Tag | Belief systems
Just because you make a mistake does not make it okay for people to abuse you. Yet we have a tendency to take abuse if we are in the wrong. When we make a mistake that brings forth anger and abuse from someone, there are two issues at hand: the mistake and the abuse. It is essential to separate them out.
I first became aware of this issue when I was a passenger in my spiritual teacher’s pick-up truck. We were talking about something in depth and he inadvertently cut someone off. The other driver laid on his horn, gave us the finger, and screamed vile nastiness at us. My teacher, not missing a beat, yelled right back at him. I thought to myself, “Wow, that was not very Zen of him.” After a minute, I finally got the courage to point out, “Bart, I think you actually cut him off.”
“Of course I did. Does that mean that I need to take a bunch of crap from him?”
I was so used to allowing people to get away with treating me poorly that I had never considered this. I figured somehow that if I made a mistake, I deserved the abuse. I suppose I can thank my dad for that belief.
So let’s separate out the two parts of this interaction. First, I make a mistake and it affects someone. (Let’s assume it is not a malicious act on my part, but an honest mistake.) Secondly, the person that I affected lashes out and abuses me.
So sure, taking responsibility for my mistake makes sense. But then he abused me. Why should I tolerate such abuse just because I made an honest mistake?
So next time, fight back. Do not take it. Stop people from abusing you immediately. Ask questions later. Zen, by the way, is not passive. No one ever deserves abuse.
Our belief system distorts the way we perceive things and ultimately the way we think. These distorted thoughts generate feelings. Say I have a distorted thought that my boss implemented a new policy to make my life miserable. If I think on this a while, I will perceive it as being real. It will then generate feelings such as anger, hurt, or betrayal. These reactionary feelings feel exactly the same as feelings based on a real experience.
So I may have pure feelings and reactionary feelings around the same experience. Say my girlfriend breaks up with me and I feel hurt and sad. These are the pure feelings. And then my distorted thoughts kick in. I start to make assumptions. It must be because she likes that guy that was at the party the other night (which generates jealousy and anger). Or maybe it’s because I didn’t take her out for dinner enough (which generates guilt and feelings of inadequacy). Pretty soon I am lost in my distorted thoughts and the reactionary feelings that they generate. I have lost touch with the pure feelings of sadness and loss.
Then I figure I am going to express my feelings around this break-up. I journal, go to a support group, and talk to a friend. But all I’m able to access is my distorted thoughts and reactionary feelings. I talk about them and express them- which reinforces them even more. I never get in touch with the pure feelings. But I tell myself expressed my feelings. I just can’t figure out why I still feel so bad.
So the moral of the story is to keep it real. Stick with the facts. Challenge your distorted thoughts- do not indulge them. Get back in touch with the pure feelings and let yourself feel them.
Otherwise, you will be kind of like my cat chasing her tail.
Sure you could. You just tell yourself that you cannot so you don’t have to consider it. When we think of doing something we are drawn to, but is out of our comfort zone, it creates conflict and tension. Plus, there is the fear of doing it. The most convenient way to alleviate the tension and fear is to take away the thing we are drawn to. Such is the death of many possibilities, invitations, and ideas- before they ever get a chance.
If we would just be willing to endure the tension and fear for a little while, some of these possibilities might stand a chance. But many of us have become wimps when it comes to such tension and fear. Much easier to dismiss it with nary a thought.
An unfortunate by-product of this is that we are continually telling ourselves that we cannot do things. Pretty soon we start believing it. Before long, we create a belief system that we are incapable. When you think about it, it is easier to be incapable. We don’t have to take responsibility for our choices.
One way to break this tendency is to own that you that you could do it, but do not want to. Or that you could do it, but it would be really scary. Or you might fail. Or it would be really hard. And so forth. At least this way, you are being honest with yourself. You are giving to yourself straight. And you are forcing yourself to deal with the possibilities that are presenting themselves to you.
Although that is rarely comfortable either. I suppose if you want access to the doorways that are opening themselves to you, you may have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
There are two sides of telling someone your feelings are hurt. On one hand, in order to walk open and honest, you need to express when your feelings get hurt. On the other hand, never lose perspective that your feelings being hurt is your issue. What that person did or said is filtered through your belief systems, perceptions, and past experiences. You are the one that had an issue with it.
The primary things that need to happen when your feelings get hurt is giving and getting information. You need to give them information of what they did or said, how you interpreted it, and how you felt. This will help them understand how you tend to translate things and communicate with you more compassionately. You need to get information about what they intended. In other words, find out what they meant by it.
Since it is critical for both of you to understand that your feelings being hurt is your issue, it is often beneficial to use I statements and take responsibility for what you’re feeling. You might say, “When you said, ‘Why did you do that?’ I took it that you were suggesting that I did it the wrong way. I felt hurt.”
So telling someone they hurt your feelings is actually not the most effective way to tell them they hurt your feelings. Hmm? Better to own how you interpreted it and how you felt.
The challenge is of course that when you are expressing your hurt feelings, it is challenging to own anything. Because after all, your feelings are hurt. It feels like they were mean to you… mistreated you… were insensitive… and whatever else. So there is a tendency to assume that they were.
So why not take a step back and ask them?… “When you said, I was ______, what did you mean by that?”
This was one of the favorite questions my mentor, Bart Anderson, would ask people. The first thing it helped me realize is that another person’s world or reality may be vastly different than my own. Although geologically we live in the same world, our beliefs about it, and therefore experience of it, may be totally different.
Part of Bart’s magic when he interacted with people was that he really wanted to know what it is was like in your world. He was fascinated by your current experience of life. He would inquisitively ask questions to understand your world. Then if you would let him, he would come into your world and experience it with you. This was a little scary at first for people, but if they chose to let him in- they did not feel so alone anymore.
Why do I share this? I offer it as a way to interact with people. These days, it is what people need most. Their world is likely isolated. If you want to connect with someone (and they are open to it), there is no better way than to explore their world. I recommend asking questions like: “What are you excited about?” or “What was that like for you?” You will start realizing that even an experience that you shared with them may have been totally different for them. Most people find it fun to compare notes.
So next time you see someone that fascinates you, allow yourself to wonder what it is like for them. And then have the courage to inquire what it is like in their world. They may be taken back a bit. But if they sense you are sincerely interested, they just may tell you.
Be prepared to explore strange new worlds.