This quote offers good advice for whenever you are conscious and can prevent these things from happening. But that’s only half of it. If you don’t do these things in each and every moment that doesn’t doom you. It just helps if take how you’re feeling into account when you look at the world. The glasses you wear will colour everything.
A useful counterpoint to this quote is the idea that the rest of us should all stay aware of the fact that not everyone will be able to do this all the time. Even the wisest people will spend some time in ego. A friend recently noted that staying balanced can be likened to walking. As we step forward in life our left foot ego might stray a bit into the past, and our right foot ego might stray a bit into the future, but your aim is try to keep your head pretty much centred on the path.
Do take your feelings into account when you’re presenting something, but also take the other person’s feelings into account when you’re listening to them. People often don’t mean what they say but their words will still usually capture how they feel about something. It’s best not to take that personally because they’re reacting to how they see things, not how you see them. No one owes you pleasant emotional responses, you can only encourage them or discourage them.
Happy people will tend to underestimate the challenges that might be associated with a task. Don’t be surprised. Angry people who’ve been deserted in the past will often push others away as a test. Again, no surprise. If someone’s profoundly sad then their assessment of their situation may not recognise all of their opportunities. And why would they at that time? These are all examples of ways where our state of mind colours our perspective and they can all happen in normal, healthy people. If anything, everyone’s expectations are way too high.
Do your best to take your own feelings into account when you speak but, since there’s one of you and lots of everyone else, it helps a lot more if you can also listen to everyone else speak and take their state of mind into account too. Then their words seem less personal and about you. Rather than managing what they say you’re responding to how they said it. You stop seeing the words as just about the literal content and you start seeing the conversation as a shared experience that both you and the other person are independently having. This is where men and women often really get stuck because men are inclined to see conversation as data whereas women often see it as an emotional exchange.
If you can live with this awareness you can create a safe environment for your fellow human beings to feel their natural feelings. My best friend can be mad at her mother, she’ll call me and she can literally ask me if I’ll stand in for her mom and get some hell; or maybe she’ll ask me to join her in being angry about her Mom; or sometimes she just wants to be grumpy for a while. Whatever it is; no problem. I love her. She does the same from me. So her and I literally state it to each other if necessary: Here’s how you can help me. This emotion won’t last. Please be with me or share it with me until it passes.
As soon as someone gives you permission or the right or even better–the freedom to feel your human feelings, you feel safe. And if the feelings are negative you don’t feel as much of an urge to continue pedalling them with your thoughts. In effect the other person has already said, “if your behaviour can’t be good right now I’m okay with that for a while because I care about you. I can last through some angry language if that’s what will help you feel better.” It’s hard to stay in a dark place when someone is that openly loving.
My friend and I can never stay in a negative state for very long. We just lose all our negative energy. You can have this happen in your home too. Stop focusing on everyone living up to their word and being precise about their commitments and instead use communication to manage the energy in the room. If someone’s pinging then everyone else absorb. If someone’s in distress be fully present. There’s always a helpful response even if it’s concerned silence. The question is, in real time, will you ignore the words so that you can actually hear the meaning?
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.