OPINION: Can’t change it? Then change the way you think about it

Marg Johnson

I don’t recall mom buying many books; in fact, the only one I do remember was “The Power of Positive Thinking,” by Norman Vincent Peale.

Apparently, it was all the rage in the late ‘50s, right up there with the child-rearing series by Dr. Benjamin Spock [available now in thrift stores everywhere].

Why do I remember that particular book? Because it held a place of prominence in our home, on the back of the toilet, and it was never moved.

If you were unfortunate enough to forget to bring reading material in with you, Dr. Peale was there to amuse and amaze.

One thing that I respected about mom, and the thing that drove me nuts, was that she truly believed in the power of positive thinking, and practiced what she preached. No problem was too large for Dr. Peale, apparently.

I clearly recall working with one gal – let’s call her Judith – who was gleefully and quietly driving me to distraction. Her voice, her laugh, her dumb jokes, even the air we shared, was altogether too much to bear.

So, I took my problem to mom, expecting to get the sound advice only a mom could give. But instead of the “oh my” and “poor you” one would expect, she said, “Well, you just have to change your attitude!”

She did go on, and I blocked out the rest. Not the least bit helpful, and also a bit unnerving.

I knew she had read the whole darned book, but frankly, I had read quite a few chapters myself over the years, and didn’t find it all that intriguing or even in the least bit interesting. “Change your attitude, indeed!”

But here’s where it gets interesting. After several years of therapy and thousands of dollars later, I came to the conclusion that my mom was indeed correct.

You cannot change other people. Expecting others to change because they offend you in some way is totally unrealistic. You do not have control over other people. The only thing you can control is how you react to them.

That’s pretty powerful positive thinking. And it’s OK with me.

Sarnia’s Marg Johnson is a retired Certified Child & Youth Worker who worked with behaviour children at the York Catholic District School Board.