By Harriet La Barre
LUCK IS largely the result of taking appropriate action. When we’re passive, when we don’t take sufficient charge of our affairs. We’re victims of all kinds of back luck. Take, for example, a woman who complained that the dry cleaner ruined her slacks. “He ruined a suit of mine, too,” she told me, unconsciously revealing that she knew she was taking chances with this particular cleaner. My other friend, who got involved in her neighbor’s problems and wasted the day, revealed her pattern by her comment: “It always happens.” She allowed it to happen.
When we permit ourselves to accept such “bad luck” there are usually reasons. We may feel that we can’t or shouldn’t take action. Some of us have unconscious fears. Others tend to blame society for things that go wrong in their lives. As Dr.Natalie Shainess, a psychiatrist, comments. “Society has helped create the drug addicts, the alcoholics, the derelicts. But if we place the blame on others, it leads us away from looking within and facing up to our own part in what is going on.”
It also promotes passivity. If we continue to carry our child-hood grievances with us, to feel overwhelmed by bad luck because everything is our parents’ fault, for instance, we won’t make any attempt to improve our lot. Regardless of who is to blame, it’s up to all of us to take charge of our lives as best we can, to take it from here. Dr. Shainess believes that once you recognize your own role in creating less-than-perfect situations, you are able to make changes. That’s when things get better. Where fate, destiny and luck are concerned, all of us have been given certain resources, abilities-and disabilities. What you do with what you’ve got helps determine your luck. “The fault,” as the Shakespearean quotation goes, “is not in our stars, but in our-selves.”
The more we act to change our luck, the more we take charge, the more secure we feel. As Dr. Shainess explains it, “The minute a person does something positive, he feels good; he feels less angry, because mastery and activity are conditions of a healthy life.” All kinds of signals will help you recognize when to let go of a bad situation. Repetition is a red flag, a sign that you should make a change. A woman friend of mine who has had three unhappy marriages sighs, “I’m so unlucky in love.” Yet each time she picked a man with an alcoholic problem. When we repeat frustrating failures and errors in specific areas in our lives again and again, the accumulation of bad results often makes us conclude that we have bad luck in husbands, or any of a thousand other things.
If you begin to see a pattern of things going wrong, ask yourself, “what is my role in this? Why do I feel bound or trapped in this situation? What makes me complain about it, rather than doing something about it?” in effect be self-critical. One aspect of self-criticism involves the ability to evaluate and criticize your personal relationships. Perhaps you have problem-ridden friends who are emotional dependents-who lean on you so heavily that it’s an emotional drain. We ought to examine our excuses for wasting time with emotional dependents. What really lures us?
Dr. Shainess says, “people get sucked into their friends’ problems because they really want to be, because it deflects them from doing more difficult things. It is possible to be caring to friends without letting them absorb all one’s time.” So, if you feel pressured and overburdened, examine your own role to see if perhaps you’re not being too agreeable. Sometimes when we’re anxious about things or bothered by them we tend to push them out of our awareness. Many of us avoid paying attention by daydreaming about moving to an island in the Caribbean, by turning to alcohol or overeating, or going out and spending money on something we don’t need. There are actions that deflect good luck. And they often occur when we’ve had a day of misfortunes.
Instead of escaping from frustrating experiences in this way, why not ask yourself: “What can I do that will make me feel more competent?” Forgo the drink or pointless telephone chatter or the refrigerator raids. Instead, do a task-even some household chore you dislike, like cleaning out a messy closet. That single, small accomplishment will promote new feelings of pleasure and security because you’re pleased with yourself for taking charge.
Making little changes makes you like yourself better. And when you like yourself better, you begin to do more useful things and improve your life in small ways, which can lead to bigger ways. And that, of course, is luck.
By Harriet La Barre