Choosing your surroundings

It's the dead of winter. Snow is falling, cold winds are blowing; there is ice wherever you want to walk. In the midst of this dull and often non-productive time, an amaryllis bulb that I've had for years is starting to bloom.

This blooming doesn't happen every year. Because I don't identify myself as a gardener, I don't take its relatively poor performance personally. And because I have no expectations of the bulb, when it does bloom, I am surprised and amazed. This particular bulb also has some sentimental value for me, which makes the emergence of the occasional bloom even more delightful.

For some people, winter weather brings on the "sads." Maybe that's a result of the reduced light. But winter is also a time when it's easy to let oneself become isolated. It's uncomfortable or even unsafe to be out and about. Conversations often centre around how miserable it is during this cold, dull weather.

This time of year can also lead to more worries: "Will the weather get worse? Will I be able to do the things I need to do? Will I even survive?" It's possible to imagine all sorts of catastrophes. Do we have any control over those feelings and thoughts? If you've been reading these columns, then you know that I am going to encourage you toward an answer of "Yes."

In "Understanding Reality Therapy, A Metaphorical Approach," Dr. Robert Wubbolding discusses how we carry images of what we want in our minds. He likens those wants to an internal picture album.

Whether they are internal or external, pictures can be powerful communicators to others and to ourselves. How can we use that to our advantage? Can we deliberately influence ourselves in the direction that we want by controlling some of the objects around us?

When you look at your surroundings, do you see encouragement or discouragement? Do you see pleasant or distasteful? Do you see harmony or chaos?

One of the benefits of paying attention to the objects around you is that it is relatively controllable. For example, you might find it near-impossible to get a picture out of your head of a relationship that can never be achieved. But it's probably easy to put a physical reminder in your surroundings of something that pleases you.

What might you choose? Think about what matters to you. Perhaps it's a photograph of an enjoyable day, a painting of a place you love, or a note that expresses appreciation for you. Maybe you'd like to remind yourself that you succeeded at a difficult task by displaying a certificate from that time. Perhaps it's a memento of your participation in a successful event. Perhaps it's a blooming amaryllis.

Of course, everyone doesn't have unlimited freedom in how they arrange their environment. Seldom are things perfect, and putting up pictures isn't likely to transform dysfunctional relationships into happy family gatherings, or chaotic life situations into peace, calm and good order.

However, the principle is a simple one. Use the elements that you can control to set up your surroundings to be pleasing, encouraging, and helpful for you.

When the weather is cold and unforgiving, springtime - the time of new life and growth and promise - can seem very distant. It's now that reminders of the good, the positive, the warmth in our lives can have their biggest impact.

In your surroundings, what brings joy for you? Let me know at choices@focusonclarity.com or by mail c/o Progress Bulletin.

To your choices! ~ Susanne ~

Susanne Beck, RTC is Reality Therapy Certified by the William Glasser Institute

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