Monday, June 13, 2011

Overcoming Resentment and Other Negative Feelings-1

When misfortunes strike us, our first reaction is non-comprehending surprise. Then we think: why me? Why did it have to happen to me? Why was I fired? Why did I have to face indignity?

A lot of energy is expended in this way. It clouds our judgment and the way we interact with others, and prospective positive outcomes can be lost on us. Who wants to deal with an unsmiling, resentful, angry person who is so hung up on his past misfortunes that you can’t entrust an enterprise or responsibility to him? You wouldn’t, if I were to react with suspicion to your offer of help.

Too often we find people licking their old wounds long after the unfortunate incident has passed, holding grudges, spreading rumors about the accused perpetrator, and in general seething with anger and sometimes going to the extent of wreaking vengeance.

These actions may provide a temporary sense of relief, a vent; however in reality they are conditioning us to react to future incidents in the same immature way, for life is unpredictable and no one can think it is going to be a bed of roses. And people are of all kinds—kind, vicious, gentle, spiteful, opportunistic, cheating, vengeful, proud, slighting, unfaithful, lazy, irresponsible, loving, truthful, dishonest, loyal… You have a kaleidoscope open; that is what makes life interesting isn’t it?

But our issue is how to deal with the misfortunes and injustice meted that we may have to face sometime. And how to come out of it unruffled, like the feathers of a bird, on which water drops don’t stay, but roll off.

If we had the detachment to let these issues just roll off our mind, we could come out of potential disasters smelling like a rose.

I had to confront many bullying personalities at work and in personal life. I couldn’t stand up to them and would seethe for months and sometimes years.

But when I learnt of how to face situations without getting agitated, it was a different story altogether. I could pass through these situations, or, let them pass through me, without any negative residue.

For instance, when in college, I used to go by bus. The bus staff did not like students as they have concession, they could make more money by letting an adult passenger on that spot. On one day, I was getting off the bus at my college stop. The cleaner put his hand across the doorway, blocking the path so that I had to duck beneath it. It was a deliberate insult. There was nobody else in the bus. After getting down, I considered the situation. I could tell my friends in the college union and have the fellow dealt with properly. But such incidents have gone out of control and resulted in road blocking, stone pelting, bashing up the bus staff, and sometimes, buses being burnt up.

Instead, I tried to reason with myself. I did not lose anything here. I could think of him as a poor, uncultured, boor who did not know how to give respect and get respect. And now, the incident is long over, now I am being miserable by bringing it up and agonizing over it. Coming to think of it, you wouldn't expect a buffalo to give way to you, if ever you were to cross one’s path, would you? But let such thoughts be private.

I decided I would not follow his example and took slow, deep breaths. These helped me relax and detach. I soon forgot all about this incident and was back to normal.

Try to see the present moment, feel the present moment. That is to say, feel the breeze, feel your breath, feel the ground beneath your shoes, feel your stomach rising and falling with each breath. Gradually try to be aware of your feelings and thoughts. It is possible to be aware of each of our thoughts, even fluttering of eyelids.

When you notice a negative emotion, just watch it without critiquing or judging it, just note, I am angry, anger is arising. Breathe. Breathe into your stomach. Breathe through the feeling. And continue to observe it. Now you have unknowingly distanced yourself from the emotion. You will find it has lost its intensity and grip on you.

You have become calmer and can now think objectively.
This is an absolutely needed skill because many people behave irrationally nowadays.

Part 2 of this article.
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