You can be a super hero

A book’s first chapter doesn’t tell the whole story.

If it did, the rest of the book would be boring. Bestselling books are far from predictable, filled with foreshadowing and plot twists, beckoning the reader onward.

It’s delightful when a writer throws in unexpected twists, and the story has a surprise ending.

There’s no need to go back to re-read previous chapters, because we’ve been there, done that. We already know what happened.

What’s true of books isn’t always true in the way we live life.

We have so many chapters to our lives, yet we often get stuck in revisiting the same chapter, again and again, unaware that previous chapters don’t have to define us.

People have a tendency to revisit and relive some of the most difficult and painful chapters of life history, and even believe those chapters determine how life will end.

The younger me spent most of my mental coin dwelling in past chapters, rarely experiencing the gifts and possibilities existing in the present moment. My most revisited chapters were often those filled with times of difficulty, pain, disappointment, and regret.

This human tendency to focus on the negative, as I’ve shared in earlier columns, is called the negativity bias. It’s an evolutionary capacity meant to increase our chances of survival, by paying most attention to what’s life threatening.

When it came the negativity bias in my life, not only was it not helpful for my survival, it was sucking the life out of me. It often kept me in a state of fight-or flight.

I lived much of my life stuck in the virtual reality of a past that no longer existed. I felt trapped in re-living long passed, painful chapters, often feeling trapped in a villain’s clutches.

I was the victim, and life happened to me.

My mind and my body re-experienced each painful event as though they were currently happening. I used to think the rest of the story would be a repeat of the same chapter, again and again.

I was wrong.

We often cast ourselves in the same type of roles in our novel of life, over and over: victim, villain, hero. It can become so predictable. The actors may change, but the same story lines, with assigned roles, repeats itself ad nauseam.

Back then, I didn’t realize I’m always at a point of choice, and I can throw in a plot twist, and make a new decision, whenever I want.

I wasn’t aware I was the author of my own story, and I could cast myself in any role I wanted. I didn’t know it was me alone who could write in the plot twists that would turn the first chapters on their ears.

I could try on a new role, one of super hero in my own life.

I had to make the decision to write new chapters. When I did, the early chapters simply became the back story from which surprising outcomes were created.

We may have a human tendency to focus on the negative, but we can change it with awareness and conscious choice.

There’s great power in decision. Trying on a new role, and writing a new chapter in life is exciting.

Decide how you want the next chapter to unfold, and, remember to throw in a plot twist. Become your own super hero.


Was the day really that bad?

Days spin out of control or go down the tubes pretty quickly if we let them.

Challenging situations, unexpected delays, or a few irritating moments, especially early in the day, can colour the day with challenge.

We often drag the feeling of challenges and irritations from one moment to the next, bracing for the next frustration. Jaws and shoulders tense, brows furrow, and patience grows short as we mentally stockpile the day’s irritations.

It used to feel like I was putting on armour for the next ‘thing’ to happen.

I carried each challenging situation and offending person with me throughout the day, and then took them home with me to share with my loved ones.

I had a habit of cherry-picking the negative stories from my day. Nice, hey? Quite honestly, I shopped my mind to find some gripe-worthy tidbit to share when I got home.

I wanted to share the love, and thought complaining was a great conversation starter. Really, Corinne?

This is where mindfulness came in. Awareness is curative.

I started to pay attention to how it felt in my mind and body when I was the recipient of others’ stories about every idiot on the road or what the guy at work did.

I could feel myself bracing for the onslaught of negativity simply by looking at another’s face and demeanour. It didn’t feel good as I let myself get pulled into the drama, experiencing the irritations from another’s life.

Heck, I didn’t even need to meet ‘that guy.’  I got to experience the effects of others’ ineptitude as a third-party. I could tense without leaving the house.

Gaining awareness into myself and my tendencies was fascinating.

As I paid attention to what was happening around me, I recognized I was not alone in my habit of reliving and reciting the negative. It’s a cultural tendency. We love to swap stories of the stupid and outrageous.

It’s interesting to notice what we tend to focus on and which stories we feed.

It was powerful to tell myself to get real. Was it really a bad day filled with challenge, or was it really a few minutes of irritation that I fed throughout the day?

