What do you believe about the 'negative' experiences we have had in our lives? As a child many of us felt abandoned, neglected, shamed, criticized, embarrassed, humiliated, overlooked, used, abused, bullied or over-controlled by caregivers, siblings, or others that claimed to care about us.

What beliefs did we make up to make sense of these experiences? Did we decide that certain others are wrong and to be avoided at all costs (e.g. priests, teachers, parents, women, men, bullies)? Or did we make decisions about ourselves instead (e.g. that we were bad, not enough, worthless or wrong)?

What do we tell ourselves now about those early experiences? Do we ignore them, hide them, pretend they didn't happen? Perhaps we have actively decided we will NEVER feel that way again, and built our lives to ensure it stays that way?

What if the experiences we had as children actually had a purpose in our lives? What if they were “for us” and not “against us?” What if everything happening in our lives is designed to help us make choices? Choices about what we want, what we don't want, what feels good, and what doesn't?

As a child, when I heard my parents fighting and not expressing how they felt or what they really wanted, or didn't want, I felt frustrated. I would think to myself, “if they would only be honest with each other, they wouldn't have to fight.” They would hold back what they really wanted to say, and even though they would tell me what they really felt, they wouldn't tell each other. When I asked them why that was, they both claimed to not want to hurt the other one. Neither one of them was very good at relationships, and neither could keep a marriage together very long (they had 8 in total between them). Given what I learned, I decided that marriage doesn't work, and that it’s up to me to take care of my own needs since asking someone else to honor my needs with me would hurt them. This was a painful and lonely way to go through life.

What I realized as an adult, is that those experiences helped me to make choices. Choices about who I am, my unique preferences, my abilities and gifts, and how I can feel good in my moment-to-moment experiences. Esther Hicks (www.abraham-hicks.com) calls these negative experiences the “contrast” in our lives. This contrast we experience helps us choose what we want and don't want.

When we have no lover, contrast inspires our desire for a lover. When our lover spends little attention on us, contrast inspires us to desire a new lover that is more generous with their attention. The contrast in our lives is meant to spark our desire for something more or better. This is how we expand and grow—by making moment-to-moment choices about what feels best to us. Our unique preferences are part of who we are, and are best honored as such.

I have chosen to master relationships in my life in response to the contrast I experienced with my parents and their relationship. I have worked hard over the years to clarify and communicate honestly and authentically without making the other person responsible for my experience. Again, this was in response to the contrast I experienced as a child.

I have found that when I listen and respond to the small contrasts I encounter (i.e., a negative comment, a travel delay, etc.), the drama in my life is much smaller. It seems that the contrast will get louder and louder if we don't heed it when the small stuff comes up. When we notice what we don't want, we are then in a position to decide what we do want, and then pursue that. The key is to not spend too much time focusing on what we don't want. When we ignore smaller events without choosing what we do want, the contrast simply gets louder until we do make a choice.

As children, our choices were limited, as was our perspective, and we were rarely able to see the value in the contrasting experiences. As adults, we can re-interpret these experiences to be in our favor—recognizing that they are for us, not against us.

How can the “contrast” in your life prompt you to you choose what you do want today?

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