Read an Excerpt
Stop Whining, Start Living Signed Ed
Perspective Is Everything
"I have changed my life from 'talking, whining, rehashing, complaining, and suffering' into a life of doing and enduring because I got tired. I got tired of making the choice to have a bad attitude. I realized almost at the 'ripe' old age of thirty that I alone am responsible for my behaviors and my moods; and whining and the rest of that nonsense is futile to resolution and problem solving.
"I suppose the main catalyst for this life change was putting things in perspective; I haven't had a charmed life but I also realize how blessed I have been. I think all those people who claim that they are unhappy are only that way because they do not know how to appreciate what they DO have. It is hard not to take for granted what one has, but at the same time it is hard to believe that most people who have so much are still so miserable."
—Wendy, a listener
I talk a lot about perspective on my radio program to callers who just can't seem to break the hold that emotional pain, disappointments, and fears have on them. I'm usually met first with their annoyance, as though I'm trying to strip them of what is most important in their lives—their suffering and their anger about it. As anyone who has ever dealt with children knows, if you grab something out of the hand of a cranky kid, you'd better be ready to put something else in its place. Well, with callers on the phone, what I have to put back in their minds after grabbing their complaints (justified or not—it doesn't matter) is a more compelling image.
That substitute image has to:
- 1. Make sense to them
- 2. Not ignore or deny their suffering or the reasons for it
- 3. Touch them more deeply than the reason they have for suffering
- 4. Motivate behavior in a new and healthier direction
- 5. Provide a direction for action
- 6. Overpower resistance now and the likelihood of falling back into old patterns in the future
Let me move straightaway to some examples of how this works in real life. One recent caller in particular sticks in my mind for this demonstration, as the call was powerful with a very quick turnabout in attitude and perspective.
A young woman, about twenty-three, called concerning her sexual orientation and whether or not she should tell her mother. She was afraid that her mother would not be approving.
The very first thing I told her was "I'll bet your mother knows. She can't have lived with you for over two decades and not have an inkling. . . . She is a mother! It is not unusual, however, for parents to seemingly ignore situations like this because of their fears and feelings."
The next thing I told her was "You have to understand that this is foreign to your mother, who has loved a man all her adult life, and who, as a loving mother, worries about what you'll be missing out on that she has cherished for a lifetime. She may never approve of (embrace) your orientation, but given a chance, she'll probably be lovingly accepting (tolerant)."
It was at this point that I worked more directly on perspective: "It isn't all about you, although I realize you see it that way. Your mother loses one of her dreams—her daughter's wedding and marriage to a son-in-law and eventual grandchildren, and without that, she doesn't see a clear role for herself in your future. Your mother will suffer for her losses as well as her concerns about yours. I think you need to be less prickly and worried, and more compassionate."
The caller's attitude changed abruptly from fearful and whiny to hopeful and concerned. Her mission became one of mutuality instead of one that was totally defensive. She hung up feeling more understanding of the bigger picture, of which she was but one part. Pictures must be seen from a multitude of vantage points to be seen clearly and properly appreciated.
I wish I had a dollar for every woman who called complaining about her husband not doing enough housework. Such women usually first tell me what a great guy he is in general, and then they get to their specific complaint concerning his sloppiness. Most advice show hosts generally go into strategies to manipulate, threaten, demand, or negotiate him into housework. I work on perspective.
Traci, a listener, wrote:
Stop Whining, Start Living Signed Ed. Copyright � by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
"You've talked before about keeping things in perspective and I just felt the need to reiterate the point. My husband, who is my hero, my swimmer of shark-infested waters, the sole financial supporter of our family of four, and the wonderful father to my two small girls, can absolutely annoy the CRAP out of me sometimes!!! He can take the can opener out of the drawer, place it on the counter right above, and never put it back; his dirty clothes are typically on the floor somewhere near the dirty clothes hamper. He thinks everything that is in the garage needs to be put back in its proper place however those things that belong in the house are of less importance. I could go on . . .
"But then on occasion, I manage to remember who he is; he is a public servant. It is what he was born to do. He protects people. He is a state trooper, a volunteer firefighter, and an officer in the Coast Guard Reserves (after five years active duty Air Force and two years Air Force Reserves).
"He is a man who, except for the occasional fishing trip, spends his spare time at home with his family. So I face the reality nearly every single time he walks out that door . . . he might not come back. You know what? When I remember to put it in that light, it really doesn't matter where the can opener or his socks end up. I would much rather spend every day of the rest of my life taking care of such items behind him, than live a moment of my life without him.
"Perhaps together, Dr. Laura, we can remind wives out there that having a wonderful husband that doesn't care so much that things are always in their proper place is a far cry better than having no wonderful husband at all!"