The Big Switch
Lives vary in their degree of difficulty. Some have what many would consider to be sweet lives. Depression, anger and bitterness, however, may still haunt such people. Others have a long history of abuse and tragic events, yet some of these people seem happy and even grateful. What determines whether we are happy with our lives or unhappy? It all depends upon which way we throw the big switch.

Let’s say that Robert was physically abused by his father, emotionally unprotected by his mother and suffered in school because the trauma of this gave him terrible grades, despite exceptional intelligence. That was his history. Let us also say that Robert has a twin brother Steven, who was raised as the favorite son. Steven was named after the father, and treated well by the same father. Steven was the one that his parents could afford to send to college because of his athletic abilities and scholarships to utilize his football talents. Despite these different upbringings under the same roof, Robert, the physically abused son, is happy and successful, while his twin brother Steven, who received everything, is unhappy with his adult life. What is the difference that has created their different ways of being?

Robert has become a family therapist and personal coach. He also is a student of Tai Chi. Steven is a real estate agent who gets by financially, but hates his work and sees himself as a failure, and a has-been athlete. A bottle of beer and a football game on a flat screen TV has replaced a football and being in training. What has happened to make one happy and the other unhappy?

Because Robert chose to go after what expressed himself most authentically, and therefore creatively, every terrible thing that happened to him led him to self-fulfillment. Therefore, each difficult event in his life moved him closer to being himself. He chose to become a family therapist so that he could help children who were abused, as he had been. Each family that he works with offers him a creative solution to their unique problems. He studies and teaches Tai Chi, for its passive philosophy, and secondarily, so that no one can take physical advantage of him, as his father had. This is another creative solution to a negative experience. The choices that Robert made have led him to feeling comfortable and pleased with his life. These choices were in positive reaction to the negative experiences of his upbringing. The events of his life made him who he is, and he is happy with who he has become. Robert has thrown the inner switch toward self-fulfillment, and authentic self-expression.

Steven, even though his life was less traumatic than his brother Robert’s, chose to not fulfill himself but just took a paying job in real estate. He makes money. He supports himself. That is all it means to him. Because Steven chose to not fulfill his dreams, no matter what good things happened to him in his early life, he interprets those things as injurious, having led him astray. He hates his past and does not speak to his parents more than necessary. He believes that they robbed him of his childhood and misguided him. Now he is an athlete who no longer plays. Steven has thrown the switch toward no self-fulfillment. Therefore, everything that happened to Steven, regardless of how good it was, was treachery.

If we choose to fulfill ourselves, then our history is one that was a great gift, regardless of the quality of events in our upbringing. If we choose to not fulfill ourselves, then our history, no matter how positive it may have been, is interpreted as a disservice, having led us astray. In other words, we always have the power to change our history from negative to positive, by the flick of an internal switch. This switch literally re-writes our personal history, no matter what it was.

We may see from this that our personal history, tragic or sweet, is entirely mutable. It is neither good nor bad. It is not a truth to say, “My parents were terrible and my upbringing destroyed me.” We have the ability to define only ourselves, never others. For example, if a driver cuts us off and speeds ahead of us recklessly on the road, and we scream out an obscenity and give him the finger, we have defined our self, not that person. People turn and see us looking crazy, yelling out of our car window and giving someone the finger, not the other car that is long gone. Crude as this example is, it makes the point very clear. Whenever we believe that we are defining what someone else is, we are only defining how we behave, under those circumstances. We have the power to define ourselves alone, and we may continually refine that self-expression.

We have the power to change our personal history simply by moving in the direction of self-fulfillment, self-expression, to relate to the world as who we know our authentic self to be. This involves using our talents, our gifts in a way that puts these forth to the world. As we move in that direction, we change our past from a travesty into a tremendous gift.

In my personal history, I had a father who was an artist and an inventor. This I accepted with gratitude. My mother and I , however, fought mercilessly with one another. It was not until her death that I realized that she had given me a thermo-nuclear furnace of energy with which to fulfill my dreams. Her anger had been instilled in me and gave me the power to burn through all of the entrapments that would have stopped a normal human being from travelling the road I needed to take in order to do what I set out to achieve. Our fights were a great gift. She lit a fire in me that never went out, and was the power source for my visions. She herself, I later found out was a political rabble rouser, who, I heard from friends, terrified our Mayor, who was involved in questionable political connections. She used her Ladies Home Bureau meetings to organize women’s votes against him and was publically outspoken about his practices. Choosing fulfillment of who we are, rewrites our personal history from one of being misguided and devastated by our upbringing, to one that was a fuel source and reason to become who and what we are today. The switch is always there, waiting to be thrown one way or the other. It switches our history from a tragic experience to one where we feel only gratitude for our past, regardless of what injustices we may have suffered.

Article and art by:

Ross G. Drago
Paint Rag Magazine

More of Ross G. Drago’s art may be viewed at

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