The Two Ugly Truths Behind Your Anger
“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” –Albert Einstein
WHEN YOU TAKE THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
When you take the road less traveled, don’t expect applause, support or understanding from those who chose a more prescriptive way of life. When you take away someone’s excuse for doing something they wanted to do and cannot, you can be certain to encounter violent opposition.
At a neighborhood coffee shop, three men sat chatting over their game of golf when their conversation turned to overseas travel. One man had just returned from a month of backpacking overseas with his wife and toddler child, and he was speaking of how he was already itching to save up money for another trip, and this time it would be for a year of travel.
The man sitting to his right nodded appreciatively, “Good for you man! I don’t feel the pull of overseas travel but I get why that would be an incredible experience.”
The reaction from the other man was something else entirely. He sat red-faced throughout the story, and now, no longer able to contain his agitation, he jumped in, his tone visibly sharp, “I think what you’re planning is incredibly selfish, and it will have destructive impact on your children.
“Take it from me, I’ve been raising children on my own since they were toddlers, and they are now in grade school. Children need to stay in one place. They shouldn’t be gallivanting across the globe. When you’re a parent, you’re supposed to make sacrifices. I think you’re not being at all realistic.”
A comment like that would raise anyone’s ire. But, the traveler looked across the table at the red-faced man and calmly answered, “Hey, I get our lifestyle is not for everyone, but it works for me and my family.”
SHAMING AS A WEAPON
This conversation stuck in my head because it demonstrates a couple of lessons. When we have a violent opposition to something, chances are someone is holding up a mirror and showing the part of ourselves we dislike, and secondly, some unresolved pain is making itself known.
Clearly, the traveler’s friends don’t share his views but the men’s responses were as different as night and day. The response from the first man was pleasant and neutral. The traveler’s values did not threaten his own.
The other man; however, clearly felt threaten. His value was one of sacrifice, and that meant putting the needs of others above his own. The traveler’s story might have stirred up old feelings of resentment. Perhaps due to fear, he rationalized that he needed to place his own dreams on hold in order to be the perfect father. To meet another man, another father, who was doing all the things he might have wanted to do, was to take away all the excuses he built up over the years.
Since his self-worth was on the line, he responded with a most powerful weapon someone in his position has been known to use to reclaim back power. Shaming others. He accused the other man of being selfish and not realistic.
Brené Brown, in her book, I Thought It Was Just Me (Gotham, 2007), made this powerful statement regarding the use of shame:
“Individuals, families and communities use shame as a tool to change others and to protect themselves. In doing this, we create a society that fails to recognize how much damage shame does to our spirit and to the soul of our families and our communities.”
If we do not wish to become party to this, we must be willing to turn the spotlight on ourselves.
THE PAIN BODY: THE ADDICTION TO UNHAPPINESS
For this man, the traveler’s story might have also triggered a past pain that went unresolved, and what Eckhart Tolle calls the pain-body.
“The pain-body is…the accumulation of old emotional pain. It consists of negative emotions that were not faced, accepted, and then let go in the moment they arose. These negative emotions leave a residue of emotional pain, which is stored in the body. If you are not absolutely present, it takes over your mind and feeds on negative thinking as well as negative experiences such as drama in relationships.”
Without awareness, Tolle cautions, the pain-body becomes “the addiction to unhappiness.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO
The next time someone stirs up strong emotion in you, first, simply become aware of it. Pause before reacting. Take a deep breath and ask yourself if they are holding a mirror to some parts of you that you weren’t conscious of. Are they showing you something about yourself that you are ashamed of? What is bringing on the judgment? Did a past hurt go unresolved? Now that it’s brought to your awareness, you can begin to address it.
If you were to find yourself being shamed or attacked for your viewpoints, regardless if you presented them in a respectful manner, know that you cannot control another person’s reaction. Their heighten emotion maybe due to some unresolved issues unrelated to the matter at hand. Like the traveler, having empathy and compassion will also allow you to not get drawn into someone else’s drama.
Your turn: Think now of one person or one recent conversation that raised your heckle? Could it be that it’s your pain body alerting you to something that needs resolving? Is someone holding a mirror to the part of you that went unexamined?
- Being Present
- Getting Off the Couch
- Life Lessons from Sports
- Mental Clutter
- Overcoming Challenge
- Overcoming Sadness
- Positive Attitude
- Positive Self-Talk
- Taking Action