By the time I’d reached my mid-30’s I’d achieved what most people would agree was a successful life, a home in an affluent suburb, 2 cars, a swimming pool, a middle management position with a Fortune 100 electronics company and a career on the rise. Then one day my wife of fifteen years told me she wanted a divorce and, when we sought help in family counseling, I learned that my pride and joy, my two sons, felt distant and afraid of me.
I had always taken my frequent angry outbursts for granted. After all, my father, my uncles, my brothers all behaved that way. Naturally I would be an angry person too. But now I recognized that my anger was separating me from everything I loved. It was too late to save my marriage. But maybe I could still salvage the relation ships with my sons. I decided to control the expression of my anger, no matter what it cost me inside.
And it cost a lot. Over the next few years I became increasingly tired and ineffective. My productivity fell. I slept a lot and felt more and more unable to face people, my job, the demands of my life. Finally I was diagnosed with Major Depression. I spent 6 weeks in a prominent psychiatric hospital. The doctors concluded I suffered from a chemical imbalance and prescribed Prozac, an antidepressant, along with other drugs. I returned to work but gradually, once again, slipped into the heavy, tiring existence of depression. My career was on hold, I was incapable of sustaining a relationship, and my sons only said they loved me on Christmas or on my birthday.
Then a friend introduced me to the books of Barry Neil Kaufman and the idea that happiness is a choice. Intrigued, I traveled to The Option Institute for private sessions. During this time I had the opportunity to examine my own vision of life as well as the beliefs and attitudes underlying my anger and depression. I realized that I believed I had no other choice besides getting angry or depressed when things didn’t go well for me. But through the gentle and non-judgmental dialogue sessions, I realized that I did have other choices – that I could treat the events of my life as misfortunes or as opportunities. I chose to do the latter. That decision has transformed my entire life. I stopped feeling bad about myself. I began to have fun. My energy increased. My productivity improved. I started to enjoy my work.
Today I’m no longer on medication. I’m happy, confident, optimistic for the future. My career has taken an exciting new turn. And my relationship with my sons has never been better.
Recently my oldest son failed to return some expensive stereo equipment he’d borrowed. When we finally spoke, he became tense and defensive, already anticipating my customary angry explosion. But! did not feel anger. Instead I discussed the incident in a firm, yet loving manner. At the end of the conversation, my son said ‘I love you Dad.’ It wasn’t Christmas. It wasn’t my birthday. Through the miracle of learning to choose happiness and love instead of anger, I had regained the most valuable relationship in my life.
Richard Magan, Computer Sales Manager, Massachusetts