Over a month ago, I was in a situation wherein I was blamed for something that I didn’t do and was insulted for being who I am. On and off within the past year, I’ve experienced extreme anger and resentment from this loved one. Rather than making judgments and declaring that this person doesn’t know how to manage their own emotions, I realize that it is not their fault as there are only a few people out there who do. Unfortunately the skills of finding inner peace, building joyful relationships and releasing negative emotions are not commonly taught in schools. I cannot change this situation from the past. However, there are opportunities for all of us to treat our fellow human beings with love and respect.
In my previous post, Mind as an Enemy, I touched upon how our mind can be our biggest detractor. As a first step in tackling this challenge, one must bring awareness to the fact that indeed the mind is acting as our worst enemy. In a situation like this one, quieting down the mind becomes a critical necessity. If we could witness the mind game, and not get attached to it, our observations could be very revealing. Interestingly, as you may have noticed too, our mind loves either replaying and analyzing the past or projecting a fear based outcome into the future through worry. It is rarely present in the NOW. Every time we are not present in a moment, we are taken away from realizing our own inner consciousness. Once we stop the nonsense mind chatter, it becomes easier to differentiate our truth from the negative emotions.
Interestingly, every time I tried reaching out to my loved one, they chose to talk about the past and assumed the worst in the future based on their projection of fears. I kept defending my past actions and assuring them that our future looks joyful and promising. However, there was nothing anyone could say to change their mind and bring them back into the present. The present was full of deep love for them, but their mind didn’t want to accept that. This is a perfect example of how once the mind takes over our thoughts, it acts as a dangerous enemy and things quickly get to a point of no return.
Being on the receiving side of negative emotions, my mind found comfort in feeling like a victim. It wanted to hold on to judgments so bad, but with time and practice, I learnt to simply witness my emotions. This helped in bringing neutrality in the situation rather than making things worse. Needless to mention, the less negativity I held on to, the more at peace I was.
Once awareness arises in the conflict, the second step involves building a deeper understanding of our truth. In tactical terms, allowing ourselves to feel and observe the emotions of resentment and hatred rather than trying to resist them. Resistance means unacceptance of our feelings and it makes matter much worse. However, every time a non-positive thought comes to mind, there are a few steps we can follow:
At the very core of every conflict, we all want to be loved and accepted for who we are, but, we don’t know how to best communicate with others to love us more. In my loved one’s example, they experienced pain and suffering because of their unmet expectations, which were ego driven. Underneath their anger, there was a simple heart based plea to request more love and attention. Unfortunately, we look for love and acceptance in all the wrong places. Instead of channeling the unlimited reservoir of deep divine love within ourselves, we fall into the temptation of finding it outside of us. The external supply of love is temporary and it doesn’t fulfill us endlessly. Whereas, internally generated love is truly unlimited.
Lastly, we can notice over time that there are certain recurring themes in our life that keep coming back as conflicts. Every single time, the players change, but the game remains the same. Until and unless these themes are reconciled within our minds, the universe makes sure to nudge us regularly through a variety of situations so that we can release these energies. If you don’t like the situation you’re in, the spiritual teachings of Abraham Hicks recommends asking the question – why this and why now? These two questions allow us to discover the basic growth opportunity behind a situation. Understanding that our life situations come up for our optimal growth and our responses to them depends on our internal intuitive wisdom.
In my example, the underlying lesson behind this situation had come up a few times in the past in different forms. This specific message came into my life to allow me to release any judgments and practice unconditional love for even those who resent me. I had a tendency to look for love and validation externally too, wherein, I should’ve been strengthening my internal relationship with myself and the divine. Conflicts merely a show up in our lives as a reflection from others to show us where we judge ourselves. If we try making an attempt in seeing the underlying lesson underneath each conflict and release negative emotions, we can experience spiritual expansion pretty quickly. This situation was perfect in teaching me to let go of those external expectations.
