The previous post was about how how families, roommates or co-workers could manage being cramped in together. Doing that exercise and developing an Emotional Response Plan can be very valuable in avoiding trouble.
Despite that, this is the first Pandemic since 1918, so none of us should really set ourselves up for failure by assuming we won’t have this push us off our rails every now and then. We’re sane. This situation is bizarre.
Frustration, anger, and sense of desperation are, in these conditions, a healthy person’s reaction. And with this destined to last for weeks or months, we can anticipate we will have our share of breakdowns. The real question is, how will we have them?
We can all get caught up in our thoughts. But most of us can easily start to get more aware about when we’re starting to slip into a whirling sets of negative thoughts. And we can even know we are creating them, and we can know that they are only ephemeral thoughts and that we can change them, and yet it’s still possible to just not care.
Anger or a sense of total despondent surrender can be exactly the feelings that it would feel good to express. The healthy person doesn’t pretend that nature gave us certain emotions for no good reason.
Healthy people let themselves be in the reality they’re in, they just seek to manage that reality in a selfish way that allows them to stay as rewarded by life as possible.
Part of our self-respect must be reserved for the experiences that form the ‘bottom’ of our sphere of experience. It makes us more empathetic when we have deeply negative experiences. It’s where poetry and love songs come from.
There are no bad places or times in the universe, there are only ways to resist the universe or to flow with it. If we would feel better if we blew up, then we have to get good at blowing up.
When it comes to stormy seas, we must get good at charting a wise course for ourselves and for others. Keep in mind, I will outline an idealized version of this. And people can get to that level and beyond it, with practice. But at first, these sections will often be clumsy, angrily delivered, and they’ll often use far fewer words and far more aggressive language. 🙂
The first stage is pre-blow. This is where we try to gain enough awareness about ourselves that we can give ourselves permission to not have any energy to contribute to the tribe right now. This is like the Captain, announcing to the crew that a storm is headed their way.
After we’ve done it for a few years, it might sound like; “Okay guys, here’s a my warning shot. I’m telling you I’m struggling and no one seems to care. Okay. So now I’m starting to care less about how you feel too, and it’s making me want to hurt you back!
“I’m telling you, it’s pretty likely that I’m going to blow up at least one of you, and pretty soon. And when I do, I’m going to say a bunch of things I don’t mean. I’m sorry, but when that happens I’ll hate being in that angry place as much as you. That’s why I wanted your help before this. I didn’t want to be here.
“So here’s Plan B. If I blow up and say a bunch of mean, frustrated things I always wish I didn’t, then I’m gonna do my best to not blame you for pushing me toward this angry place. But then I want you to try not to blame me for what I say. Because I’m not even really trying to hurt you. That’s just what I sound like when I’m in pain.
“So try to do that for me, okay? And then, when it’s you that’s upset and you’re lashing out at me, I’ll do my best to forgive you too. But for now, I have nothing to give anyone and I just want to be alone in peace and quiet!”
Then, they’ll either listen, express some kindness or offer some apology, and things will slowly settle, or, someone will give the bottle another shake until finally the lid blows and everyone gets sprayed with angry words.
That will often be ugly, but a pre-explanation can help a lot in stain-guarding everyone’s long term feelings. This is not to suggest this is ever a pleasant experience. But if we approach it right it doesn’t have to last long.
An 80 year old life lasts for about 700,000 hours. For most people, about 75 to 150 thousand of those hours will be spent suffering, (which is also known as ‘building empathy’).
If we can shorten the periods we need to get over a blow-up, we can save ourselves tens of thousands of hours of suffering. And while we’re doing it, we can teach our kids to save themselves that suffering too.
The average life gives us a good ratio of good experiences to bad. Those bad ones will sometimes come as lengthy dark periods with few bright spots, like cancer treatments or divorces.
Others will come in little fits and starts like the frustrations discussed in this example. But a good life does not avoid these circumstances. A good life just gets better and better at managing them.
The most important thing for us to remember is, we’re not looking to achieve good or bad behaviour for each other. We’re looking to find ways, within each context, to express an honest and genuine sense of love and respect for both others and for ourselves.