Emotional Awareness

1283 Relax and Succeed - Start seeing your interactions

I eat and sleep very well given the chance, but due to various responsibilities and circumstances I am often unable to get as much sleep as I would prefer, and I often am forced to skip meals because there are many cases like this recent one that legitimately prevent that from happening.

Dad recently has had several visits to Emergency where I am his guardian. If you go in before a meal, you can’t just leave your dementia dad in a hospital waiting room while you run across a parking lot of pure ice to get to the nearest source of food, (which isn’t even healthy), because he could wander away. And it’s not like I can take him with me; at his pace it’d take an hour in – 25C weather just to get there and we’d miss our call after two hours of waiting to get into see the doctor while they rightfully attend to much worse situations.

I did contribute to a panel for that hospital that recommended healthier food be available since it was a health facility, but they just added Rice Krispie Squares to a vending machine of chips. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The lack of sleep and food can biochemically throw anyone off balance. Once I notice those bad feelings my awareness kicks in and if there’s no negative thinking attached then I know it’s biochemical. If I can’t eat right then, I am left to manage it actively like most of you are learning to. Note: that that won’t mean that I am somehow above being abrupt, unfair or even mean. Even the Dalai Lama has a temper. We’re all human.

Just last night my mother was watching the old film Outbreak and it features numerous scenes of people being very reasonably unreasonable –it’s too bad YouTube doesn’t have the part where Hoffman and Rene Russo scream at each other in sleep-deprived states. Those are realistic events in people’s lives. Any parents of toddlers know that frustration is essentially guaranteed as a part of the process.

This is why tolerance is valuable. Expecting others to always be at their best is simply crazy as a belief. And that’s also why I leave those unfortunate experiences in the past. I do my best to apologize, but I won’t feel guilt because I have no expectation of being superhuman. The whole reason I feel bad is because I’m a decent person who didn’t meet my own standards, so my standards are fine.

Reactions make sense given their context. But dragging them out of that context for inspection is a huge waste of time. By then all the people involved are in totally different states of mind that makes entirely different things possible.

I’m human. I just accept it. It’s just as crazy to think that you can can control your emotions under adverse conditions as it is to think you can walk on a broken leg. You can, but will hurt like hell and not do you much good unless you’re walking to a hospital.

So here I am, after two weeks of racing around catching plates just before they hit the ground. I’m exhausted, distracted, and I have a huge amount to do. I need to marshal my internal resources. I need to take action to change my state of mind and I thought you might learn something from me describing what I’ll do as I shift from survival mode to my usual enthusiastic zeal. This is a great exercise for anyone at any time, so consider joining me in trying this for the rest of your day:

The idea is to get out of thoughts about ourselves, because those are the ones that are debilitating us. To do this, we need to focus on other things or people. That being the case, when we leave the presence of anyone for the next couple days –even on the phone or via text or via social media etc.– we should just take a moment to earnestly meditate on what happened from their perspective (as much as that is reasonably possible).

Note whether the other people were likely to see our interactions as being positive or negative. But don’t just count arguments or meetings or parenting –also count shorter relations like holding doors for strangers, not yelling at your kid when tempted, or even saying thank you. Those are all volunteered positives. Every interaction with another person should be taken into consideration.

If you do feel a response was negative, you can apologize, but don’t make things worse with even more negative and guilty thoughts about the past. We don’t really need to worry about what happens either way anyway, because, of course, over time, negatives can become positives and positives can become negatives.

Reactions make sense given their context. But dragging them out of that context for inspection is a huge waste of time. By then all the people involved are in totally different states of mind that makes entirely different things possible.

We can feel it was bad to be fired, but if our next job introduces us to a beloved career and maybe even our spouse, then, looking back, getting fired seems like one of the best things that ever happened to us. Likewise, we can feel great about learning we got a promotion only to find out our personality and our new job description do not fit well together, and later we view the promotion as the beginning of the end.

Nothing is good or bad, only thinking makes it so. That’s why we let the past go and focus on the present moment. It’s practical. And if others do likewise, tolerance absorbs the balance.

Remember: how many people do we leave better off, versus how many we leave worse off, is not what’s important. This isn’t a comparative numbers game in the end, because it’s highly likely that we’re all far nicer than any of us will give ourselves credit for. So this isn’t about us being guilted into being nicer. It’s about us understanding the practicalities of how to get back on track as quickly as possible. That’s actually the fastest way to expand that capacity in us, not guilt or tortured regret.

So let’s pay attention to the thinking we do today. Let’s see our interactions with others less as what we did, and more about how everyone –including us– felt doing it. Awareness of that dimension of being makes more things understandable, and an appreciation of how bad things innocently happen is what gives us the wisdom to also know how to make a shift as soon as we’re able. It’s something we get better at the more we practice the act of letting go.

After a screw up, we should just apologize and forget it as soon as possible and get focused on the present moment so we don’t screw up again. The fact that you feel badly about it is all the proof you need that you’re truly a good person.

Here’s to all of us staying conscious enough to create ourselves a wonderful day.

peace. s

 

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