Cue the music.
I was walking down Spring Garden Street. Leaving the gym, headed to my car. Directly in front of me is a woman walking in my direction. Directly in my path.
My first thought was, “Why doesn’t she move? Can’t she see me?”
My second thought was, “I can see her. I will move.”
It is striking to me that I wanted her to move so that I could pass in a straight line. And how much I wanted her to move. Super connected to my strategy of getting to my car.
In that moment and only for a moment, I felt irritated and baffled. I believed in that instant that she should be the one who moved. Which is kind of puzzling as I was already moving. Like I said I was walking.
How many times in life are we instantly upset and believe the cause is someone else’s fault?
I’m guessing countless.
How long do you suffer?
For the moment that I thought this lady was wrong, should move, was careless and inconsiderate, I was suffering. I am grateful that it took me only a moment to realize that I was not connected to myself mindfully. And really not connected to life in a way. While it seems like a small thing, I think this kind of disconnection is a big thing. It has a very big impact on the quality of life we experience. My suffering lasted a moment in this case.
What are some examples in your own life when you hold or held another other person as wrong? That what they are doing or what they did is somehow the cause of your distress. In this mindset, you are suffering.
I would like to remind you what I mean by suffering. Suffering is when you are stuck in thoughts that aren’t serving you. She/this/it —something is wrong. Contrasted with being in feelings that we might label as ‘negative’. Sad, frustrated, disappointed for example.
It is difficult to actually find a solution and then return to feelings of a satisfying life, when we are locked into a story that something (outside of us) is wrong. Because our work then is to convince the other person that they have indeed done something wrong. If they don't agree, then we have hours, or days, weeks…in some cases months or years of work ahead of us. Trying to get them to take the blame for how we feel. For a culture that values efficiency, this strategy toward enjoying life is super-inefficient.
[NOTE: Even if they do agree, and apologize for their wrong doing, unless both (all) parties connect to the why (NEEDS) underlying the behavior choices, likely there won’t actually be resolve. There will still be suspicion and resentment that remains. More on this in another post.]
It is when you get curious about what they did means both to yourself —why is it upsetting? and what it meant to them —what reason could they have for doing this thing that I find so difficult to accept?, that you will move toward understanding and no longer have the feelings of distress. And life becomes more enjoyable and satisfying again.
The hard part —and the easy part.
How long you hang onto your story about how wrong something is, is completely up to you. The hard part is remembering this when you are upset. Hard part #2 is believing that you are responsible for what is going on for you when you are upset.
When you do remember and are willing to take responsibility for your own experience, it is easy, or at least easier to make the shift into feelings and needs and resolve the situation.
Sometimes this is difficult because we are wired to ‘want to be right’ in order to feel safe in the world. Which is an important skill to have. That said, it is rare that what we are upset about actually has anything to do with our safety. The faster you can slow things down (did you see what I did there ;), the more you will be able to determine accurately when the choice you are making is in reality life-threatening, or is indeed isn’t.
If you are very connected into what is truly happening, then you will be able to respond instantly when your life is at stake (need = safety), and take the time required to make useful and productive needs based decisions when it is not.
1. This week make a list of all the people and situations that you are upset about.
2. Take note of who you are holding responsible for your feelings.
3. If it is someone else, then ask yourself what is important to you about what they did.
4. Once you are connected to what’s important (the need), then consider all the ways you might attract/generate/get more of that into your life. Either inside the relationship with the person with whom you were upset, or another way.