitations and mistakes, fumbles and foibles, foolish statements and stubborn tendencies. And I CAN still be an amazing and worthwhile gift of God. I CAN tell myself that I CAN, with every choice be a force for good. What's in your CAN? By Dr. W. Nicholas Abraham, Ph.D., LPC-S

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