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Moving Mountains/Magical Choices For Empowering Your Life's Journey
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Chapter 8
By Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.

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The Prism Through Which
You View Your World -

It is a demonstrated fact of life that you and I do not behave in accordance with the reality of what we can do, but in accordance with the reality of what we believe we can do. It stands to reason that if we change the way we believe, we can change the way we act.
-Robert Anthony        

It was a story of two women that had an impact on people around the world. One woman refused to accept conventional wisdom as to what was possible. The other woman was able to transcend her personal  limitations. By the refusal of her friend to be deterred by what everybody else considered to be the impossible, they each created a miracle.

One woman refused to look at the other woman’s limitations through the prism of her times. You see conventional wisdom at that time prescribed   institutionalization of the other woman, keeping her cloistered from the rest of the world. Both women had the courage to create their own world and the prism through which they would view it.

Our parents and grandparents all knew her as if she were one of the family. World leaders listened to the lessons she had to teach.

And her life counted!

The story goes something like this. A baby girl was born to a young couple in a midwest farming community. Their pregnancy had been tough and soon after delivery, the girl’s mother realized something was wrong. Her baby daughter didn’t notice objects in the room around her. She seemed unaware of everything. Later on, the family found out she was unable to see at all. And to make matters worse, she couldn’t hear either.

Slowly her mother and father came to the realization their daughter had little hope for a future. Young Helen was about to grow up in a world in which she could not see, hear, talk, or hope to understand.

As Helen grew, she could only experience the world around her through touch, smell, and taste.

Alone, she was frustrated and angry. Trapped in a life offering no opportunity for connecting to anyone or anything around her. For everyone concerned, things seemed hopeless.

Until a young woman named Ann Sullivan began to teach the young girl. In time, they were successful and Helen learned to speak using Ann as an interpreter. To be fair, the story of their relationship fills volumes, but for our purposes, it’s important to note that Helen and Ann began to tell the world of their ability to overcome adversity. They spent a lifetime communicating Helen’s special view of a world seen through the eyes of a blind woman.

The world was amazed by all she had overcome. Her thoughts were profound. A person, who by the standards of the time in which she lived should have been severely limited, flourished.

And her legacy has influenced me. In the following quote, Helen Keller has written a prescription for personal empowerment I follow daily.

“Character cannot be developed in ease
 and quiet. Only through experiences of trial
 and suffering can the soul be strengthened,
vision cleared, ambition inspired,
and success achieved.”

The message is clear to me. For you and me, it’s important to accept adversity as a part of life. Adversity is not something that can be avoided, because it is part of the human condition. Adversity fuels our journey. It provides the lessons so necessary to our growth, development, and empowerment.

A friend discovered once she stopped fighting to accept adversity as a part of her world, she could more effectively work with it.

It was a warm summer night. I still remember walking down the street with some friends after a group had met. We were talking, but for the most part the street was quiet. As we slowly walked along, a friend of mine said something very moving to me.

We had been talking about some problems she was going through as we made the walk home. The conversation sagged. She eventually became quiet, as she took time to think about the difficulties she faced.

We knew each other well. She had alot to think about. Then, in the midst of the silence, she looked up and said, “You know Steve, it’s true what they say -- you really can’t control the world ... I guess it’s how you deal with it that counts.”

Everybody but everybody experiences adversity. For some of us, it presents itself in a dramatic manner, like a near death experience. For others, it comes as the loss of an opportunity, a relationship, or a job. And I guarantee for everybody -- yes everybody -- it manifests itself like a low grade fever as discouragement and fear.

But there is a powerful tonic available for our discouragement and frustration. I use it whenever loss, adversity, discouragement, or fear creeps into my world.

I step back from what is going on in my life. I find a quiet room in the house. I sit down, close my eyes and listen to a cassette tape on which I recorded a passage I wrote just for this purpose. I do it for about twenty minutes. It helps melt away whatever has infected my spirit. The following is the passage I listen to.

As creators of our personal journey, we value the process of the journey as much as the outcome of the journey.

As creators of our personal journey, we value our own self-respect over the opinions of others.

As creators of our personal journey, we value our own unique abilities and attributes rather than try to become a cheap imitation of somebody else.  

As creators of our personal journey, we value personal freedom rather than having to bear the yoke of conformity and placating others.

As creators of our personal journey, we value creativity and self-exploration rather than following the formula of somebody else’s plans for our life.

As creators of our personal journey, we value ourselves for who we are rather than what others would want us to be.

As creators of our personal journey, we value  our success in life based upon the lessons we learn from taking risks, rather than playing things safe.

As creators of our personal journey, we value the endless possibilities of what life holds for us rather than being faithful followers of a script others have created for us.

I hope you will try this very simple exercise when the need arises. It has proven to be a powerful elixir for me over the years.


Adversity can be a self-imposed prison for many of us. The key to unlock our prison and create our personal freedom and personal empowerment is our mind.

You see, our mind imprisons us and our mind can set us free.

For instance, do you believe the following is true for you?

We can influence anything that happens to us in our world

We can control how any arbitrary circumstance influences our lives

We can resist people’s attempts at trying to influence the direction of our journey

We can make any life choice based upon how we choose to understand the circumstances of our life

I absolutely believe in the validity of all of these statements. We can assert an incredible amount of influence over our lives, more easily than you would ever believe. The secret is how we choose to think about ourselves, the people in our life, and the circumstances of our life.

