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

What’s Your Hidden Agenda?

1255 Relax and Succeed - The moment I saw youOur ego is sly. It’s been with us since we were little, so its voice is so ubiquitous that it just disappears into the background. But it has an agenda, and the problem for our soul is; that isn’t our agenda, it’s our ego’s.

Our ego doesn’t like challenge, or discomfort or pain. Avoiding those experiences means that our ego makes us pay for that resistance with anxiety, insecurity and suffering. It’s really not a very good trade; living in an ego state where you need things to be your way when your soul is fine with how things already are–including you.

A good example of this is when people are super upset. Presuming the experience isn’t common, people rarely see anyone extremely upset and it can be alarming at first because everyone’s family does that differently. Some people talk about suicide or destroying things, others go dark and silent for days, other attack those present with lashing words. Regardless of what it looks like, it’s when someone is in in an egocentric state and they are experiencing serious distress.

1255 Relax and Succeed - Never in the history of calmSo how does an ego react? Our ego isn’t really interested in the world, it’s focused on its own personal impression of the world, but our ego can’t even have a personal impression of anything because it is created by other people and experiences. It’s like a recording, or a Turing Machine, or set of levers. It’s not very flexible and it only has access to knowledge but no wisdom.

When someone is extremely upset our ego wants them to calm down quickly because it’s uncomfortable for our egos to be in challenging circumstances. Instead we generate anxiety as we struggle to figure out what to say to achieve our own agenda, yet when someone’s in distress, our agenda isn’t going to be relevant whether we want it to be or not.

Our soul has no agenda, so it needs nothing from the other person. It merely observes and responds by nature. This means rather than trying to think of the right thing to say, (which is like using our hand to smooth the ripples out of water), our soul can simply be present. It rightfully understands that it is present for the other person’s experience, but it’s not having the other person’s experience. That alone should generate some helpful gratitude.

1255 Relax and Succeed - To obtain satoriOnce we’ve taken away our personal resistance to the behaviour we’re witnessing we can then have our natural wisdom take over. When we’re in that state we seem to say just the right thing, even if it immediately might not feel like it to our ego. Rather than asking the person’s ego to find the soul that creates it, instead our soul invites their ego to surrender and be at peace in the chaos. Your ego wants them to feel better, your soul is prepared to join them in feeling badly.

It isn’t hard to see that if we’re prepared to feel badly then we get to avoid the anxiety, worry and second-guessing involved with trying to figure out the right thing to say. Sometimes there is no right thing. Sometimes the person just needs time while they feel loved and then the process can unfold. But no matter where anyone is in that state, no one is wrong, no one is lost, and no one is right and no one is found. We are all simply either being an ego or being ourselves and we will balance between the two as the act of living our lives.

Take time to be present with suffering even if it’s your own. Rather than fix it just observe it. Prove to yourself, that can be more comfortable being present than being happy, and in doing so, enjoy your day.

peace. s

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.

Big Mistakes

1244 Relax and Succeed - there is always a simplicityIn life we will vary in our risk-taking. Some people have the sort of childhood that encourages them to be naturally bold, whereas others like things to be safer, with less risk of major downsides. It’s one kind of doctor that wants to deliver babies and another who will do your surgery. There’s some overlap, but they specialize for a reason.

Even if we’re the type of person that is careful about risk, our circumstances can alter our natural setting. Being unusually attracted to a person can lead us to be braver, romantically, than we might ever have been before. There’s entire industries built around offering the poor unlikely though not impossible relief from constant struggle. Even going a long time without a win can really motivate someone to take chances they otherwise wouldn’t.

The trick is, even when we’re reacting in-the-moment and we know our extra effort or courage is coming from a much-desired opportunity, we still must stay aware of how we have shifted our identity and what we have left at risk. That doesn’t mean you never take chances–you have to to live–but it does mean that they’re calculated. This not only helps you succeed, it also helps you fail.

1244 Relax and Succeed - Things are just thingsWhen answering readers questions about time management, I’ve posted before that sometimes a failure to succeed is not even within reach. I myself have very elderly and frail parents that often can’t wait, but I also need to earn a living and attempt to maintain the rest of life, including maintaining friendships, although that last one is often the sacrifice when caring for people who generally can’t be left alone for a long stretch. There is no amount of management that solves that.

The worst thing we can do is regret that we may not be able to avoid failure in some significant way. Either you’ll run out of time, resources or enthusiasm before you’re done or not. Understanding those limits allows us to act quickly, and with as much wisdom as possible, if things tumble out in unpleasant ways. This is inevitable in any life, so we can’t live seeking to avoid it, we must learn to surf the bad waves as well as the good ones.

The hardest part for people is their attachments. If we believe we need some object or amount or victory before we can feel good about our lives, we’ve lost control. But if we feel our duty is to say balanced and minimize damage, then we’re just doing what we’ve always done–we’re managing our life with the most balance possible.

1244 Relax and Succeed - The reason most people give upIf staying on your surfboard requires you to throw away some valuable weight, spending time assessing the loss will only delay your reaction and generate more pain. Conclude, accept, act and then move forward with grace and dignity. Ultimately there is no other way and resistance only creates more pain and delays things further.  It’s not like your priorities will dissipate just because you have. No matter how bad the work day was, your children or your parents or your other responsibilities don’t cease to exist. In fact, they’re a gift. Because when you can’t do much to improve your own life, a really great reaction is to try to improve someone else’s.

Don’t dwell on big mistakes, even if you worked hard to plan or work around them. Don’t get caught up in ideas of fairness or the volume of your effort, those are all irrelevant at some point. Take solace in the fact that the effort will still have helped strengthen you, even if the effort itself failed. Knowing how to face hardship is ultimately more valuable than any other life skill, and even there, you can fully exercise your character and values.

Everyone experiences hard times. If you’ve put in a good effort and tried your best, as the Dalai Lama notes, there is no basis for any regret. We can take a moment for the painful acceptance to sweep over us but, once it has, our duties are usually self-evident and there is little else to do but to change paths and begin walking anew. By that point, the only thing that will make it particularly painful will be your own voice, in your own head, discussing what-ifs. Those can be compelling, but they are also created by and for you. So you’re free to create them. But all your ego will do is keep you from the clarity you require from success. Even in the din, a quiet mind will stay closer to wisdom.

peace. s

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.