There’s a strong connection between the way you think and the way you feel. And it goes both ways. The way you think affects your emotional state and your emotional state affects the way you think. These are the guiding principles at the heart of CBT and REBT.
There’s a brutal truth in life that some people refuse to accept: You have no control over many of the things that happen in your life.
When something is really bothering you common remedies are to talk about it or to sleep on it. What’s interesting is that when we stop to think about these remedies they don’t really change anything about the situation. All of the external variables remain the same after the fact.
Yet what is in your control is the ability to change your attitude towards these external variables, your beliefs about yourself, others, and the external world at large. Sometimes this change in attitude makes all the difference in the world. It makes a difference in that you feel more prepared to face the unalterable facts of your present.
There are really only two channels for finding relief if you’re unhappy with your current set of circumstances. You can change them or you can change the way you think about them. Not working to change your bad circumstances when you’re capable of doing so is a form of self-sabotage, but we’ve also got to recognize that we all face certain variables in our lives that are immutable, that no matter how much you wish your particular unalterable circumstances were different you’re hitting your head against the wall when you try to change them because they’ll never change.
Being able to distinguish between those unwanted external variables that are changeable from those that are unchangeable is half the battle. Resisting this truism will bring great suffering into your life. The other half the battle is finding a way to live with the things you can’t change, to realize that despite their unchangeability you still retain the power to alter your beliefs around them and thereby find relief. You retain the power to either leave those unwanted unchangeable variables hanging, which is like leaving open wounds unattended, or to accept them, which is like bandaging those wounds in order to let them heal so that you can eventually move forward.
Let’s face it: some things that happen in life are things that you should shrug off and stop letting things bother you, while other situations deserve your attention. Emotionally maturity requires us to be able to differentiate between the two.
The best way to know the difference is to ask yourself what you can do about what’s bothering you. If there’s something that you can do about the situation, do it. You’ll feel a lot better. If there really is nothing that you can do about that given situation, decide to let it go and focus on changing what is within your control: your perspective.