Sermon by Diane Donovan-Vaughn 02/03/2018
Of all the words our many voices in the head can say, the words ‘I can’t’ are a couple of the worst. The funny thing about those words is that when we use them they feel like the God’s truth. Almost worse than denial, which denies our problems, the words ‘I can’t’ make it impossible to change things. Remember that the brain does not make an image to see something we do believe in or look for. ‘I can’t’ tells us not to see, not to look and to give up. You can feel the hopelessness in the words ‘I can’t.’
When becoming a therapist, we are guided to replace the words ‘I can’t’ with “I don’t want to,” restoring personal power to any situation.
In the book A Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck tells a story about how he has been unable to repair things like his lawn mower. When he tells a neighbor he sees fixing a lawn mower that he can’t fix things, the neighbor said, “that is because you will not take the time.” The neighbor sounds vaguely like Yoda doesn’t he? I have suspected since the beginning of Star Wars that George Lucas went to therapy specifically Gestalt therapy and Peck has more than one helpful example of how to apply Gestalt therapy to your life. Peck had an epiphany from his neighbor’s observation, took the time to focus his attention on the task and conquered his ‘I can’t’ statement.
Sadly, it can be difficult to notice every time we use the words ‘I can’t’ most likely because we believe it so throughly and because we are asleep, not really paying attention to the words we use.
Think about yours. What do think you cannot do?
Valentine’s Day is coming and I hear statements like I can’t celebrate Valentine’s Day because I do not have a significant other or because my significant other always fails or I always fail when I try to do it. It can be be quite difficult to find a perfect gift for any occasion that proves to anyone that they are valued, especially when most of us do not value ourself.
I keep suggesting to my clients that since they are looking in the mirror saying, “I am the love of my life” that perhaps they could give a Valentine’s gift to the love of their life (and jokingly I add that food is not one I pick since I am a compulsive eater and would not be a loving choice).
It is awesome to see their eyes light up with the idea of giving a gift to someone they know so well. Success is assured when you know what someone wants and when everyone involved knows you already value them.
People sometimes say ‘I can’t’ when I give them the assignment to look in the mirror and say “I am the love of my life.” What does that mean? They might say, “I can’t lie” and I have to laugh a little since they just lied and said they cannot say six simple words.
What do you think you cannot do? Change the words ‘I can’t’ to ‘I do not want to…’ and notice how it changes. For example: I can’t buy a car to I don’t want to buy a car. I can’t take off from work to I don’t want to take off from work. I can’t find a good relationship to I don’t want to find a good relationship. Oh my! That is not true because I want to find a good relationship and then you see how it all changes in an instant to not being able to to find a good relationship to finding a good one, to not being able to fix a lawn mower to being able to repair one.
You can see now, you truly see that ‘I can’t’ makes you blind to ‘I can’ and ‘I will.’ ‘I can’ gives you sight, restores your focus and allows life to show you how amazingly abundant it really is.
Life can be difficult, as we all know. However, we can refuse to take difficulties personally because life can be difficult. Difficulties exist. Cars and lawn mowers break down. People break down and die. Pretending that these things don’t or shouldn’t happen is denial, not positive thinking. However, ‘I can’t’ is how we take a difficult situation and fall into helpless despair. Instead of focusing on what you cannot control, move to what you can do to enter the positive thinking side of situations. Just allowing yourself to feel your grief is usually the most natural and strangely the most positive action you can do.
By the way, blaming the victim happens in between these stages. Just like at Dog Obedience class today, when a Sherman Shepherd that has issues with other dogs lunges at Ellis and I, someone turns to me and tells me I am reacting incorrectly by showing fear. Blaming yourself or others is just a form of denial. Fear is automatic. The dog lunges at people and dogs. That is the place where an owner or trainer can say, “What can I do?” Blaming is still in the ‘I can’t’ realm.
Falling into complete helplessness and accepting defeat with the attitude of ‘I can’t’ just prolongs the agony of difficult times. ‘I can’t is basically depression and defeat, forgetting that difficulty will pass if we will allow it to. The good passes and the bad passes, repeating over and over. Surrendering and flowing allows you to traverse difficult times with grace. Even better, surrendering and flowing during good times allows you to embrace happiness. Peck said that once you accept that life is difficult then that fact no longer matters. You are free to live in ‘I can.’
Today’s compassion lesson and practice from <em>A Year of Living with more Compassion – 52 Quotes and Weekly Compassion Practices </em>(Edited by Richard Fields) Selection 29 (pp 88-89) selected by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT is by Chogyam Trungpa. He Said, “Compassion automatically invites you to relate with people because you no longer regard people as a drain on your energy.”
Let’s practice. Take a deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. Relax and sigh when you exhale as you place your attention in the center of your chest, finding your true self inside. This is the part of you that is observing your thoughts, the voices in your head and the part that is still aware that you are not separate from reality but are connected to all that is. Now ask yourself what you can’t do? Listen as you watch how you feel when you hear the response. Change the words ‘I can’t’ to ‘I don’t want to do’ whatever it is. Then watch how you feel. Now change the words to ‘I can,’ ‘I will’ or ‘I am’ able to do whatever it is. Once again, notice how you feel. Take another deep breath as you place your new intention into your heart, breathing life into it as you breathe.