Some years ago I heard a story which gave me pause for thought, and which has stuck with me ever since. A British ship was out in a foreign sea in rough weather, being battered from left to right all night by the wind, rain and waves. Eventually, the storm became too much and the ship capsized, drowning all but two sailors who awoke the next morning to find themselves washed up on the sandy beach of a tiny island. They found fresh water in the form of a stream, and several boxes of supplies washed up on the sand.
Upon opening the boxes, the two men found that they all contained nothing but the dry, unappetising ship’s biscuits. Their experience had been remarkably similar up until this point, yet now the men’s view of the situation was vastly different. Each mealtime, the two men would sit down with the biscuits and plain water in front of them and would eat until they were full. The first man, known by many for his pessimism, constantly complained about the poor meal and bland flavour, bemoaning the fact that all the appealing food had gone down with the ship. He sat and ate his dry biscuits with little enthusiasm.
The second survivor, however, had a reputation for being an upbeat man, and approached each mealtime with relish. He would describe out loud, both to himself and his shipmate, how the biscuits he was eating were not biscuits at all, but thick slices of roast beef with rich gravy, accompanied by tasty potatoes and fresh vegetables. Each mouthful would be a pleasure for this second sailor, and at each meal he would ‘eat’ something different. The first sailor, sick of his ship’s biscuits, thought his companion to be foolish to go on in such a ridiculous way every time he had his food.
This went on for some time until finally, many weeks after the shipwreck and near to the end of the meagre rations, the two men were rescued by a passing vessel. When the medical officer of this ship examined both men, he found the first to be in very poor physical condition owing to an inadequate diet, yet was amazed that the second man seemed much stronger and was showing fewer signs of difficulty.
Power Over The Outcome
When I see clients in therapy, sometimes the circumstances of their situation are fixed and unchangeable. The power of positive thought, and the ability to be flexible in approach and expectation have proved many times to be the staffs upon which many clients have learnt to lean on to weather their own personal storms. It has been my experience that they often discover they have more power over the outcome of their situation than they first thought.
~ Rob Oglesby MBACP B.A. (Hons) BSc | Ashwood Therapy
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