Sing before breakfast

Challenging how we think

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When I was a child, my mother had a saying which had come to her from her mother: “Sing before breakfast, cry before supper”. Looking back, it was a rather depressing motto: at its core was an idea that we should not allow ourselves to feel too happy, as bad things would surely follow, almost as a payback for us daring to feel happy or positive. It’s a feeling I often encounter in my work: people can all too often feel that bad things which happen are a punishment. It can lead to us limiting ourselves, trying never to feel good about ourselves, in a kind of anticipatory insurance against the retaliatory bad.

Perhaps it’s better to think about this differently, to think simply that singing before breakfast and crying before supper are two parts of the richness which makes us human beings, and that they’re not necessarily related. In fact, usually, they’re not. That way, we free ourselves up to enjoy the good, untrammelled by a false idea that any bad which later happens is punishment for feeling positive about ourselves.