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Dealing with Upsets and Insults

on June 27, 2012
Lake Michigan Beach

Lake Michigan Beach

Key Points:

  • Take responsibility for your life experiences (ie. upsets and insults are created within)
  • The mind has a tendency to hide what’s really happening (ie. there are other preceding factors more important than the final trigger that makes us blow up)
  • Stop before reacting, forgive, let go and just love

Life inevitably provides us with ample opportunities to learn how to deal with hurt feelings. If we learn to better digest our small upsets, we will know just what to do if a big one comes along. In this writing I illustrate the recipe that I’ve found works to help me restore peace inside. The way most of us learn as children to deal with upsets, tends to leave us with unresolved hurt feelings. We learn to mentally push away the hurt and then distract our attention, by keeping our minds busy with something. This works in the short run, but in the long run it causes a build up of turmoil. It also causes us to become disconnected from our feelings, so that we stop to see the actual cause of the build up of tension and life becomes superficial. Most of us have had melt downs in our lives, and we tend to blame the event that triggered it. What we may not have noticed is all of the smaller things that were bothering us and building in side of us. By the time we approached the event that triggered the melt down, we may have unknowingly been a “bubble about to burst”. Improving our emotional awareness helps to reverse this whole process. It helps us to release the build up of turmoil we’ve collected over the years and it helps us recognize the individual things that cause the build up. In this way we can make better day to day decisions and take control of our stressors.

Even those of us who aren’t “moody” can benefit from this work. Stress is experienced differently by each of us. Those who feel “even keeled” most of the time, may also be disconnected from how they really feel.  They may only notice stress as a sudden need to rush, as impatience/ lack of tolerance or a desire to day dream and indulge in mental distractions or addictions. Others may notice tension or pain somewhere in their body.

Before embarking on this work its important that we learn to recognize that our mind has a mind of its own. Whenever we learn something new, it takes lots of effort. But after we’ve mastered the task, then our mind takes over without any conscious effort from ourselves. This is true for walking, talking, driving a car, etc. Almost all of our daily activities are done robotically, while we are concentrating on something else. This is incredibly helpful when it comes to multitasking, but can be detrimental if we learn an unhealthy habit. This is exactly what happens when it comes to coping with our emotions.  We may learn to disconnect from how we are feeling so well that we can encounter an intense experience and not feel the stress or even noticed that we pushed the feeling away.

We can stuff and distract so quick that we may even fail to see that the most important part of an upset is completely created inside of us, the emotions. If our anger is projected on the trigger, we may think, “that clerk is so mean”, instead of “that clerk behaved in a way that makes me feel angry”. Shifting from blaming the event, to taking responsibility for our emotions is the first huge step towards emotional control. The next, and possibly more challenging step, is learning to take responsibility without blaming ourselves. But as with anything, if we put forth the efforts to retrain our mind, the mind will learn and it will learn to do it automatically.

If done properly, I have found that learning to fully process emotions has many benefits. It helps me return to a genuine happy state without being dependent on things in this physical world to do it, which are eventually all temporary. I have learned to become my own psychologist and solve many of my own unique problems. In this way I am able to contain my emotions instead of spreading them on my friends and family. My friends and family are happier. My body is healthier. My mind is clearer. Best of all, I am able to mingle with people who are intensely suffering, without getting caught up in their problems. Doing this, I can almost always temporarily soothe their pains, and often can see solutions that are not obvious when one is stuck in a problem. I can now clearly see that spiritual values combined with emotional awareness are the key foundation to returning to health regardless of one’s ailment.

Here are the spiritual values that I’ve found to be crucial:

  1. Have a life goal that is bigger than myself and this world. Having my biggest goal focused on a worldly achievement makes me vulnerable. Enjoying this physical world and sharing experiences with people is great, I just don’t make it my end point. My goal is to grow a deeper connection to God and to achieve it, I am learning to develop an inner loving attitude towards all beings, in all situations.

