I am writing to remind you of things you already know. You can’t think your way out of feelings. When you try to rationalize someone else’s unskillful behavior, you will often run up against pieces of the puzzle that don’t make sense, and you will be left taking their actions personally or projecting blame. Unless you ask someone about their intent, you can only make assumptions.
Human relations are literally based on a physiological process. Here’s how it works:
1. Someone says or does something that bothers you or an event or circumstance arises that stresses you.
2. Your brain perceives it as a threat and creates a hormonal reaction that you experience as emotion.
3. Then your left brain kicks in and tries to make meaning of this hormonal/emotional response. But the meaning you make will be based on assumptions and colored by your personal history, prejudices, beliefs, and fears, while your feelings were evoked because your brain felt threatened when there was no danger.
4. The answer is to disengage from your inner commentary by grounding in the present moment somatically or focusing your attention on something else because THERE IS NO THREAT.
Imagine getting bitten by an ant. It is a small annoyance, and you feel pain in the moment. You have encountered something in the environment that feels uncomfortable. You don’t immediately start spinning a narrative about why the ant bit you, what kind of ant they must be for lashing out at you that way, or the kind of childhood the ant had. No, you don’t do that because you know that ants bite. They pose a real threat in the environment. What you do is take care of the bite by nurturing yourself in the way that seems appropriate, perhaps by putting some salve on it.
Think of the unskillful behavior of others and distressing events that occur as ant bites. While these events do not pose an actual threat unless you are being abused or neglected, it can be helpful to view them as random discomforts over which you have no control. Distressing events and the unskillful behavior of others are part of the natural world. Just like you (and ants), when people feel threatened, they bite. There is no need to spin a narrative about why they “bit” you (acted unskillfully). You already know the answer—people bite when feeling threatened (from real or imagined danger).
Rather, when feeling the pain resulting from your reaction to another’s unskillful behavior or a distressing life event, name what you’re feeling. Ask yourself what you need to nurture yourself; do that, and return to the present moment. You may feel the need to communicate or set a boundary, but most often the solution is internal, not external. Your feelings get resolved when you allow them to flow through you without resistance/judgment, let the mental commentary go, and nurture yourself. There is nothing to figure out, nothing to solve. It is your habit of dwelling on the ants and ant bites in your life that causes your suffering—not the ants themselves.
Remember, this moment is an opportunity to connect to Love and so to live into the fullness of who you are.
As always, do what best awakens you to Love,
Your Inner Wisdom