How to Choose the Way You Look at the World

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

This is the story of how Tim learned that choosing his own attitude changed how he responded to his verbally abusive grandfather. And eventually of how the grandfather changed his attitude towards Tim.

Time Heals All Wounds

The Verbally Abusive Grandfather

Little Timmy had a verbally abusive grandfather growing up.  Grandfather always went off on Little Timmy for the slightest transgression.  For reasons still not fully comprehensible to Tim, now in his thirties, his grandfather despised him greatly.   A major reason for the Old Man’s hatred was that he blamed Little Timmy for almost causing his daughter, Little Timmy’s Mom, to die when Little Timmy was born.

When Little Timmy asked grandfather for permission to do something, as is typical for children, the typical response was a contemptible confirmation: Yes, you may watch TV.  Yes, you may use the computer.  Yes, you may have a piece of cake.  It was often followed by a dirty look, and a vile tone: “I hate you.  Stop talking to me.”

Grandfather just had it out for Little Timmy.  Poor Little Timmy was often the target of his many verbal tirades.  Of all the times to go off on Little Timmy, grandfather would choose dinner time.  During dinner time, the verbal abuse began.  While Little Timmy tried to eat dinner, the Old Man would provide an onslaught of negativity and just plain mean-hearted scolding.  Little Timmy had troubles enjoying his meal.  Oftentimes the food would feel stuck in his throat as he took the verbal lashing.  This was the daily routine: Little Timmy just sat there at the dinner table quietly while the Old Man contributed his daily insults.

Needless to say, over time Little Timmy developed acid reflux from the stress of the constant abuse.  He would continue life into his adulthood for a long time before finally drawing this connection.  You see, Tim would be treated for acid reflux disease by an ear, nose, throat specialist for several years, after suffering unknowingly from the condition for more than two decades.  Several years later, the specialist performed an endoscopy to look for cysts in the esophageal lining, and ulcers and tumors in the stomach.  The doctor would conclude that Tim was physically healthy and for some reason just had too much acid.  It would take time for Tim to draw a correlation that eating was stressful, a behavior conditioned by the Old Man.

The Old Man had started conditioning Little Timmy to associate bad times with dinner time.  Dinner time is supposed to be a time of joy and glee.  Eating is supposed to be enjoyable.  Yet, for years Little Timmy sat at the dinner, submissive and docile, as the Evil Old Man continued his daily rants, blaming Little Timmy for everything that was wrong with the Old Man’s life under the sun.  It had gotten so bad that Little Timmy soon shut down mentally and could not recall why the Old Man had gone off on him that evening and every evening following that.

In addition to acid reflux disease, Little Timmy soon developed a bad habit of being in his own little world in social situations.  Such an example is school, where students would line up to ask the teacher a question about an assignment.  Rather than listen attentively because someone else might have the same question, Little Timmy instead zoned out.  Little Timmy was fortunate enough to learn from a friend, who out of frustration and anger, suggested strongly that Little Timmy pay attention for this reason.

For Little Timmy, living with Grandfather was a series of vengeful spats.  Once, Little Timmy got in trouble for using the heater to dry off after a shower, as the Old Man had returned home earlier than normal, surprising him.  Little Timmy gave the Old Man some lip service about being cold and just wanting to dry off.  The Old Man was enraged and called his son over to yell at Little Timmy, who thought the whole thing was silly.  In Little Timmy something soon was born.

The Old Man will always be a vindictive, bitter Old Man.  The Old Man will always hate Timmy, no matter what Little Timmy did, good or bad.

One night during dinner time, as had happened many dinners before this, the Old Man once again started going off on Little Timmy.  Little Timmy vaguely remembers being yelled at for holding his utensils wrong.  Something clicked in Little Timmy that instance.

Choose Your Attitude in Any Given Set of Circumstances

I wish I could say Little Timmy grew a pair, stood up, and punched out the sad Old Man’s lights.  Or that Little Timmy simply got up and walked away, opting to be hungry for that evening than to continue accepting this abuse.  I wish I could say that Little Timmy yelled at the Old Man, giving him a taste of his own medicine.  Rather, Little Timmy had a strange resolve.  He soon shut down and stopped listening to the Old Man.  Instead, he continued using his utensils the same way and picked at some food gleefully and joyfully, enjoying his meal for the first time in years in spite of being directly in front of the Mean Old Man!  A smile and a look of joy formed on Little Timmy’s face, which probably only angered the Old Man further.

I’m yelling at you.  You are supposed to be beaten, you little punk!

You see, Little Timmy had decided to change his attitude, to change the way he responded to the Mean Old Man.

Little Timmy is now Tim.  Tim recalls that day from time to time, the day when he decided that the only thing he could change was how he responded to the situation.  He does not know if the Old Man realized that Little Timmy was no longer going to respond the way he had hoped, in submissive defeat and shame, and decided that yelling at him was a futile effort.  For Tim, feeling better was a choice, and something he realized that night for the first time in his life.  Tim still recalls that that was his first real meal in peace while the Old Man was present.

Tim is now free of the acid reflux disease that plagued him for over two decades.  In the beginning with regular exercise, he is able to control and keep at bay the disease.  Over Time, with a constant good habit of hitting the gym three times a week, reconditioning the behavior and changing the negative thoughts supplanted by the Old Man, Tim is now able to enjoy his meals.  Time heals all wounds.  The Old Man finally lost his grip, which was firmly on Tim, even for years after he had passed on from this world.

Change the Way You Look at the World and the World Changes the Way It Looks at You

Good Karma is the universal currency for kindness.  Bad Karma is the universal currency for evilness.  At the turn of the 21st century, the Bitter Old Man was diagnosed with liver cancer.  His punishment for the next year and a half was to suffer from the disease painfully, slowly wasting away.  He was unable to enjoy any food.  Tim watched as the Old Man suffered in agony, eventually passing onto the next world.  For Tim, this was a better fate, to die than continue to suffer.  Tim was glad that the Old Man could now be at peace.

Tim has a kind heart.  He resolved that he would not wish that kind of death on anyone, even his worst enemy.  As for his tenuous relationship with the Old Man, who went to his grave unapologetic for his sins and abuses, Tim eventually learned to forgive the Old Man.  With Time, Tim learned to let go of a lot of things, such as blame, hatred, and fear, in order to free himself from the stress that was also slowing destroying his mind and body—much as it had with the Old Man, who a long Time ago decided to blame Tim for everything.

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