What would it look like, and how would I feel, if I started to capture stories of the good stuff? Who on earth would be interested in hearing about the delights of my day?

It turns out most people are.

I had to change and uproot that old bias for negativity I was born with, and had practised so well.

I began keeping a mental list of all the good things that happened and the things that went well, and reporting on those when I arrived home.

My brain started to change and I found myself looking for, and paying attention to, all of the good in life. This is what I choose to feed and nurture.

I’m not pretending, or wearing rose-coloured glasses; I’m just choosing which events I’m going to give my greatest attention and energy to. Why on earth would I cause myself to suffer all day because of another’s actions or a challenging situation? How far do I want to carry them?

I notice when I slip and start to mentally compile a list of bad things. And then, I pause and ask myself an important question: “Did I really have a bad day, or did I have 10 or 20 minutes of challenge during the day?”

I’ve found there’s much more positive in life than negative. There’re more kind and intelligent people than challenging ones. Good stories are the conversation starter when I arrive home.

I’ve upped the ante. Now, I not only speak about all the good, I write the good things down in my gratitude journal. I can hardly wait to reflect on my day and record the wonderful things.

The crazy thing is, I was the one whose mind, body, and emotions suffered as I fed the negative stories. And, I’m the one who benefits from my change of focus.

It’s a simple practice, but it’s benefited my life greatly.

We all could use a little good news today.

Are you annoying/annoyed?

Is everyone out to be annoying?

Why can’t people be more like me, care about what I care about, and clean-up behind themselves?

Didn’t their mothers teach them anything?

Ah, the rant that used to happen in my mind when I’d walk into the computer room and find, yet again, my husband had left crumbs on the computer keyboard.

I became hyper-alert of this annoyance, and began to intentionally look for crumbs. Every morning, I’d sigh and feel irritated. Good morning, stress!

With my focus, the number of crumbs seemed to grow each day. I wondered if any toast made it into his mouth. Griping and complaining, my body grew tense, my tone irritated as I asked, yet again, for those crumbs to be cleaned up.

What a great way to start a day in a household,

Sadly, crumbs on the keyboard caused me to search for other petty annoyances, and the list grew. Was he trying to be annoying? Had he changed?

We’d been harmoniously married for nearly 25 years, and it looked like marital bliss might crumble, all because of crumbs.

Sounds silly, doesn’t it?

The cold slap of reality hit me when I paused to consider what those crumbs represented.

Those silly crumbs represent the presence of the person I adore. His wisdom, patience, and support have been the bedrock of my life for many years.

He is my best friend.

The absence of those crumbs would be devastating to me if it meant he wasn’t here to make them.

What was required was a change of perspective.

When we change how we look at things, the things we look at change.

How often have relationships ended due to petty grievances, like crumbs on the keyboard, an unskilled comment, or misunderstanding?

How often do we start to gather evidence of another’s faults and failings because of one incident, mistake, misunderstanding, or some very human habit?

In my youth, I let friendships die, and jobs end because of irritations, small stuff, or hurt feelings.  I created mountains out of molehills, and lost the opportunity to grow.

I started to notice the people I left behind were only replaced by others who would eventually do the same thing; same people in different skin.

I know I’m not alone in this.

Fortunately, I woke up and realized the common denominator was me.

The healing I needed would never come by leaving, yet again. I knew I had my own work to do. That work began as I looked in the mirror, and considered a different perspective.

I asked myself different questions.

Instead of asking why people were so annoying, I started to gently ask myself why I was so hurt or irritated. With gentleness, honouring my own needs and boundaries, I became curious about what laid beneath my irritation and anger.

Often, it was a wound from the past I hadn’t healed.

The crumbs represented lack of respect to me. They represented breakfast to my husband.

Life has become happier as I’ve learned to pause and consider life’s annoyances from a different perspective.

I’ve learned, when my stress accumulates, my perception often becomes skewed. I don’t see or hear properly. I take everything personally, and it feels like the world is out to get me.

My interpersonal skills are reduced to those of a petulant teen, and there’s no hope of getting my needs met, because I can’t articulate them.

The world is not out to hurt or annoy me, I’m not that special.  I’ve learned to stop blaming the world and its inhabitants.

