“It is very likely that once you give yourself this little private moment, you may feel no need to respond whatsoever because you feel it through-and-through: This has nothing to do with you, and there is no need to extinguish your energy on their fire.”
One afternoon, on a lunch break, a Modern-Day Buddha was walking down a busy sidewalk enjoying the sunshine. Arriving at a small park, he sat down on a bench and was joined seconds later by a friend who happened to be passing by. In an obviously upset state, she sat down and began to explain how awfully her week had been going. The MDB asked her what had happened. The friend explained that yesterday at work, in front of many of her colleagues, a coworker had unjustly criticized a project she had been working on for quite some time. As a result, an argument ensued and she felt humiliated.
“I give great care and attention in all that I do, and for someone to attack me like that as if they don’t recognize me; well, that’s what hurt the most.”
“I understand that, of course. And that is why I think that your coworker’s actions had nothing to do with you.” replied the MDB.
“Well, how can that be?” she responded, with a slight irritation in her voice. “It was my project after all. I’d been working on it for months!”
“I’ll prove it to you,” he said confidently. “What was your reaction throughout the course of the remainder of the day yesterday?”
“Well, it ruined the rest of my day, and I wound up yelling at my boyfriend…last night…at dinner,” she trailed off.
The MDB waited a moment before responding. He saw the gears beginning to turn in her mind.
“Did your boyfriend have anything to do with why you yelled at him?” he asked.
“No,” she whispered, her head half-bowed, a quarter-smile coming over her face.
He continued, “This may sound strange; but, our ability to communicate to others in a sovereign, compassionate way, independent of our own dramas, is the sole responsibility of each of us to learn and practice. I do not think that we ever express criticism or aggression toward others for any reasons other than our own. Our unhappiness—as well as our happiness—simply cannot belong to someone else. It is not their responsibility. It is ours and ours alone.”
~ ~ ~ ~
The first technique to cultivate awareness and understanding is one of life’s great ironies because it is so elementary, so utterly basic; and yet, it is perhaps one of the most difficult things in the world to do. It is also one of the most profoundly impactful techniques when implemented.
It is very simple: Just pause.
In the most heated moments when your temper, and the violence it is prepared to unleash seems justified, and the heat in your mind feels like it could hard-boil your brain if you don’t defend your point of view by telling someone off…just pause.
It could be a coworker who is being overly critical of your work, a total stranger who just cut you off on the freeway (adding a honk and a single-fingered gesture), a spouse who is picking a fight for reasons unknown to you, or a sibling who is looking for someone to blame. No matter what, just pause. Literally, hit your pause button and step out for a moment. Allow them to have their rant. Allow them to execute their violence (assuming you are not in any immediate danger, of course). Allow them to have it all to themselves.
How is this possible you might ask? How can I allow someone to walk all over me? Simple. It’s because they’re not walking on you at all—not at all. Criticism and intimidation are never truly about the subject at which they are aimed. They are nothing more than the expression of sincere, internal conflict. It’s that simple.
Think about it. Think about the most unhappy and unfulfilling periods of your life. How did you behave out in the world during these times? How much more frequently did you find yourself in aggressive confrontations? What percentage of them did you instigate?
And so, the point of the pause is to give yourself a moment to recall this little nugget of wisdom so that you don’t have to add your own version of gasoline to the fire already burning in the other person’s belly. It affords you the opportunity to understand that you don’t have to internalize or ingest what this person is saying or doing. You just don’t have to take it personally because it’s not about you, and it never was—no matter how convincing the other person’s argument is.
This is not suggesting by any means that you should repress or deny what you’re feeling when someone scares or hurts you. It is simply a suggestion to wait until your perspective is not quite so affected or clouded by the storm. It is a suggestion to wait to speak until you are more clear and capable of seeing the truth. It is very likely that once you give yourself this little private moment, you may feel no need to respond whatsoever because you feel it through and through: This has nothing to do with you, and there is no need to extinguish your energy on their fire. Yep, it’s that simple.
Again, will this be difficult? Well, speaking from experience, if there is room in your life for practicing this kind of technique, it probably won’t be easy, at least not at first. (No worries, you’ll get plenty of chances!) But, once you start to really feel how freeing it is when you stop accepting other people’s perceptions of you, you will become a believer; and everything will begin to change.
- The next time you find yourself faced with extreme criticism or belittlement and your instinct is to expend your energy lashing out…just pause.
- Remind yourself that this person’s actions are NOT about you. Their internal conflict is theirs and theirs alone. You simply do not need to extinguish your energy on their fire.
- If your response is expected in the altercation, challenge yourself to wait until #2 above has fully sunken into your heart and mind (see what lies beyond), and you are able to see the truth more clearly.
Click here for the next installment:
Technique 2—Have the Conversation
(In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting the entirety of this book here. To learn how you can purchase/download this book now, click HERE.)
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About the Author…
Noah James Hittner is an independent Author, Musician, and Entrepreneur from rural Wisconsin who has appeared on both radio and network television. His books and music inspire the mind and warm the heart. To contact Noah, or explore more of his work, visit: NoahJamesHittner.com.