Some of my favorite authors have discussed the issues of attitude and life perspective. I would highly recommend reading the work of Viktor Frankl, specifically his book entitled Man’s Search For Meaning. Frankl is writing from the perspective of having survived the Holocaust. He subsequently developed a theory about the meaning of life, depression, the purpose of suffering, all based on his time enduring one of the worst atrocities in human history.
One of the themes of his book is being able to choose one’s attitude. He writes that fundamentally, any person can, even under the worst set of circumstances, decide their attitude based on how they choose to view their circumstances. He explains that it’s not about being able to change the circumstances but rather changing one’s view and attitude about their circumstances. Furthermore, he says that there will always be human suffering in life. It’s a matter of how one deals with the human suffering that matters the most.
Following the logic of Frankl, you have a choice about how you view your situation. You can’t change the past. You can’t change your circumstances but you can change how you view your circumstances. Currently, you are viewing your life through the lens of negativity but you can change that. What’s good is that you seem to have an element of positivity in your thinking, as demonstrated by this line in your writing: “I am aware that I have it better than most of the kids…” If you’re aware of this, take the next step to change your attitude to be in line with that view.
Your attitude is something you have control over but it is also important to acknowledge that changing one’s attitude can take time and training. It takes deliberate and focused practice, but it is very doable.
Relatedly, one of my favorite quotes about this issue comes from Abraham Maslow. In his book about self-actualization, he writes the following: “I have also become convinced that getting used to our blessings is one of the most important non-evil generators of human evil, tragedy and suffering. What we take for granted we undervalue… Wives, husbands, children, friends, are unfortunately more apt to be loved and appreciated after they have died than while they are still available. Something similar is true for physical health, for political freedoms, for economic well-being: we learn their true value after we have lost them.” He further says that “life could be vastly improved if we could only count our blessings.”
When you have counted your blessings, life is vastly improved and that’s what you should try to do. If you struggle to accomplish this, I would highly recommend counseling to assist you in this process. You have spent a great deal of time developing your intellectual capacity, by going to medical school, and so forth but it seems that you have ignored your psychological health. You focused on your career, perhaps at the expense of your mental health.
You had a difficult childhood. As you have noted, you never had much support and never got the support you needed. You had no control over that time in your life. You were a child then but as an adult, you have the power to make positive changes. Now is the perfect time to focus on yourself, to get the support you need, and to correct these issues. Therapy would be the ideal solution to this problem.
In the meantime, you might also try keeping a gratitude journal. The beauty of the gratitude journal is that it helps you to appreciate all the goodness in your life. The more you can train your mind to focus on the good things, the less you will take for granted and the more grateful you will be. That change in your thinking can help to improve your well-being. Good luck with your efforts. Please take care.
Dr. Kristina Randle