A woman complains about an emotionally abusive husband. He rarely has a kind word for her or the children; is short-tempered and frequently yells about having to put up with an ungrateful wife and kids. He contributes the barest minimum to food and mortgage, yet always has plenty of cash for alcohol and cigarettes. She knows he’s been unfaithful in the past but has been willing to forgive for the sake of keeping the family together.

In another home:

A single parent has three children living with her. It’s financially necessary for her to work during the day but, as two of the children are now teenagers (a boy, 13 yrs and a girl, 16 yrs), she’s been able to juggle the needs of work and family fairly well. However, she’s concerned about the growing lack of respect she receives from the older two children. They are openly sceptical and even mocking about any advice or guidance she offers,

Problems at work?

A talented author writes a revealing book, extensively researched, which contains many illuminating truths which, if accepted, would cause a fundamental shift in our perceptions and the way we lead our lives. The book warns that this knowledge has been suppressed for centuries by vested interests and it solidly denounces those who have sought to prevent the truth from being known to the public at large. Few copies of the book are sold.

Those are not scenes taken from a Jerry Springer Show. They do have something in common which we’ll look at a little later.

At this stage, readers are probably squirming and thinking that the “secret” to be revealed here is probably about visualizing goals and lots of affirmations. It isn’t. You’ll have to read further.

For those of a religious or spiritual bent who believe it’s enough to pray and hope for the best and that “God will provide”, listen closely – it isn’t enough, you have to learn how to ask!

Learning how to ask is not simply a requirement of those who might be considered religious; it is of benefit to anyone hoping for a better life, a better job, better relationships, or even simply wanting improvement in those many situations which provide daily irritation.

In earlier days (that is, ancient times), asking involved sacrifices of lambs, chickens and various other beasts, and sometimes humans. Virgins were especially prized as sacrificial offerings. This was usually accompanied by declarations of humility and much praise about the worthiness and benevolence of the recipient God. The Gods of those times apparently were considered to possess a number of human frailties which could be appealed to with displays of subservience, socially acceptable bribes and compliments.

As we’ve become more civilized, a number of these rituals have been found to be unnecessary. It’s probably safe to say that, in recent years, there has been little call for virgin sacrifice, though others may view this differently.

Yes, the secret lies in learning how to ask and realizing that, in order to move towards those things we want, we have to prepare the way so that fresh paths will appear and we can approach what we desire. If the way ahead is blocked we’ll be unable to see those paths, even though they are so close.

And, yes, sacrifice will be required but sundry animals and virgins are safe. The secret involves removing the blockage, the impediment to our progress and the sacrifice is a psychological one which removes obstruction so that we can see more clearly.

Many are spending hours with focused attention to their goals, meditate till they can hardly stand, and bathe in tubs full of affirmations yet still find progress to be slow. They are well-focused on the future while they cling to the present! If you try to lug present difficulties into a happier future, it doesn’t work. You have to let them go and when you do you’ll immediately sense the relief as the load is lifted and your journey forward becomes easier.

The blockage involves a perspective of your present conditions. How you see the present is prompting an emotional response which fixates your attention on the present difficulty.

In the first scene at the beginning of this post, the woman clearly has an insensitive, ungrateful and even “unworthy” husband. Many would share that opinion. He is also a skilled handyman who has carried out a lot of repairs on their house; lost his job a few months ago but never stops trying to find work; and he never fails to take the children to their weekend sporting events.

The second scene depicts children who are becoming increasingly rebellious and disrespectful. They also work part-time jobs to earn pocket money; never forget their mother’s birthday or on Mother’s Day; take care of their little brother while their mother is at work; and help an elderly neighbor who is too frail to mow her lawn.

In the third scene, the author was angry towards institutions which had for centuries prevented socially useful truths from being known. This anger was expressed throughout the book as many of their failings were revealed. The institutions also carry out many benevolent works and have funded schools, hospitals, universities, medical research and more.

Do you notice that, when we relate to people through their strengths rather than their failings, we not only see them differently but we respond differently. How many in relationship counseling can readily cite their partner’s failings but struggle to recall their strengths and skills?

Being angry or resentful about present (and past) conditions keeps us anchored there. By learning to view the present from a different perspective we are able to see new paths that previously were obscured. It is like climbing a hill or a tree and being able to see further.

Honest feedback is greatly overrated. Yes, I know that statement will greatly shock graduates of numerous communications workshops, so I’ll state it again: when bringing attention to the failings of another, offering honest feedback is greatly overrated. It is very often presumptuous, manipulative and harmful. Attempts to influence the thoughts of another – control how they think – though well-intended, are often misplaced and usually futile.

Moreover, they cause the person we are trying to help to focus more on what they don’t want – their failings. When we relate to them through their strengths and skills, they can experience first hand what that feels like and learn from our example. It also builds trust. By demonstrating an awareness of their capabilities we help them shift attention towards the things they really want and to feel at peace with who they are; in particular, aspects of themselves they may not especially like. They are then more able to let go of those unwanted aspects as they pay more attention to their expanding strengths.

A few conclusions:

1. Make peace with the present so that you are comfortable even with seemingly intolerable conditions. When you feel good about where you are, new paths will present themselves. Try it, you’ll see.

2. Habitually see people – and relate to them – through their strengths and skills. If we continue to draw attention to perceived failings, they remain conscious of these – and so do you.

3. When you’re feeling anger, pause and consider how you can approach the situation through the strengths and skills of those who’ve provoked you.

4. Recognizing goals is actually the easy part. Anyone with problems is aware that they want something different. Also learn to feel OK with where you are right now; it makes it easier to let go.

For a beautiful future, make peace with the present. Ask for what you want in peace, not fury or desperation.

Do you have a favorite approach or technique that helps to make your life easier? How do you bring miracles into your life?