We are responsible for our own suffering. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say no circumstance outside of our own bodies and minds is responsible for anything we feel. Our minds self-generate it all. How can this be possible, you might ask? Our thoughts create our reality.
Have you ever heard that saying, “hurt people hurt people?” It’s completely true. We recognize it happening when people lash out at us. We can see there is some underlying cause that’s being misdirected our way. But not many people apply this concept to their own behavior.
The thoughts we think affect our feelings. Our feelings color the way we look at the world. And many times, our thoughts affect the way we act as well.
Our thoughts create reality for two reasons
First, our brain is the data center responsible for self-preservation. Its job is to make sure we stay alive. It processes inputs from the world around us. As part of this, the brain classifies various sensory inputs and interprets them as threats or non-threats. What makes those inputs threats or non-threats? Our past experiences and our thoughts about them. For example, when you see a hot stove, you (hopefully) know not to touch it. Perhaps you touched one in the past and can remember the pain you felt. Or perhaps you’ve touched other hot things in the past and can sense as you get closer to the stove that it would end badly. Part of the brain’s job is to log information about the experiences you’ve previously had–and the thoughts you had about them–to increase your chances of survival.
Second, we know reality self-perpetuates. Things go great when we think we are having a great day. The second we think we are having a bad day, more bad events seem to start piling up. You see things through the lens in which you think about them.
What does this mean?
No circumstance is ever objectively positive or negative. Consider the following situation: your boss calls to tell you you’re giving a presentation to the board of directors on an important topic, and the presentation is in two hours. To Person A, this situation is incredibly stressful. It’s a lot of work to get through in a short amount of time and if the board hates it, that’s the end of Person A’s career. To Person B, it is the opportunity of a lifetime. Person B has been waiting in the wings for exactly this moment. The situation itself is neither positive nor negative. What makes the experience positive or negative to you is what you think that situation means.
Nothing ever “happens to” you. The reality of the situation is what it is. The way that situation plays out in your life depends on your thoughts–what you make that situation mean in the context of your life. In other words, it’s all in the eye of the beholder.
The bottom line: change your thoughts to create the reality you want.