Often in a counseling session I will use the following that I pulled from a writing by C.S. Lewis, this is not an exact quote but my interpretation, “We are the sum of our life experiences, everything that we have been through, good or bad, makes us who we are today. However, it is our philosophy of life that allows us to use those life experiences.” Each of us are unique in our own way. However, two identical twins can experience the same situation and interpret it totally different. This is what is exciting about human beings. We are created in such a way that if we do not like our current situation then we can change it. If not the situation then the way we choose to go through whatever we are experiencing.

 

Take the story of Cinderella for example as told by David G. Myers from his book, SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY: “There once was a man whose second wife was a vain and selfish woman. This woman had two daughters who were similarly vain and selfish. The man’s own daughter, however, was sweet and kind. This sweet, kind daughter, whom we all know as Cinderella, learned early on that she had best do as she was told, accept insults, and not upstage her vain stepsisters.

 

“But then, thanks to her fairy godmother, Cinderella was able to escape her situation and go to a grand ball, where she attracted a handsome prince. When the love-struck prince later encountered a homelier Cinderella back in her degrading home, he at first failed to recognize her.”

 

Hard to believe? Not really. Often we accept the power of the situation. In one situation she played the role of the belittled, suppressed, obedient servant to avoid the wrath of the oppressive stepmother. Cinderella became the meek, depressed, and unattractive person which was very different from the charming and beautiful girl she was when she was at the ball. At home she was defeated. At the ball she was outgoing, held her head up, she was someone she could be proud of.

 

Jean-Paul Sartre, a French philosopher (1946) would have accepted the Cinderella story. He said, “We humans are first of all beings in a situation.” I have often used the statement that, my words, “We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

 

As C.S. Lewis, Sartre believed, “We cannot be distinguished from our situations, for they form us and decide our possibilities.”

 

It is true, what we do affects others and what others do affect us. The question is how do you use your life experiences?

 

Take some time and reflect back on your life. Identify the times that you feel shaped who you are and how you participated in that reshaping. We will explore the question of “How much of the world is just in our heads!” Next.