When patterns repeat, I recognize wherever I go, there I am; and I smile.

I’ve become curious about those frayed nerves or tender spots, and hold them, not with criticism, but with compassion. As I stop blaming the world, and myself, I can heal what needs to be healed.

I’m now aware, early on, when my mind starts to chatter with negativity and criticism, it’s a signal to pause, breathe, relax, to consider a different perspective, and ask myself, “What’s really going on?”

I become aware of what the issue really is. In doing this, I can more clearly articulate what I need instead of ranting like a lunatic or creating collateral damage.

Sometimes leaving is the right thing to do, but when I do leave, I want to do it for the right reasons.

Crumbs on the keyboard is the phrase I use when my knickers are in a knot. I smile, as I remember to step back, and to consider a different perspective, and ask what’s really going on here.


We are not our mistakes

We are not our mistakes, and we are not defined by our past.

Mistakes are simply that, mis-takes. They’re times we’ve tried, and it just hasn’t worked out so well.

Too often we hold ourselves to an unrealistic standard of perfection that, in reality, is only possible on the silver screen.

In making movies, each scene is shot time and time again, the mis-takes simply become another opportunity to do it better, to do things differently. The mis-takes do not become part of the final product, and are left on the cutting room floor.

There have been many times when I wished I could have had a do-over. Many unskilled or mean comments, foolish actions, and blunders, are left in my wake.

While I’m grateful Facebook and Twitter weren’t around in my youth, my internal critics did a fine job of keeping a vivid record.

In the past, my Committee of Internal Critics, which I lovingly call my Committee of A***oles, would hold high court in my mind when I blundered.

No one could have been as hard on me as I was. The hamster-wheel of horrible thoughts only made the situation worse, as my body, mind, and emotions turned into an internal battlefield.

I didn’t need anyone to tell me I’d screwed up. My internal committee had the cruellest panel of judges you could imagine. I endured days of self-torture, self-chastising, worrying, and wishing I had a chance for a do-over.

Sometimes shame immobilized me, causing me to withdraw in pain.

So many times, I wished for a second chance to do things differently, to do better.

I would never have been as unkind and mean to others as I was to myself. I certainly didn’t cut myself any slack.

Back then, I didn’t know I wasn’t my past, I wasn’t my mistakes. Each and every moment is a new moment, a chance to begin again.

I’ve worked with people who’ve carried self-judgment and shame from youthful blunders into their senior years. These beautiful, good, kind people mortified are still paying an internal price for mis-steps, and things they’ve done in the past.

I hear people being so hard on themselves for mis-steps, failures, and mis-takes.

When we know better, we do better.

But, how do we start to move past the memory of mistakes when the mind is so tenacious?

It helps to begin with compassion and self-forgiveness.

Letting ourselves off the hook for past mistakes, and holding ourselves with compassion, are often the most challenging practices a person can undertake. We can demonstrate kindness, compassion, and forgiveness to others, but this same charity has to begin at home.

As we turn toward ourselves with an attitude of self-forgiveness and compassion, we can make amends where we need to, and free ourselves from the tethers of the past. We can learn what needs to be learned, and move on. When we know better, we do better.

Holding our bruised egos, our regret and pain as tenderly as we would cradle a precious infant, leads us to healing and change more powerfully than engaging in brutal self-judgment.

We are able to make desired changes much more easily when we are gentle, patient, and kind with ourselves, treat ourselves with compassion, and practice self-forgiveness.

We have more life energy and joy to share with the world as we shed the burden of our mistakes. Self-forgiveness and self-compassion are unheard of for many, but these practices benefit our mental, emotional, and physical health. They open us to living life more freely.

Compassion is a powerful practice. Compassion is being studied at Stanford University, and the findings are anything but soft.

Research reveals people who practise compassion experience lower levels of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and body pain. They have improved immunity, greater resilience, and overall improved mental health. Compassion reduces burnout.

We are happier as we leave the mis-takes on the cutting room floor and move on.

We are not our mistakes; we are always at a new moment to choose again. As we hold ourselves in compassion and forgiveness, we release the tethers of the past and we open to the new possibility of today.

More New Thought articles

About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories