Feet in Chains

Bag of Burdens

When we think about our life, we carry around so much stuff in our heads, so many worries that we feel that we need to deal with. Imagine those worries to be burdens, a big bag of burdens that you carry on your back – imagine how heavy that bag would be. Now take that bag and place it on the floor. Take each item out one by one (you can do this by writing a list). Now take time to examine them.

There are some things in our life that are within our control to deal with and change, and there are some things that we have absolutely no control over.

Take, for example, the weather. We cannot control or change this from one day to the next; all we can do is accept it. What we can control is how we feel about it; we can sit in front of the window, watching the rain as is falls heavily against the glass, feeling miserable and depressed, or we can get on with those jobs that we put off while the sun was shining or just enjoy some ‘me’ time. We can trudge out in the ice and snow and battle the elements, or we can sit comfortably snuggled by the fire and keep warm.

We can think about the decision that our boss makes at work. We may not agree with it, but actually they are the boss. We can resist this decision and waste our energies thinking about the injustice of it all, or we can just get on with it and recognise our own limitations in changing that decision and what we are able to achieve ourselves, or we can just find another job.

If we think about mistakes that we have made in the past, sometimes they weigh heavily in our bag of burdens, and sometimes they are so large that we are unable to see anything else within the bag. Can we control these past events? Can we go back in time and change what has happened? So, what can we control? We can look differently at those mistakes; sometimes we can identify things that we have learned from them, changes in our lives that we have made as a result, and sometimes we just can’t change anything. What can we control?  We can recognise that these are exactly what they are – in the past. We cannot go back and change the events as they happened; we cannot erase them. What we can control is how we let them affect us today and even tomorrow; we can control how many of these burdens we allow to affect our future.

We can allow how others treat us to affect the way we feel about ourselves. We have no control over the way that others behave, think or feel – that is within their own control – but what we can control is how we respond; how we allow their behaviour to influence our own; how we allow their opinion of us to become our own opinion.

When we think about our bag of burdens, think about our list. How many of those burdens are ours to deal with? If we’re worrying whether mum is happy today, we need to realise that only she has that control, only she can make herself happy. You can buy her some flowers to help her to feel better, but only she can decide if those flowers will have that effect. You cannot control how she is feeling.

So if we free ourselves from the burden of those things that are just not in our control to change, and only look at the things that we can influence to change, which is actually how we feel, then we relieve some of the weight of our bag. We can find time to navigate through our own solutions and our own coping strategies, and the sun can shine again.

Picture of a person's feet in heavy chains. Illustrating the weight of our burdens.

If you are struggling to carry your load and need support with depression, bereavement, relationships, stress or anxiety, please click here to contact me.


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