When Others Let Us Down

 

1333 Relax and Succeed - Human beings are gods hidden from themselves

For some of us it was a cheating spouse. For others, an addicted friend, or a neglectful parent. For some it was a crime, or it may even be abuse by an authority, or an institution. There are many ways to feel the extremely tormented pain of neglect or betrayal. But there are also ways to be free.

It is a deeply poignant thing to move through the rush of feelings we experience when we sense that those around us have let us down. Part of our reality shatters. The whole experience makes more of the universe feel forever less certain and that makes us angry. We don’t feel safe. It makes sense that we resent whoever is associated with our feelings of vulnerability and helplessness.

But our resentment, anger, or need for moral justice rarely pay off. Like the Buddha says, we are not punished for our anger, but by it. Even if we exact revenge, the best that can happen is someone else suffering and any pleasure we get from that is short-lived even if we remain satisfied that justice has been done.

There simply is no going back in time. No matter how important something was, no one can unscramble scrambled eggs. People can’t undo one hour of sex, two years at a bad job, or 18 years of absent parenting. Each of those things and everything else like them are water under the bridge, and the desire for a different history will generate a great deal of anger and regret.

Fortunately, those feelings won’t last, and for fairly logical reasons because the reasons for the feelings make sense. But because they do, it is possible for us to speed up our ‘recovery’ to a potentially positive view of a situation, or even another person– if we’re prepared to.

Firstly, we must accept that our brain has these people or institutions weaved into massive amounts of our lives, and anger is like a jolt of electricity through our system. This means that when we are angry we are likely to grab information from all over life and history to express our outrage. But that’s fine. We can even be totally unreasonable.

The process of fully feeling our emotions isn’t about the perpetrator(s) of the betrayal, it’s about us bleeding off some of our own totally understandable brain chemistry steam in a non-destructive way. We have many compelling and painful thoughts under a lot of pressure.

This is why our pain from these experiences should be fully felt. Rather than pretend we’re okay and then convert four angry days into 20 resentful years, we are better to fully feel the feelings we have. We need not be scared of them. They are there to be felt. And after we’ve felt them, we can get on to empathy.

1333 Relax and Succeed - Empathy when you plant lettuce
We should nurture our understanding of those who we feel have done us wrong.

If we feel badly expressing ourselves honestly we have to remember that it’s society that told us to hold those feelings in, and we’re still recovering from the Victorians and they were scandalized by the word ‘leg’ (you had to use ‘limb.’). We don’t have to go insane or commit crimes or hurt others to let pain out. We just have to find constructive forms of letting off that emotional pressure.

Run, lift weights, listen to thrash metal, go to one of those places where you can pay to smash things. Or maybe just find someone who loves you that will let you rant, or abuse them for a while, on the understanding that you’re going to get proxy angry at them because you can’t yell at the person or institution that hurt you.

People that love us can survive that experience because they are the ones that accept us with our imperfections, just as we do theirs. That’s why we love them. But it’s a very healthy thing to ensure the person understands that we know full well that it is misplaced anger, and that we are grateful to them for helping us.

By doing that we make it much easier for the other person to hear us being unreasonable without taking it personally. If our point is to inflict pain, of course we’ll choose painful things to say. That doesn’t mean the things we say are somehow true. We’re blowing off steam, not doing journalism.

Once the anger has dissipated we can then begin a meditation that will untie the Gordian Knot of anger and blame in our imagination. In reviewing any situation from a less emotional distance, and by meditating on the other person’s context and history, we can often find that what happened makes more sense than what we had hoped would happen.

When we go from being an ego having a personal struggle to a limitless self having a psychological experience, we move from having feelings about a knot of things, to simply cutting through those feelings with understanding

Eventually our meditations on others lives lead us to realize more profoundly that others do not see their role in life as fulfilling all of our expectations. Nor should they. Otherwise we would be doomed to have to do likewise.

This means that, essentially, we feel let down when people fail to meet our expectations by merely being the only people they could be, given their experiences and their awareness. None of us can be someone we aren’t no matter how much we love those around us.

The people that let us down are merely people who are not who we had imagined they were. We can’t blame them for our imagination. Instead, by taking responsibility for our own speculation, we achieve understanding and forgiveness in return. And resentment and anger for understanding and forgiveness is a trade worth making.

peace. s

The Universal Apology

949 Relax and Succeed - Forgiveness is the best formEveryone’s done stuff they wish they hadn’t. Lots of it. Life’s tricky. We feel stressed, we get tired, hungry, we misunderstand things or we’re coming from a place of pain or fear and we just say or do the wrong thing.

