Choosing our feelings


UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

The last great freedom of man is the freedom to choose his attitude under any given set of circumstances.
– Viktor Frankl, noted psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor

What is it that determines how happy or content we are with life? Does it have to do with money, success, career or love? Perhaps it depends on health or our spiritual path.

While all of these things may play a part, we have all known people who are blessed in some or all of those ways and they are still not content. Are human needs that complex? Probably not.

Likely, for most, the happiest moments are the simplest: watching a sleeping child, playing with the dog or digging in the garden. Why do such moments feel so complete and perfect? It is because at those times we are completely in the moment and being in the moment means we are one with life and our own souls. It means ego is not running in the background with a constant commentary on how we are doing or analyzing what is right or wrong in the situation or our world.

Ego has myriad ways to keep happiness at bay. Ego needs are complex. Think of the things you hear others complain about. Generally, the complaints are about other people, the traffic, the weather and so on. When people, or the world, do not behave the way ego would like, it is defined as a problem. This creates endless frustration, worry, irritation, anger, disappointment and crankiness! This can become a lifelong problem, as we have no control over much of what goes on outside of ourselves. Ego seems to forget that it is not in control and does not have the right to determine or pass judgment on everything.

Of course, ego does not stop with what is occurring on the outside; it can also mount a running commentary on our inner lives. Ego may tell its owner they are not smart enough, generous enough, spiritual enough, confident enough or wise enough. No wonder life can seem like a struggle.

As Viktor Frankl suggests, we cannot choose the circumstances of our life or even the native abilities we possess, but we can choose how we think about them. Attitude really is everything. It is not about what we or others are; it is about how we are.

How do we do life? Do we do it like a mountain stream wending its way down the mountainside, moving gently around the rocks and trees in its path or are we continually crashing into things?

Do we reflect on nature and our place in it and the journeys we all share or are we busy trying to structure it all to align with our needs or desires? Granted, it is not easy to try and live soulfully in the midst of all the busyness and the demanding nature of modern life. It reminds me of when I was learning to play piano (as an adult) and at first I could not imagine how you could be doing different things with the left and right hands at the same time. With practice, however, somehow I was able to do it and it even began to feel quite normal.

In life, to deal with the practicalities and, at the same time, stay in tune with our soulful nature is our challenge. With ‘one hand,’ we must do the things that need doing and be responsible and deal with what comes up each day. With the other ‘hand,’ we must keep the ‘melody’ that is our soul’s song. This requires that we access our inner observer, watching what the right ‘hand’ is doing, but not becoming too attached to that story.

After all, in the end we realize we were just passing through. Nothing was permanent, we were not in control and ultimately we have to let go of everything. To make our journey lighter, it might be a good idea to let go of much more as we go along.

Gwen Randall-Young is a psychotherapist in private practise and author of Growing Into Soul: The Next Step in Human Evolution. For more articles, permission to reprint and information about her books and “Deep Powerful Change” personal growth/hypnosis CDs, visit