On but and and…. finding empowerment in tough times

The most widely read post ever posted on this blog is the one that talked about the difference between “but” and “and” as foundations of the way you approach life.  And it is not even close.  Almost every day someone reads that post. (That post is printed below)

Yesterday I did.

It talks a lot about how you deal with the inevitable injustices of life.  Injustice easily becomes quicksand.  You think about it….wonder about….talk about it….and finally you think about little else.  You become convinced that there is little else to think about, little else to be concerned with and you are astounded that others don’t see things as clearly as you.  It is easy to be bitter and hard to be anything else.

It is kind of a weird form of time travel.  Time just stands still.  Regrets empowered in time leave little but regret.  You miss out on what could be and you think what is is still what it has always seemed to be.  Every word, every thought, every experience has an unspoken but loud “but.”

“And” is about empowerment.  Something is wrong, has been wrong or could be wrong and I need to do something about it.  It is about options and alternatives.  It is about faith and hope and commitment. 

It is much easier to sustain the “buts” of life than it is to sustain the “ands.”  “But” quickly acquires momentum. “And” seems to constantly need effort and replenishment.  The important thing to know is that one is not failure and the other success.  They’re both simply human and their interplay has a lot to do with how I live life.

Right now I am struggling.  My sense of the injustice in my life is acute and sharp.  My focus is on remembering that injustice is an opportunity to make things better much of the time, to remember at its best life is frequently hard and unfair, and that their are things you must live with, but living with them does not mean letting them be the only thing that lives in your life.

The biggest loss in life is not in the injustices we all have and must bear, but when those injustices blind us to the blessings we all seek.

Be blessed this day and in those blessings find the seeds to a harvest of better days.

But and and…….

You wouldnt think such little words could make such a big difference but they do.  They describe two very different ways of dealing with pain, stress, and unhappiness.  What is the difference?

Lets look at one sentence:

I wanted him to listen to me BUT he wouldnt even give me the time.I wanted him to listen to me AND he wouldnt even give me the time.

The focus of the first sentence is on the injustice of the situation.  I wanted something “but” the other person didnt do me right.  It makes the focus of your involvement the injustice done to you.  The focus of your response becomes on dealing with what the other person did that you did not like.

If you are a chronic “but” person ( most of us probably are) then the focus of everything, over time, becomes how does it affect you.  Life becomes about not getting what you want or what you think you deserve.  You can even become a “but” person in relation to yourself.  “I didnt want to feel bad, “but” I did.”  You then become involved in a fruitless spiral to control something that you cant control,  even though frequently you feel like you should be able to.

The “but” response leaves you embroiled in the conflict around you.  It leaves you dealing more with what has happened, than with what you would like to see happen.  You end up as your own worse enemy.

The “and” response means that you notice bad things.  You know that it didnt work out the way you wanted it to.  But the focus is on “what now”.  It helps to maintain some observing ego, some distance from your emotional reactions.  It means you have your feelings, but that your feelings dont have you.

The “and” response does not mean you are unemotional.  It means that you react to the emotions you have differently.  You dont try to suppress them.  You dont try to ignore them.  It means that they are information like anything else and you make the best decisions you can based on what you want and the information availible to you.  How you feel, or what you feel is true is important, but it is not the only thing that is true or perhaps not even the most important thing that is true.

If you are dealing with mental health issues this can be a life saving distinction.  Sometimes, even when you are saying the right things, any response that over involves you with your feelings makes it worse.  This is particularly true with mood disorders where you have a tendency for the accelerator to get stuck. 

Most of us know people who “live in the situation,” but who are not “of the situation.”  They tend to have a serenity and sense of joy that we have a hard time finding on our own.  If you are stuck on the “but” of life your focus is negative and you tend to miss so many blessings.  I know that is true for me.  When I can refocus and step back things not only go better, I notice the better things and find myself a much more thankful person.

Little things can make a big difference.  Like two three letters words.


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