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Moving Mountains/Magical Choices For Empowering Your Life's Journey
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Chapter 9
By Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.

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How To Expand
The Prism Through
Which We View The World -

Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure.
- Norman Vincent Peale

Often I am asked, “How it is that we created our own unique prism through which we view the world?” Well, we developed this prism as children. We have spent literally a lifetime experiencing events and interpreting them. If you stop and think about this, how do children learn? They learn in many ways, but one way is through observation. That’s right, it’s not so much what you tell a child to do as what that child observes others doing. 

You see, children are wonderful scientists. They are keen observers of their environment. They are  always watching and observing and taking in information. They are always sifting through the data of what they observe and pondering what it all means.

However, as adept as children are at observing things, they invariably are very inept at how they interpret what the data means. Unfortunately, these interpretations, no matter how well-founded or misguided they may be, stick with that child as they grow.

The child eventually turns these early interpretations into law. These laws become the prism  through which the child and eventually the adult views life.

The impact of all this is obvious ...

Children who see the world as a frightening place become adults who see the world as a frightening place.

Children who see the world as a safe place become adults who see the world as a playground.

Children who see the world as a place of victimization grow up to see the world as the same.

And so it goes. I imagine you could fill up a page of your experiences and the influence they have had on you as an adult. In fact, take a couple of minutes and see if you can continue what I started above as it relates to your own experiences.

For example,

Children who see the world as a place of ….

Grow up to see the world as …

The good news is we are capable of changing these laws. And by changing them, we can expand the way we view the world and our place in the world.

That’s how we developed our prism. Take some time before you read on. Think about the events of your life. What has shaped who you are and the things you believe about yourself and the world? Think about the influential people in your life and what impact they had on you. Write your thoughts down in the space below. 

Now, as to the second part of your concern. What do I do about my prism? It is very, very simple to do something. However, it is the challenge of a lifetime to maintain what you have done.

I hope you are getting my drift. Your personal prism isn’t something we are going to make go away. It is only something we are going to expand and learn to work with more effectively.

What I am about to suggest to you are very powerful tools, indeed. All you need for now is the awareness that powerful tools exist for you, plus the willingness to apply them consistently.

There are two mechanisms we will utilize to expand your prism. The first is how you think about the things you believe. The second is what you do  with how you think about the events in your life.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Those sentences are simple to write, but incredibly challenging to make happen. I don’t say that to discourage you, only to let you know that I understand how overwhelming it must sound to you.

Much of this work is like trying to turn an ocean cruiser around in the middle of the ocean. It can easily be done, but it requires skill, persistence, determination, and courage.

Imagine a world where every event that happened every day had no meaning. It sounds strange, but think about it. For instance, imagine watching an explosion. You would not be able to know if the explosion were caused by natural or man-made causes. You would not know if the blast happened to solve a problem or create one. And most importantly, you would not know how the explosion affected you personally. 

Follow me closely as I go through this idea. In any given situation, when we formulate an attitude, we do it by bringing to bear all of our life experiences on a set of facts. We make a judgment on the situation at hand as best we can and then we decide how something does or does not affect us.

What that means is, once we make up our minds to think about something in a certain way, it can be really tough to change the way we see a situation. The next time you find yourself stuck in a rut of thinking that any particular situation laid out before you is rock solid, remember it is not. As a friend of mine says, “Everything is not etched in stone.”

We all have a way of taking an event and putting it into our belief system so that it comes out the same over and over and over again.

Remember, you do not have to master these all at once. But the next time you find yourself looking a problem square in the face, try following one of these tips in order for you to be able to open the doors to the different areas of your life.

All circumstanaces in your life are a gift. The pain you experience through these circumstances can be your teacher, if you choose to understand what the lesson is.

I have a friend who is a recovering alcoholic. He is a wonderful guy. For years now, he has been sober. One day we were talking and I asked him how his life improved when he stopped drinking.

“You know Steve,” he said, “the year I stopped drinking, I thought everything would get better. But six months sober, my wife left me, my house was taken away, and my daughter was hurt badly in a terrible car accident.”

I was shocked.

He continued, “Most people asked me if I was going to start drinking again. I told them, ‘No, absolutely not!’ I have learned something that has brought a whole new way I think about the things that happen to me. I told them each difficult time was a gift. I could choose to grow from those times and meet my needs sober, or I could drink and run back into a bottle. Then I finally realized, I could have my needs met in a twelve-step group just as easily. And anything I went through drunk years before, I could go through sober now.”

When my friend told me this story, I was reminded of the old saying, “Those things which do not destroy you, will serve to make you stronger.”

I believed my friend discovered he didn’t need to think about his hard times as hard times. He chose to see them as a gift. To him, they were the gift of learning how to stay sober under trying circumstances. He could have never learned that lesson without those trying circumstances. And believe me, it was a lesson he sorely needed to learn.

Now think about your life. What are the circumstances you need to start viewing as a gift rather than misfortune? What lesson is the pain you are experiencing in your life trying to teach you? Take a moment and write down three circumstances and the lesson these circumstances are offering to you.


A person is empowered by what he does with what happens to him.

The man I just told you about is in his late sixties. He had a heart attack not too long ago. When I went to visit him, he said to me, “Steve, I need you to come over tomorrow and take me to the nursing home.”

I was shocked. He didn’t seem ready for a nursing home.           

He went on to explain to me, “You know Steve, I figured if I felt so shaken by a mild heart attack,  other people might be shaken as well. So I gave it some thought, and, I’ve decided tomorrow I will begin to volunteer at a nursing home to help other folks get through their problems.”

“Besides,” he said, “it will let me focus on somebody else for a change, and get me out of myself.”

This is the action component for expanding your prism. Reflect upon how you respond to your circumstances. Do you give-up, give-in, overcome, or do you act at all? What do you like about the action you take? What would you like to improve upon?

Now think for a moment about what is going on in your life. What action can you take to make those circumstances different. Write down a plan of action in the space below.

Personal empowerment is the process of actively seeking and creating the circumstances that allow you to shape the outcome you want for your life.

Do you react to life or do you make life happen for you? That’s all we’re really talking about here. Our prism limits the range of choices we see available for taking action. So we often times choose to be shaped by our circumstances.

Are you the kind of person who would lay underneath an apple tree, waiting for an apple to fall into your mouth? Or would you energetically climb the tree and search for the perfect apple to quiet your appetite?

Are you the kind of person who feels defeated by life? Who thinks to themselves, “What’s the use?”

When I think about this tip and the whole idea of expanding your prism, I think about the spirit that is required to bring forth the effort necessary to make all of what you desire possible for yourself.

And when I think about that spirit and how special it is, the words first spoken by George Bernard Shaw ring in my ears. I am sure you have heard these words before, but have you ever tried to embrace the spirit of his words in your life?

“Some men see things as they are, and say,
‘Why?’ I dream of things that never were and say, ‘Why not?’”

Isn’t it time to turn inspiration into action? How can you embrace the spirit of George Bernard Shaw’s words as you move forward with your journey?



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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