Sometime’s our focus is so riveted on something else that we’re oblivious to fact that we’re causing serious damage. It’s not like we meant to–and even if we did we felt justified at the time. But there’s just some things we don’t feel good about. We cannot think of them and feel okay, and yet we will have foregone the chance to make a connection through an apology so, while we may not be suffering, we’re also not expanding our capacity for love and connection.

This post will be the universal apology. The one from all of us to all of us. Because no matter when it was, anyone who isn’t a sociopath or psychopath has wanted to give one of these to a lot of people. That doesn’t make us bad people, it just shows that we’re people and that the badness or goodness is really just another judgment. So if you’re really stuck because you can’t figure out how to apologise to someone, you can always just send them this.

 

To Whom It Did Concern,

How do you even start an apology for something as terrible as I did to you? I don’t really see myself as a bad person but if I look at what’s gone on there is no way to excuse myself. I recognise that I was not behaving in a way that makes me feel good about myself as a person.

949 Relax and Succeed - The past cannot be changedDeep down I believe everyone deserves to be treated well, but what happened to you has shown me that I am obviously capable of getting so focused on what I perceive as my personal problems that I forget I might be being a very big problem for someone else. It’s like I felt I was on a ocean and I was thrashing because I was sinking, but I forgot that the ocean itself is made of people trying to stay afloat. It was selfish and I’m sorry. I thrashed you and there’s no way for me to take it back.

I suppose the pain of that knowledge is what sears this into my memory. I’m certain I’ll hurt people in all kinds of dumb ways because I’m human, but I don’t want to hurt anyone ever again the way I hurt you. I’m not even going to promise I can do that, but I’m going to put everything I have available into succeeding because it’s important to me; because you’re pain was and is important to me.

It seems amazing to ask you for a favour after being so selfish and hurtful to you but I do actually need one. I’m gonna work on this change really hard but if I’m honest I have a feeling that it’ll only be natural to be bunny-hopping two steps forward and one back for a while. So if you could extend a bit of forgiveness on those backward steps as I work on being more loving and generous in my relations I would appreciate that. Even if you can’t; I fully respect why and I’ll still give the commitment my all.

949 Relax and Succeed - Far from what I once wasMost important in all of this for me is that you know I don’t blame you. I know life’s always a mixed bag. Maybe you have your own letter you’d write about the same thing where you see yourself as someone who owes someone an apology, but this is how I see it and this is how I feel and for those reasons it’s important to me that you give the ownership of this to me.  It was my fault.

I did it. Intentionally, accidentally, blindly; it doesn’t matter. I hurt you. I did it. Give it to me. Stop thinking about it and know that I accept the responsibility and that it is my burden to carry until I convert into a better self. Regardless of how you choose to feel after receiving it, I will always keep an open mind about our future simply because I am so confident in the value of you and I’m equally confident in my desire to work toward living up to being someone you would genuinely love and respect.

Thanks for even giving me the time to read this. I really do care. I wish you all the best. I really do. All the time. Big hug.

peace. s

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.

The End of Defensiveness

We’ve all been there. There’s these moments in our past—these things we said or did either in the heat of a moment or out of confusion or a lack of maturity—and we really hurt someone. Or someone hurt us. Maybe they never properly understood due to the heat of the moment, or maybe they were confused or immature, Or maybe they’re reacting to something we never even did. Or maybe someone slandered or libelled us—leading others to believe things that are not true for purposes of their own. We’ve all got things we’re defensive about, be they things we really did or things that people believe we did that we didn’t do.

634 Relax and Succeed - Can all your worriesWhat happens is that we tend to re-live these moments in our life in vain attempt to rewrite them into something we feel is more honest. We want people to understand the state of mind we were in at the time, or we want them to have a perspective that is ours. So it gets replayed and replayed in our memory, turning those circuits into super-highways. The energy around our brain finds those like water finds low ground. So if someone hits on a part of our brain that we have spent a lot of time defending ourselves in, then it’s no wonder our reaction is quickly and strongly defensive. It’s our go-to reaction when we encounter that event, meaning people witnessing us in that state of mind are likely to come to the conclusion that we have overreacted to the current events.

So how do you get over a profound regret? How do you forgive cruelty and surrender the fight? These things visit you a lot because you think about them a lot. They’ll always be a part of your life experience, but they don’t need to be accessed that regularly. That’s what mental health is—spending time in the healthier parts of your brain rather than trying to retell a past narrative (or worry about a future one). So when you encounter those kind of thoughts you’re best to simply feel how lousy they feel and then respond very naturally to that feeling and set the idea down. It’s like a bicycle made of words. It goes nowhere unless you peddle it.

