Circumstances can certainly arise seemingly out of the blue and overwhelm us, but most of the time, we actually can be fairly free to focus on what we want to focus on. We can in any given moment choose our thoughts. When we choose something to think about, indeed, our minds will then run off in a number of directions, but those directions are usually connected somehow with what we have chosen to focus on, to think about.
I have a Facebook friend and former student who posts every day something he is grateful for–and it can be anything and everything that passes through his life, little things, big things, and so forth. They are the stuff that makes his life. He pauses for as long as it takes to post a sentence or two on Facebook every day. He chooses a thought. Whenever I see his post, it makes me smile. Every time.
Have you ever known someone who, regardless of the conversation or circumstances, seems to only be able to see the negative? That person has spent a lifetime practicing that skill of seeing only the negative, seeing the loss, preparing to be hurt.
In the Christian scriptures, the Apostle Paul offers this as a final word of advice to the Philippians: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8).
Refusing to see problems is a skewed way of thinking just as refusing to see the good in things. The point is, most of the time, we can choose what to focus on, and that choice changes things, changes us, changes how we experience the world.