One of my friends lost out on a promotion at work and felt betrayed by his company. Then he went on and on about being abused, because he didn’t want anyone to forget what had happened to him. And if anyone encouraged him to consider a different perspective, he would list the evidence, proving his case. He practically ate betrayal for breakfast. And today, he’s still in the same place, feeling betrayed, un-promoted and unable to create what he wants in life.
Feelings of disappointment are real. But blaming others and making them wrong keeps us stuck, feeling that there are no options and no way to free ourselves from pain.
Our problems begin with us, not others.
Our problems develop from what we believe about what others do and how we believe we’re entitled to respond.
We dislike someone’s behavior, and we believe he or she should act differently. We look for evidence to support our conclusion and find people who agree with us, believing that being right will make us feel better. But instead, we end up with more of what we don’t like, because efforting to prove we’re right produces more evidence that we’re right.
We’ll need new perspectives on old issues.
One of my friends believes that her father has a mental disorder, because he’s done hurtful things and shows no remorse. And she stays away, because she’s afraid that he’ll cause her more emotional pain. I encourage her to focus on anything that’s working in relation to him, no matter how small it might seem. Instead, she just wants to show me articles that prove she’s accurately diagnosed his condition.
The reason to focus on something constructive would not be to change her father, but rather to allow change to take place inside her, because a more positive perspective would let her feel better than being right does.
Negativity breeds negativity.
If people treat us badly, we have the right to hold them accountable and to take action to stop the abuse. But we hinder ourselves by going the next step: “You hurt me. My life is miserable because of you. I’ll never get over this.”
If we feel hurt or betrayed by someone, and we chew on that bone for a while, and we wonder whether we should forgive the person, and then we chew on that bone for a while, we create more unpleasantness for ourselves, as our focus on the problem causes us to feel worse.
“Do I want to hang onto these unpleasant feelings? Does it serve me to keep reliving events that have already ended?”
The secret to letting go of what happened in the past is to depower it, by no longer giving it attention and meaning. It’s commonsense action toward nurturing ourselves, because we deserve to be our first priority.
Can we be betrayed?
No one can make us feel angry or hurt. But if we pretend that other people are determining our experience, we get to blame them for what’s wrong in our lives. And if that’s what we’re doing, it’s because we’re getting something from the experience, even though it’s probably not what we truly want. At least energy is moving, which can feel better than stagnation or hopelessness. And filling our innate need for attention this way can be better than going without.
If we base our feelings and our responses on what other people do, we’re pretending to be a victim, which can turn into a series of painful experiences, where it’s challenging to experience consistent well-being.
It takes a belief to have an emotional response.
If we feel incensed and get angry, it’s because we already had a belief that said, “That shouldn’t happen. That person shouldn’t do that.”
Most of our beliefs originated when we were young. And our emotional responses to the people around us originate from something that’s already active in us, which means that blaming them and making them wrong isn’t reasonable.
Before trying to fix what’s happening on the outside, we need to first deal with what’s happening on the inside of us. We can be in harmony with any person, thing or situation as soon as we drop what we believe should be different about that person, thing or situation.
We can choose our thoughts.
One of my friends believes his mom was domineering throughout his childhood, and he still holds resentment toward her. Every time he sees her, he becomes angry again. And later, he guilts himself that he should forgive her. It would help their relationship if he’d focus on something about her that makes him feel good, which would require redirecting his thoughts, one thought at a time.
Many of us believe it’s impossible, or a bad idea, to control our thoughts. And we go through the day reacting to whatever we see happening around us, allowing people and circumstances to tell us how to feel rather than being in charge of our attitude and our response to life.
When we consciously choose our thoughts in order to produce a feeling that we want, and then we purposefully express emotions that maintain a consistent attitude, we’re choosing for well-being.
We can manage our emotions.
Our emotions are goal-oriented activities that we do on purpose to achieve something we want. And feeling sad or happy is not the result of people or circumstances – it’s the result of whatever we’re thinking and believing.
To be in charge of our emotions, we need to name what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, the result it’s getting, and whether it’s the result we want. And if not, what do we truly want, and how can we best get it?
It will help to name our emotions precisely, based on why we’re doing them. Instead of saying, “You make me angry!” say, “I can’t stand it when you don’t do what I want you to do, and I choose anger to try to manipulate you.”
We can’t stop what we don’t know we’re doing. But we can change anything that we’re willing to name.
Why name the name?
Naming the name means admitting that we’ve chosen to do whatever we’re doing, because we wanted the effect it’s producing. It means giving up any pretense that the way we feel is caused by someone else or by some condition of life.
“I’m in this situation because I want to be doing what I’m doing, and I’m solely responsible for the experience that I’m having, and no one is doing it to me.”
This is what it takes to become deliberately conscious. It’s called “getting our servants to obey us,” meaning our mind, body, emotions, talents. Through naming the name, we’re able to summon what we want and dismiss what we don’t want. And we get to participate in life as conscious creators.
We’re valuable because we’re alive.
Another person’s negative communication doesn’t affect our worth or well-being. And it doesn’t need to be a factor in how we feel or respond.
When people strike out with insults or accusations, we’re not their target. We’re only witnessing symptoms of dis-ease in people who are hurting. And their symptoms don’t need to be contagious.
Many people return anger for anger, and hurt for hurt. But we can live differently. By caring why people do what they do, we can hear their pain over their anger, and we can refuse to return hate for hate.
Everyone we encounter is looking for unconditional love, especially those people who pretend they’re not. People who are afraid, impatient, irritable, and who lash out in anger, are really saying, “I need love desperately.”
If we handle our self-worth issues first, we can function in a healthy and inclusive way toward people who may not feel the same yet.