We’ve all had angry exes lie about us. And the people in school we bested. Anyone who was jealous of us—and if you’ve ever had a stalker they’re unlikely to say nice things about you. Anyone with opposing views will colour and hue any tales of you. And then there’s how our 634 Relax and Succeed - If you don't have enemieswork impacts our human relations. I used to be the head of creative at a TV network. I’d get over 1600 submissions a year and I had enough money to develop about 25 and shoot about 6 of varying sizes. 30 things out of 1600 got money before my budget was gone. So I disappointed a huge number of people and these creative works are understandably like children to them. So their very real feeling is that I crippled a child of theirs and it makes sense they don’t like it.

I’ve been slandered. I’ve heard rejected writers and producers tell complete fabrications that make me look bad, but an older wiser friend who had the same job with another network warned me about this eventuality. This happens in much the same way that anyone who’s ever been a boss knows that it’s unlikely that people we fired or scolded are going to be going around saying nice things about us. Which is why you can’t care. Because you still did what felt wisest at the time and you have requirements other than just nurturing their ego. So when people say that stuff—those people have agendas. Your ego would too if you started defending yourself. So don’t. Surrender to the inevitability and relax. None of that fluff ever affected your real friends anyway.

634 Relax and Succeed - Sometimes letting things goSure, when they initially happen those experience can sting. It feels unfair for people to describe us as exactly what we are not. That kind of thing hurts anyone. But the point of this blog is that you can’t let those inevitable events bother you. Even in the worst cases I won’t indulge thoughts about whatever’s happened to me for too long—maybe 90 minutes.

After the most recent attack I can recall happening to me, I called a friend and told him I needed an empathetic connection. He’s a wiser sort who knew to give me a quick connect via empathy and I was ready to move on. Forget about the events—I didn’t like the feeling I was experiencing so I switched to thinking about something more enjoyable. I wasn’t going to harbour discontent. I understand that people do that sort of thing all the time. I’ve done it. We shift responsibility for our guilt. Who wants to own that? So I accept that people are human and that egos all do some giving and we all do some receiving. But those experiences are painful, so I’m not interested in replaying them repeatedly. And nor should you with your versions of similar events.

The same applies to things you actually have done. I’ve written before about the eight people I was willing to hurt to elevate my own status. I wince every time I think of going for a laugh and sacrificing their feelings. I literally get physically sick with shame. I’ve found five of them and apologized. But rather than waste my life feeling terrible, I use the unpleasant feelings to 634 Relax and Succeed - Don't expect apologies on big betrayalsmotivate me to notice that if I’m bothered by hurting people then that’s actually a sign I’m a good person. I feel bad about doing something that hurt people. Only good people do that. And so I forgive myself because as I said, we all give and we all receive. And then I endeavour to do better. I don’t ruminate and regurgitate those thoughts. I leave them in my past and use them as platforms to build a bigger, better, more inclusive and loving me.

We cannot live with a desire to have a good reputation. Because that is impossible due to perspective: Gandhi was a freedom fighter to many but he was a terrorist to the British rulers in India. Jesus disrupted the Roman Empire. The Chinese want to de-legitimize the Dalai Lama. Extremely attractive people are often hated by other people. Smart people are derided for making less intelligent people feel insecure just by their presence. Everyone’s being judged unfairly. You have to go by your own character. That’s why it’s so important.

You can’t try to get everyone to like you, you have to find a way to be where you like you. Where you have a set of limits—a set of guiding principles that you apply to yourself as well as all others. And those limits define your character. If you’ve never really thought about those limits then you do not yet have character because character is what you believe in overall, not what you think about an individual circumstance. It’s why I 634 Relax and Succeed - Don't carry your mistakessometimes have to agree with people who are abhorrent to me. Because despite their hateful discourses, my character is that I value quality information. So I cannot dismiss quality information because of the source, despite my person feelings . Because character is above personal feelings.

Forget being defensive. Recognize your mistakes, apologize whenever you’re able, and forgive others their immature and cruel moves, and move on yourself. Move on to a new moment and a blank slate. Start fresh each moment with an aim toward realizing your character and you will have no reason to revisit your worst days for much time at all. Save yourself the daily agony and invest yourself in loving people today instead. It feels great and it’s probably the most productive thing you can do.

Love you all. Have a great one.

peace. s