Unconditional love for all - as Yogi Bhajan says, if you can’t see God in all, you can’t see God at all. In this specific situation, my role ceased to be merely a witness to mine and other people’s emotions. It was hard, but with much practice, I tried staying away from judgments and adopted a neutral point of view. I tried to understand my loved ones’ perspective and recognized their internal suffering. Our expression of emotions denotes our internal state of mind. While nothing I could do to make them happy or sad, I truly empathize with them as I recognize how much they must be suffering internally to be at the point of harming others. Very quickly, I developed genuine empathy and transformed it into unconditional and limitless love for them. After all, we are all divine beings and treating each other with full love, respect and dignity is our eternal dharma. And mind you, practicing unconditional love will require tremendous amount of courage as many times it may not be well understood or reciprocated by others. As long as we don’t practice our dharma to please others and expect anything in return, it should not matter. Do remember that there is nothing anyone can ever do to derail us from this path of dharma and disturb our internal peace. It’s when we give power to others’ words and actions that our peace gets shaken.
Understanding how our mind works is a very vast topic. In this post we looked into how treating our mind as a stranger, we could build awareness around our thoughts. We will take a look at the other aspects of our mind and how they can affect our lives. Therefore, rather than making one huge post, this topic is broken up into a three part series: part 1 [mind as an enemy] and part 3 [mind as a friend].
Food for thought: what has worked best for you in resolving conflicts with loved ones?
Image source: http://advancedlifeskills.com/blog/positive-thinking-in-3d/
Anger is a Universal emotion that is included in the package of being a human being. We’ve all experienced the charged up feeling and the boiling of our blood when something or someone stimulates our anger. By itself, anger can turn us into different people and cause us to act/react in ways which most times we would regret afterwards.
What can we do to better manage and process our anger?
Who has the Power?
Whenever we get angry, it comes with such a potent force that more often than not the anger has control over us, rather than the other way around. When we are under the influence of an emotion, it parallels to the degree of us being drunk or high. This is simply because the overwhelming emotion takes control and impairs our decision-making abilities.
That is why it’s common to see people punch walls, get into a fight or even verbally abuse someone else under the state of anger. It’s the emotion that has power over us in that moment. While ‘we’ are powerless to stop it. This is not only with anger, but we can see this with other emotions as well. Take ‘Sadness’ for instance. When we’re feeling down about our life and the situation we’ve ended up in, many of us fall into unhealthy habits such as binge eating, smoking, or perhaps playing video games to numb the pain. The same goes when we feel jealous. We allow the jealousy to take power over us and wreak havoc with our thoughts.
We are not our Anger
A few years ago, I was experiencing moments of emotional instability and couldn’t really control the thoughts, feelings and emotions that masked my personality. I struggled mightily to have better control and to take power over my insecurities, doubts and fears. In my quest to find answers, I came across a book by Hale Dwoskin called “The Sedona Method”. It’s basically a technique which is designed to free us from our unhealthy emotions. I didn’t really find the method itself of too much value, but simply reading it helped to provide an empowering perspective for me.
From the book, I understood that many times, we claim to be something we are not. Take for example the statement, “I am angry”. Now on the surface, this just looks like a harmless statement. Yet, if we examine it more closely, we can see that we are actually making the claim that we ARE angry, or in other words, we exist as anger itself and that’s who we identify with. Similar statements such as, “I am Sad”, “I am Depressed”, “I am Jealous”.. etc. Now this may seem like playing with words and for me I thought the same initially. However, if we shift our perspective a bit, we come to realize that we are not an emotion. We can never exist as an emotion. As human beings, we are beyond our emotions. Emotions are simply things that we have and if we have an emotion, then we can easily let it go as well.
It’s much more of an empowering perspective to say that I am feeling angry and realize that it’s just a feeling. As quickly as it came, we can let it go just as quick.
Manifestations of Anger
As mentioned earlier, anger is an emotion that typically causes us to act or react. There are a few different ways in which anger manifests. The first is what is known as Expression. When it relates to anger, expression usually means just letting our blood boil and allowing it to erupt into violence or rage or verbal assaults. It’s similar to a pressure cooker building steam and letting the heat out through a mini explosion of sorts. Typically our breathing becomes short and rapid, we feel tension within our muscles and perhaps even clench our teeth. Enough tension and build up of anger will usually find a tipping point where a person cannot contain it anymore and eventually bursts. Expression of anger is the explosive manifestation.
