The Art of Being: May 2021

The Art of Being

Deborah Chandler, Ph.D.


Contentment is easy when everything goes as I plan. However, contentment has to be more than getting my way. Perhaps, we experience contentment when we reconcile the different stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves.

I have a memory of a moment with my mother when I was 2 years old. I was throwing a tantrum, and she was trying to quiet me. My memory is that I wanted a hug. She wanted me to stop being so upset, and she threw a glass of water on me. Freeze frame. A bad moment for all involved. So here I am, 50 plus years later. Am I a victim of a ruthless dictator? Am I a rambunctious, disruptive child that exhausted my mother?

How I tell myself this story influences my capacity for contentment. As the victim, I feel abandoned, perpetually left and deserving of recompense. As the out-of-control disrupter I feel shame, needing to hide my emotional needs. When I step back and observe the story as a brief film clip, I see how emotions drive a disruption between daughter and mother who only want love. Once I remove hurtful intention, I feel softer and more joined with mother, seeking inner peace and love with each other.

So contentment derives from resolving the old story of hurt into a new story of affirmation and mutuality. By no longer being demanding and outraged, I am free to be content now.

We are an accumulation of memories, shaped by their emotional impact. We don’t have memories stored in file cabinets in our brains. We have impressions that we retell ourselves. In the retelling we change the story; the meaning evolves for us. So memories are malleable. How we construct our stories is how we experience ourselves.

I think my story influenced me to demand control. I relied on the fantasy that if I had enough control, I couldn’t be hurt. I became too busy. If I could get enough done and keep all the demands of my life moving along, I’d never be harmed. Instead, I lived in the hurt of the past, trying to force compensation.

Now, my contentment derives from how I ease myself into the fabric of life. When I resist with anger and fear, life seems a bumpy ride. When I relax into the flow of events, life is easeful.

When I surrender to the pulsation of life, I feel calm and poised, ready for the next bounce. I don’t need to have my way; I have the way that is. I am free of posing and managing. I am content in the now.