Qualities of life

We all have a history, a place that we came from. Each of our stories is unique and includes little facets and details about who we are. I’m sure we could each look through our past and the memories that come trickling or flooding back and find an entire spectrum of emotion: joy, pain, happiness, sorrow, elation, fear, embarrassment, confidence and insecurity. It is from our history that we find evidence of why we are who we are and why we do what we do.

Upon review of our histories, our stories, we can see at least two things happening:  we have innate qualities/personalities and we have circumstances that we have experienced and made decisions about both the circumstances and ourselves as a result. Allow me to expand:

Our innate qualities coincide with the stories that exemplify characteristics of who we are, who we have always been, effortlessly and consistently. This is who we have been all along and continued to develop insomuch as we were acknowledged, encouraged or discouraged by others or our self.

For example, as both a child and an adult John has been outgoing in reaching out to people he did not know. His parents and teachers frequently praised him for his natural outreach. This is who he is regardless of the circumstances he found himself in.

Our circumstantial qualities are the decisions we have made about ourselves based on the circumstances we found ourselves in. It is because of the situation that we now act, think and behave in a certain way. Had that event NOT occurred it is possible that we would no longer think a certain way about ourselves.

For example, John had been bullied about being over-weight throughout elementary and middle school and decided that he was worth less than his thinner peers. Based on John’s experience he has now drawn a conclusion of who he is as result of that experience.

Where I would like to focus my attention is on the latter, the circumstantial qualities. It is here that the majority of my clients get “stuck.”

I could say with some certainty that we have all experienced a circumstance that seems to be preventing us from becoming the person we know we could be. These circumstances could include small, repeat and/or even traumatic offenses.

By no means do I want to belittle anyone’s experiences when discussing an offense.  Hear me out when I say that the offense is less important than your PERCEPTION of the offense.  Regardless of how big or small it may have been, what you decided about it is the most important part of the story.

It is our perception that had this event not occurred then we would not feel this way about ourselves.  Like John, if he hadn’t been bullied, he could then be confident about himself.  Not only does he believe he would be more confident, but also possibly then he could lose the weight.

I distinguish between the offense and our perception of the offense because we can only change one of them: our perception.  It is here that we can begin to become “unstuck.”  Living out of decisions we made about our past 5, 10, 20+ years ago is no longer of benefit.  In fact, it is probably re-offending us on a regular basis.  John is now 30 years old and still feels as though he is worth less than his peers even though he is no longer being bullied, even though the actual offense is no longer present.  How much more time will he give to his offense?  How much more of his life is he going to dedicate to an experience he had over 15 years prior?

That is up to John.  Until he begins to change his perception of his offenses and begins to see the number of days he has ahead to live as he chooses, John will continue to be at the mercy of his previous circumstances.


Ashlee Secord is a License Marriage and Family Therapist at Thrive Therapy in Burnsville, MN. Contact Ashlee today if you are interested in understanding your  past and current circumstances.