No one needs help when life feels like it’s going great, and yet that’s a great time to study wisdom because you have a lot more to do with your good times than you realise. Understanding your responsibility for your emotions when you feel good about them is generally much easier than when you’re in pain.
People don’t want to assume the responsibility for their own bad days because when they first look at the idea they’re viewing it from ego, not from health. Your ego sees that responsibility as a status drop and it feels embarrassing. When you’re healthy you know that with the responsibility you get empowerment.
Accepting that your pain is generated by you and not your circumstances means you can then control your response. Maybe you don’t know how yet, but theoretical control over your personal experience of life is still better than the capricious nature of happenstance.
Leaving the quality of your day up to others is dangerous primarily because most of the other people you’ll meet will be in a state of ego, so they’ll be looking out for their ego and its status, not yours. In that state they’ll only care for you if they see some transactional gain. The only people you’d be safe around (most of the time) would be really healthy people. But if you are one of the healthy people then it’s like you’re inoculated.
The first thing you can do is try not to enter a situation with your gun already loaded. A trigger being pulled by circumstance is far less dangerous if you’re not walking around ready to go off. Any potential explosive reactions from your previous experience must be unloaded from your consciousness or it’s like going into a trigger-happy town with a fisst full of explosives. One shot from another person and you’ll blow big-time.
The second thing you can do is focus your attention on the importance of maintaining an empty chamber. If you can start with your emotional gun being empty and benign, and you add no bullets, that makes any triggers meaningless. But if you participate in the kind of resistant thinking that leads to you load up your weapon during an interaction, then even if you arrived empty you’re just making it more likely that someone’s going to get shot.
The third thing you can do is keep to actively unload your emotional gun then holster it in real time. This is the part people have more trouble with because they’re in a heightened state of emotion when they try. But the more you do it the better you get at it. In fact, how you behave when things are bad is much more important than how you behave when things are good.
When there are zero triggers you can be more relaxed about the state of your gun. But you can’t count on that, so you’re better to stay conscious. In fact, expanding and developing skills like awareness and de-escalation are what egos basically do in life, though they often do so unconsciously and unintentionally.
That’s what life is. We either learn to be more assertive about defending our true selves or we become less assertive about defending our ego selves. And we learn by trial and error. So life is one big long giant accidental emotional gunfight where it looks bad, but secretly everyone’s actually making an effort to be more peaceful, which makes forgiveness a very useful skill.
There’s no need to panic about the shots you fire because like everything else they only exist for a moment. At the same time, some shots can be fatal to a relationship, so we also don’t want to be overly casual about how important the management of our consciousness is. If we can get conscious enough, we can even turn the shots we take into opportunities for healing.
Tomorrow I’ll tell you about a time where I pulled the trigger and shot angry words at one of the most important people in the world to me. Fortunately a high degree of awareness allowed me to immediately regret it and, even more fortunately, my immediate assumption of responsibility allowed the moment to not only be saved, but in the end we were better for the experience. In the world of peace it’s possible to convert negatives into positives.
For today, I’d just check in with yourself every 15 minutes or so and ask yourself about the status of your gun. Let’s see if we can all avoid shooting someone for the 24 hours it’ll take us between now and tomorrow’s post. Have a great day everyone.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.