The second is the complete opposite, which is suppression. This usually doesn’t appear on the surface but it simply is the means in which we push our emotions down and maybe even ignore them without coming to a resolution. Most times it’ll be when someone is angry but that person gets real quiet or pretends that they are not bothered by it. We shut down externally, but internally we create blockages and aren’t able to process our thoughts, emotions and feelings properly. For example, our manager tells us we’re incompetent. We fear that if we express our anger, we’ll get fired, so we shut up and just take in the words and perhaps even believe the things we were told. Each time we encounter our manager in the future, the experience brings those memories fresh in front of us and unsettles our mind. Suppression can manifest eventually as sleep disorders, anxiety, and even depression.
There’s one more way to deal with anger which is always available to us. That is ‘letting go’. If we remember that anger is an emotion. It is not something which we are, but rather an emotion we are holding onto. So then, why not loosen our grip on anger and simply let it go?
My wife will throw this rhetorical question at me from time to time, "If you had a hot piece of coal in your hand, would you not immediately let it go?" The hot coal can be replaced with anger, but the result would be the same. Why not let it go?
Letting go is a two-step process. The first step is usually the most tricky. During the onset of our anger, we must train ourselves to recognize that the emotion of anger is waging a war of power within us. To realize that our anger is taking over and keeping us as a hostage within our own body. The hardest part is to catch ourselves in the moment. It takes a bit of practice and conscious intent to catch this rapid takeover. How many times have we gotten angry within a split second of some trigger point? Yet, it’s OK to allow the emotion of anger to arrive. I am not saying we should stop the anger from being generated. What is important during this first step is to immediately recognize and catch ourselves in the moment it arrives.
The second step is a dialogue. After we’ve caught the anger arising, ask ourselves, “Why am I getting angry?” “What is causing this anger?” “What is it that I haven’t come to terms with internally that is causing this reaction?”
Now this sounds a bit long-winded, but the dialogue happens within a split second. This is different from suppressing our anger because now we are taking responsibility for our emotions, rather than seeing ourselves as a victim and pushing the anger away.
By asking the question, “What is it that I haven’t come to terms with yet?”, we are taking responsibility over our reactions. I truly believe that the reason we get angry at situations, objects or other people is simply because there’s a part within us that we haven’t come to terms with.
Take for example being angry at people who are liars and dishonest to us. Remember the saying, “Nobody can upset us without our permission”. The reason we get angry towards dishonesty is because there may be a part of us where dishonesty is showing up in our life which we haven’t reconciled yet. Perhaps we’re dishonest by setting a perception towards others about who we are and putting up a likeable front. It could be that we’re dishonest about our desires and we don’t really express what we want to others. Maybe we’re lying to ourselves about what our dreams are in life and simply settling for what’s safe and mediocre. No matter what it is in this case, there’s some element of dishonesty that we haven’t made peace with which causes us anger when we see it in others.
The same goes for if we’re angry with a particular race, religion, belief system or just simply being upset with what someone is wearing. How many times have we looked at the way someone dresses and said to ourselves, that is terrible, how could they wear something like that? Maybe there’s a part within us that wants to be different or wants to be daring which we’re ignoring and as a result it manifests as anger or hate towards a person. Many times anger is present within us because we don’t understand what we see. Could it be because there are parts to us which we don’t understand and as a result it frustrates us?
The idea here is that Anger is only as strong as the amount of energy we fuel it with and how much power we allow it to have over us. As long as we can constantly be vigilant and remind ourselves that we’re the masters of our emotions. To recognize that we’re in control and the reaction that we’re having is simply something we ourselves haven’t come to terms with. This in itself will put us in a place of peace, a place where we can make better decisions as we are no longer victims of a temporary emotion.
Photo Credit: https://sojo.net/magazine/september-october-2012/deadly-misnomer-fossil-fuels