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Viewpoint: Be the boss of your attitude

There is an old adage that attitude is everything. And anyone who has lived even a small amount of time can see how true this is. Our attitude directs our choices, and the decisions that mold these choices, all come from the attitude we have allowed to form within us and shape the world in which we live.

So what if we find we have a tainted attitude, one that is not always positive or that chooses not to see the best in others and the world? And what if this attitude has seemed to creep up on us, almost without us even noticing it? If this has happened, and if we do notice it, we may want to do something about it.

The Jewish psychoanalyst, Viktor Frankl, who was imprisoned in Auschwitz during World War II states, "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." This said by a man who was placed in presumably the most terrible of human conditions, and who realized that the way he allowed himself to see the situation, and how he decided he would be in the situation, knew that his attitude would make all the difference.

In Frankl's book, "Man's Search For Meaning," he states that he realized that overcoming and surviving the death camp would require spiritual strength, as well as physical and emotional fortitude. "Instead of taking the camp's difficulties as a test of their inner strength, they did not take their life seriously and despised it as something of no consequence. They preferred to close their eyes and to live in the past. Life for such people became meaningless," he said.

We know there will be times when what happens in our lives will not be easy and will probably not make a whole lot of sense. At such times, it seems the first and most important thing to do is to recognize whether or not our attitude is less that sublime toward the difficulty we face. And then we must determine what we would like it to be and go about the arduous task of amending a less than positive attitude. In doing so, we realize the choice is always ours and how we will want to see the situation before us.

Just as Frankl states, much of what happens to us in our lives will be a test of our inner strength. The questions and the comments we ask ourselves at these moments will require this inner fortitude and endurance, which will largely determine the outcome of the situation. If we scold and shame ourselves, or if we try to blame someone else for what happened, we miss the opportunity to be open and receptive to what life, and that moment, has to teach us.

Essentially, living in a more present way will require trust in ourselves and life, itself. Do we believe we have this inner strength Frankl purports or are we so overwhelmed by the events of each day that we have nothing left from which to tap as a well of such strength? In this way, we may find that our attitude is shaped by the choices we make to provide space in our lives for just living.

Isn't that a unique concept? To slow down a bit, in order to carve out a little space, so that we have room and time in our lives to build some inner strength. This week, if you find that your attitude is not where and what you want it to be, challenge it. Be the boss of it, rather than to allow it to determine how you see what happens.

If you do this, make a note of how people respond to you and how you are able to take what happens and maintain your positive attitude toward all you face. In doing so, you may surprise yourself at how well you manage the situation. And that, in turn, will build a more positive attitude and more of this inner strength.

Soucheray is a Woodbury resident and licensed family therapist