Linda and her husband, Richard, have raised nine exceptional and strong-willed children (five sons, four daughters, no twins, all genetically theirs…just to get all the questions out of the way). Linda is an accomplished author and co-founder of Joy Schools. You can learn more about Linda at ValuesParenting.

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Thought Replacement Therapy

I have been worried lately about a relative who has most everything she could want in life but who has a stressful job (at least she has a job) and always seems to be carrying an enormous burden. She claims that she just can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

It seems that not only unhappy feelings, but addiction and depression is at epidemic status! But, with all the bad news we have thrown at us every day, there is also some good news: you can change your mind! I am no therapist (except sometimes to my own children and I do what I can to help floundering parents) and certainly there are some people who have clinical depression and addictions that need professional help, but I’m just talking about dealing with the everyday, hard things that Mothers encounter.

A few years ago, when all our nine children were at home, I wrote a book called I Didn’t Plan to be a Witch, Although I meant it “with tongue in cheek,” it was certainly a true statement! I often did become a witch when all those “down and dirty” things that every mom deals with came at me all at once! I loved my children and my idiosyncratic, hyperactive husband. I was living the life I had pleaded for but I can clearly remember thinking, “Life is not intended to be lived this way! How can I survive dealing with a new crisis every hour?”

Last night, as I was thinking about this I stumbled on to a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson (I must admit that I haven’t read his works since high school) that expresses those same feelings. It is called “The Two Voices”. It starts out by saying:

A still small voice spake unto me,

“Thou art so full of misery,

Were it not better not to be?

Then to the still small voice I said;

“Let me not cast in endless shade

What is so wonderfully made.”

The poem goes on for about twenty five pages pointing out the two voices that are always in our minds…one is full of wonder, the other full of misery….often there was more misery than wonder!

Interestingly, this morning I read a new blog entry from our oldest daughter Saren, who has been thinking along those very same lines. Her thoughts exactly portray the feelings that so many of us have, as we let our thoughts carry us away to a place we don’t want to be: (where was this child when I needed her?)

She says, “Just like many women need ‘hormone replacement therapy” to help them feel more “even” as they age, most people (especially women, it seems) need to adopt some “thought-replacement therapy” to feel not just more “even” but more happy. I should be happy. I have every wonderful thing I ever dreamed of in so many ways – a handsome, good, kind, smart, patient husband, 5 beautiful, fun, sweet kids, a lovely home, opportunities to use my talents in many directions, a great extended family… But I feel unhappy a lot of the time. And I feel like I’ve finally more fully put my finger on why. It’s my thoughts. And I have the power to change them.”

“I often feel frustrated and angry and down. I don’t need to feel these things nearly as much as I feel them. I can control these feelings. We live in this world where people are always blaming all the problems they have on how they were brought up or what their nature is or what has happened to them in their lives. But really, our happiness or sadness comes from the way we THINK about what happens more than from the actual happenings in our lives. We cannot choose what happens to us in some instances, but we can always choose what we THINK about things – if we learn to control our thoughts, that is.”

“I recently read an article that pointed out that you can’t just try to NOT think about something – you can’t replace something with nothing in your head. To really get rid of a negative thought, you have to replace it with a new thought – and you have do that again and again until your thought processes become permanently altered – until your negative rut is replaced by a new, positive rut.”

“So this week, I wrote down a list of the negative thoughts that pop up in my head way too often – and came up with new thoughts that I’m going to use to replace those negative thoughts with. So far, it’s working pretty well. When the thought “wow, these kids are driving me crazy” pops into my mind, I replace that with “this moment will pass and I have great kids.” When the thought “what in the world is my husband doing?” pops into my head, I replace it with “I’m sure he is doing his best as always.” When the thought “I feel so overwhelmed” comes into my mind, I replace it with “OK, what’s the next small thing on my list that I need to do – I’ll just do that one thing for now.” And you know what? It’s really helping. I’m getting better at replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts. And I’m realizing how often I do think negative thoughts and how poisonous that is to my happiness.”

“I want to be happy. I should be happy. But to be happy, I have to CHOOSE it, with my thoughts as well as with my actions. This will be a long battle in my mind between the negative and the positive thoughts. But the positive ones will triumph!”

I thought what she said was truly profound! Don’t we all entertain negative thoughts that we can turn to the positive if we just are ready with a replacement? The challenge this month as the earth is “reborn” to change ourselves as well by using “thought replacement therapy” when those negative thoughts creep in!

Tennyson ends his poem as he walks through the wonders of nature in a forest:

I wonder’d while I paced along:

The woods were fill’d so full with song,

There seem’d no room for sense of wrong

So variously seem’d all things wrought,

I marvell’d how the mind was brought

To anchor by one gloomy thought;

And wherefore rather I made choice

To commune not with that barren voice,

Thank him that said, “Rejoice, rejoice!”

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