  2. Intend to be honest, helpful and share with others. By focusing my thoughts and behaviors on good intentions and working hard to prove them to myself, I am able to quickly let go of any guilt or shame that comes up when I accidentally make mistakes in life. The only way I know to fully wash away old regrets is by cultivating a life full of good deeds. These good deeds come naturally when I believe in what I do at work, home and play.

  3. Being debt free, so that I may feel truly free.

  4. Staying within my limits, while continual pushing them. Whether its physical, mental, emotional or spiritual, I find that lasting satisfaction comes from self improvement. Whereas comparing myself to others causes an emotional roller coaster ride.

In addition to practicing the above spiritual values, I found the recipe below has improved my emotional awareness and control. It took time, but it has helped me retrain my brain to let go of upsets and insults. I use it whenever I feel upset, have physical tension or pain, when I suddenly feel rushed or find myself dissatisfied with the present moment, because these are often signs that something has bothered me. Before responding to an angry email or phone call, I highly recommend performing this routine. With practice you may notice that you are able to come up with a much more constructive way to handle your upsets, then your first reaction would suggest.

      1. Stop; Put down your work, walk away from your kids, pull over the car or turn off the computer! Stop whatever your are doing that triggered the upset. Shut the door to your room. Remove yourself from the situation before reacting to it and take control by putting yourself in a place where you feel safe.  Go use the bathroom if that is the only way to have some space alone. Wait until tomorrow morning to respond if you can. If you cannot remove yourself from the situation, then come back to this exercise later when you have a break in your day and do your best to keep your lips zipped.

      1. Forgive and Love; Make a mental effort to forgive the person that triggered the upset, no matter how much they are to blame. If it helps you can forgive their soul, that is their true and lasting self. In comparison to all the messed up things happening on this planet, and over all the years of history, does this event really matter? Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. It is to choose happiness over fighting.  But ultimately just “letting them off the hook” is not enough, love is needed to truly heal the heart.  Love is the magical ingredient when directed to the trigger of your upset, that facilitates deep forgiveness.  You know you’ve achieved this when you can be face to face with that person and are able to give them a gentle hug. Bowing in privacy or public is a power spiritual practice of forgiveness, that has worked when nothing else would in my life.

      1. Let Go; Let go. Even if this occurred earlier in the day, it is a past event. Firmly choose to be positive and work towards a better future for you. Make sure to draw limits so that you feel safe in your current surroundings.Recognize the event is over, and any upset you are still experiencing is being created and kept alive in you, by you. Remember to return to your daily inner practices, such as meditation, yoga and meditative walks in nature. Kindly focusing your attention inwards, and spending time with your body is how you soothe your emotions. At some point, you may notice your body relax even though there is still some inner discomfort present. Once you can relax during meditation, then you are ready to enact the “hug test” face to face with your adversary. Just call up that same relaxed feeling you’ve come to know during your meditation and open for God. Until this point anything you may say to “fix” the upset will be polluted by anger that his being held within.  After reaching the “hug test” level of forgiveness you will find the right words come to you effortlessly, if anything needs to be said at all.  When you see it is possible to melt an upset inside of you and be relaxed around an adversary, you may never tolerate holding a grudge again. To keep a fight alive, even if it is hidden inside of you, is exhausting and limits your freedom.

Forgiveness ultimately requires mind control and so a regular meditation is important.  Spend at least 15 minutes twice a day doing a meditation. Pick the safest, quietest and most comfortable space you can find. Make sure there are no potential distractions and when meditating and keep your body perfectly still. Use a timer to alert you and consider muffling it with a pillow or blanket.  Such a practice done regularly will give you the strength to let go, when you really need it.

As a more comprehensive tool, I highly recommend reading and performing the 10 week emotional awareness program that is outlined in “The Presence Process”, by Michael Brown. It teaches a similar technique. It uses a very methodical framework, which is needed to unlearn old emotional coping skills and is much more comprehensive then this brief tutorial.

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