I recently worked with a client who saw herself as having caused her mother’s unhappiness, thwarted her mother’s creative expression, and impeded her mother’s freedom to enjoy her life more and go out and make her own way.
Here’s what I told her:
If you believe you could cause your mother’s unhappiness, you will also believe others can cause your unhappiness.
You will spend your life thinking you should have done this or that to make your mother happy.
You will spend your life thinking, _________ should do this or that to make you happy.
However, if you believe that you are 100% responsible for your own thoughts and feelings and, thus, your own happiness and experience of your life, then it will follow that your mother was completely 100% responsible for her own life, happiness and results.
When you do not take 100% responsibility for what you think and feel, then what goes unclaimed is the only thing that you (and only you) own: your thoughts and feelings which create your life experience.
You cannot control the weather (or any other natural phenomena for that matter including the force of nature known as “traffic”), but you are in charge of your thoughts (your perception) about it.
You cannot control what your mother, father or siblings did or thought or many of the family circumstances you experienced, but you (and only you) are in charge of what you think about your family and the events that happened.
You cannot control your friends, boss, co-workers, economy, clients, etc., but you (whether you claim it or not) are responsible for your thoughts about them.
Completely and entirely.
And your thoughts about them will create your feelings. So the feelings of happiness and peace are your and yours alone to create for you, and only you, and not any other family member. Others, including your mother, are completely responsible for the thoughts they think and for the feelings they feel. Everyone is responsible for their own happiness and peace.
When you claim to be responsible for someone else’s (your mother’s) unhappiness, you have claimed that which is theirs and theirs alone. It is not even yours to claim. To think you can do so is not just inaccurate but impossible, all the while causing a great deal of pain for you.
If you put your attention on claiming the full breadth of your own thinking and all of your feelings, you will be doing the work of your life.
When you feel a negative emotion, do not look to anyone else or your circumstances for the cause, look for the thought. Find the thinking causing the negative emotion. Take responsibility for those thoughts and the emotion they cause. Take responsibility for changing those thoughts to ones that create the emotion you desire.
With this perspective, nothing outside of you or in your past will ever need to change in order for you to be happy.