Happiness is an inside job. The only way happiness can be achieved is to remove the blocks that we ourselves create against it. During the holidays, we often spend more time with family and that can present a wonderful opportunity to review our feelings’ list. Old feelings we didn’t even know we had might come up. What a surprise! Our long-term memory can be a storage bin for old stuff that is reactivated as our holiday plans take place and we think about people, places, and situations of the past.
Recently, a friend defined our four basic feelings in such a simple way that we all took note. She said: Anger is the feeling I get when I am not getting my way today. Resentment is the feeling I get when I didn’t get my way yesterday. Fear is the feeling I get when I think I won’t get my way tomorrow. And depression is the feeling I get when I think that I never get my way!
When old ideas and the emotions they generate come to the surface, we have the tools to change them. All we really need to do is change our thoughts. After all, it is only a thought and a thought can be changed. The good news is, a good feeling follows a good thought. When we change our attitude about a person, place or situation, we reap the reward. Who wouldn’t rather feel peaceful, joyous and happy than resentful, fearful and sad? Sometimes we can simply say: bless him/her, change me. Then pray for all the good things you can think of for that person. (Let’s face it, most of our old stuff falls into the category of resentments.)
In one of the stories in the AA big book, the author shows us the way to be free of resentments. She says: “In my prayers that morning I asked God to point out to me some way to be free of this resentment. During the day a friend of mine brought me some magazines to take to a hospital group I was interested in, and I looked through them and a “banner” across the front of one featured an article by a prominent clergyman in which I caught the word ‘resentment.’”
He said, in effect: ‘If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person or the thing that you resent, you will be free. If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free. Ask for their health, their prosperity, their happiness, and you will be free. Even when you don’t really want it for them, and your prayers are only words and you don’t mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it every day for two weeks and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.’
It worked for me then, and it has worked for me many times since, and it will work for me every time I am willing to work it. Sometimes I have to ask first for the willingness, but it too always comes. And because it works for me, it will work for all of us.” Alcoholics Anonymous (Fourth Edition) pp 561-562.
It seems to me, to follow this formula, we could identify our resentments, pray for two weeks for the persons we resent and that would take us right through the holidays. In fact, we could just go ahead and pray right up until New Year’s day. What a good ending to our year and what a good beginning the New Year.
Wishing you all a happy, healthy, holiday season and the best New Year ever.