Nobody! Absolutely nobody, can control our attitude toward anything, as long as we do not give them the power to do so. No event in our life can be viewed as catastrophic, unless we give it the power to be so. Let me explain to you what I mean.


All events are neutral. We color all events in our lives with our own unique and personal interpretation of what they mean to us.

I’m going to tell you a big secret. It changed my life. The secret is, every event that takes place in our world is neither positive nor negative, neither good nor bad--all events are neutral.

That may sound a little odd, but I’ll show you how the implications of the idea can be important for you. hink about the phrase all events are neutral. Events have absolutely no meaning until we give them meaning with our own unique way of understanding them.

Let me tell you this story told to me by a teacher of mine, to show you what I mean. Once there was a poor Chinese farmer. He had very poor land to cultivate and only one son to help him and one horse for the plow. One day the horse ran away. All the neighbors came to commiserate with the farmer because of his bad luck. The farmer sat quietly and asked, “How do you know it is bad luck? Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t.”

The next week the horse came back with ten wild mares. The farmers came again to congratulate him on his good luck. And the farmer sat quietly and asked, “How do you know it is such good luck? Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t.”

A week later, his only son, riding one of the wild horses, was thrown and broke his leg. Now the farmer had no son to help him. The neighbors came to commiserate and deplore his bad luck. Again, he sat quietly and asked, “How do you know it is bad luck? Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t.”

The following week, a war broke out and soldiers came through the valley conscripting all the young men except the farmer’s only son who did not have to go because of his broken leg.

Now think about this tip for a moment. Consider what importance this tip may hold for you. What value is there in understanding the following? Our attitudes toward ourselves, the people in our lives, and the circumstances of our lives constitute our own unique, subjective version of reality.

The importance very simply is that we hold the ultimate power as to how we create our lives. Can you see how this point demonstrates the fact we assert the ultimate influence over our lives. Not your boss. Not your out-of-control children. Not an uncertain economy. Not an unstable relationship.

Those are merely circumstances. How we view those circumstances through the prism of our mind determines our destiny. It determines whether we live our lives in solemn desperation waiting for a solution to present itself to us. It determines whether we actively seek to shape those circumstances in order to claim the ultimate control of our destiny.

For instance:

   If we choose to think of ourselves as victims, we will see victimizers in every life event.

   If we choose to see ourselves as survivors, we will view every perceived obstacle merely as an opportunity that provides us a chance to grow and assert our influence.

   If we see ourselves as kindhearted, we will see the world full of people who are deserving of our concern and our respect.

Can you see how you have no choice but to see the world through the prism of your thoughts and beliefs about yourself and your environment?

I have a friend who survived a traumatic marriage. Today, though, she sees the world through the prism of a survivor. But back then, while she was in the marriage, things were very different. She explained to herself and to anybody else who would listen, her mistreatment as follows.

She would often say, “It was all my fault -- none of it was my husband’s responsibility.”

The specifics are not important, but, after getting out of the marriage she has become more aware. She is aware of how her viewpoint of herself and how the world treated her kept her stuck in an abusive marriage. She learned how she brought the prism of her life experiences and beliefs to bear on understanding the events in her marriage.

We were having coffee in a cafe after the divorce. As we sat there, she explained to me how the prism through which she saw the world distorted her understanding of what was happening to her in the marriage.

“When I was in the marriage, when it was happening to me, I believed it was all totally my fault. I honestly felt like I deserved it.

“Steve, my logic told me I must have been doing something wrong. You know, I believed I was a magnet for all the angry people in this world. I just believed they were angry because I wasn’t good enough. I believed it was my lot to be pushed down by them.

“Steve, what I believed about myself kept me locked into the marriage. I didn’t think I could make it on my own, so I decided to stay there and take it.

“I would think to myself, maybe if I am a better wife, he would treat me better. Maybe if I take care of my appearance more, he would be more attracted to me. What I believed I needed to do was better myself so my husband would be kinder to me.”

But she learned. Boy did she ever learn. She learned that the only thing that made it so was her thinking. And as she was able to enlarge the prism through which she viewed the world, she was able to dramatically change her life for the better.

In exactly the same way, I talked to a young friend of mine who had just lost his job. He was stunned and said, “I hate this, they are just pushing me around like everybody else does. I can’t figure it out, I must have done something to deserve this. Maybe I pissed off somebody high up in the company without knowing it. I wish things were different.”

In both cases, my friends were paralyzed into inaction. They could only explain to themselves what was happening to them based upon what they believed to be true.

Today, I am happy to say, they have learned how to expand the way they think about themselves and the people in their world. They no longer have the same knee jerk reaction to the circumstances of their lives. They have discovered a more flexible way to think about who they are and how they can approach any obstacle they are confronted with in their path.

Right about now you might be thinking to yourself, “That’s all well and good for them but what about me? I don’t understand what my prism is or how I even wound up with it, let alone what I should do about it.”

Believe me when I tell you, you’re not alone with those concerns and self-doubts. Let me explain a little more about that ...



Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at drfrisch@aliveandwellnews.com  or at
(847) 604-3290.

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series.


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