One of the many aspects of my job that I enjoy is that I have the opportunity to work with a wide range of ages. I have clients as young as 6 years old all the way up to senior citizens planning their “second half”. Along the way, I’ve learned a tremendous amount from all of them but this quote from one of my 9 year old clients has stuck with me. “When I do bad, I feel bad. When I do good, I feel good”. Sounds simple but I’d challenge if we all went by this motto, we’d be much better off.
The kiddo who originally said this was confessing about some things he’d done behind his mom’s back. My job as a therapist sometimes feels a little like a priest at confession time. We all make mistakes and there is some biology behind some mental illness, but in general feeling depressed or anxious can be a direct result of how we’re acting, the choices we make, and how we think about ourselves and others.
I recently found trash in my outside bin that wasn’t mine. I immediately (in my mind) blamed a neighbor and came up with a million very negative thoughts about them and the situation (they’re lazy; they’re cheap and trying to fill my bin versus theirs, etc.). Later I found out that the trash was my dear mothers who had selflessly been at my house taking care of my dogs and home. Now all of a sudden the trash was no bother at all. Lesson….my thoughts…all the blaming and labeling….made me feel crappy. The trash was the same; it was my attitude and thoughts that had changed. Even if the trash had been someone else’s….my thoughts, actions, choices determined how I felt about it. Bottom line, when I think positive thoughts, when I’m kind and compassionate, when I choose to do the right thing…I feel good. When I don’t, I feel bad.
A great teacher once said “Keep your circle positive. Say good words. Think good thoughts. Do good deeds”, but I think my nine year old client says it just as well. “When we do bad, we feel bad. When we do good, we feel good”. By the way, the same client also said my hair looked “old” so I think it’s time for a fresh dye job. Got to love kids!