It is funny how we all know that life is not fair, but still we expect it to be! It is one thing to know intellectually that life is not fair, but another thing to give up the sense of entitlement and expectations that it should in our day to day lives.
Life’s unfairness often comes in the form of our discontent over the actions and reactions of others in our lives. People give us so much to react against! All too often we expect people to be fair and act in ways that we consider “right” and often find ourselves angry and indignant over words, actions and reactions from others. Expecting that people should “know better” we often unconsciously use ourselves as a yardstick for how people should be, thinking “if that was me, I would …” Holding grudges, being hurt and bitter while holding others accountable for our own difficulties leads to much wasted time. As a psychotherapist for 35 years, I have been struck with how many people blame their parents, exes, children, co-workers for their problems. Just recently a 64 years old women complained that her problems in life were her parents fault. WHAT? Didn’t she see that this victim mentality was the reason for her disappointments? Didn’t she realize that how her life turns out is because of her, not them? Such wasted time and sadness results from thinking life should have been more fair.
This judgmental mindset can lead to lifelong discontentment when people in our lives, including parents spouses, coworkers, our children, our friends and neighbors fail to support our notions of how they should be. You think that people stress you out? Try your head! No one can really stress you out except yourself! That’s right! Not even traffic or the snow! Rather it is our attitude and our perception of the stressors in our lives that cause us internal stress. Barring physical endangerment and life debilitating illness, much of our reactions to stress can be totally in our control, and not in the control of others! So next time you think that “she makes me so mad” or “my mom stresses me out” realize that that could not be further from the truth!
What does Swiss Cheese have to do with it? How can thinking Swiss help us?
Swiss Cheese is a metaphor for life itself. After all life is not smooth and predictable life American or Cream Cheese. Like the Swiss, our lives have inevitable “holes” and “imperfections,” and these challenges are what enriches our lives and gives us character and depth. Even the image of the Swiss with all its holes reminds us that we need holes in our lives to make us distinctive and more unique. Interestingly enough, it is a fact that the bigger the holes of the Swiss, the sweeter and more distinctive the cheese. What an analogy to our lives! We develop resiliency by overcoming challenges and obstacles. By moving through life’s holes rather than getting stuck in them, we become stronger. By embracing the life’s holes, we make peace with the fact that life has its share of stresses, disappointments and setbacks, and it was never meant to be predictable, smooth and fair. Life misfortune and even trauma is not reserved for only the bad eggs in society.
So, it might sound nice if like did not have holes and everything went along swimmingly, but no one has that kind of life. It is up to us to make the holes in our lives rich in learning and insights so that we will emerge out of the holes rather than stay stuck in them. By embracing the holes in our lives, we can shift from bring stuck in the “whys” in our lives to focusing on to “what’s next?”