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So, how to let go of all those past offences that still keep on bothering us?
I believe the breathing technique is just like a band aid, it helps at that immediate moment, but it does not provide a long term solution.
the pain originated in all these grievances
as backpacks full of rocks we carry on our back daily.
They slow us down, steal our energy, divert our focus – we need to get rid of them.
We must learn to leave our bags behind.
Before we start complaining about how badly some others have treated us, let’s take a look at ourselves from an outsider’s perspective. How many times have we deliberately or accidentally hurt others? With the tone of our voice, with a degrading remark, by not listening carefully to them.
Maybe it is time to reconsider our “greatness”, and start planning to ask for their forgiveness. A simple “I am sorry for what I said the other day” would do.
We might be surprised what changes it can bring in them!
Recognise: we again changed how we react – we may have left the scene of confrontation feeling victorious, this was the “norm”, but now we humble ourselves and admit we were wrong.
How would it feel if someone did this to us –
asking for our forgiveness for their wrongdoings?
Of course, a positive answer for our intention to gain forgiveness is not expected.
We should never believe that everyone will forgive us everything, it’s just simply not the case. However, the good news is that
we did our part in seeking reconciliation and restoration,
and it’s now their turn. Which means, we did what we could, and
now we can let it go.
We can leave behind our guilt about those offences we committed against others. This was another backpack 😉. We can leave this one because
it is their choice whether they forgive us or not.
And if they choose not to forgive us, it’s their decision with its own consequences: they are going to carry their own backpack containing their own offences.
So, how to deal with our own offences backpack, how to leave it on the kerb?
Forgiving those who have hurt us, even if they do not ask for forgiveness. For our own sake!
It our choice to forgive or not, but when we forgive, we can leave the extra weight and pain we are carrying behind.
Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling.
When we declare that we forgive, we make the first step to re-write our attitude towards that situation and that person. As it is rooted deep, it will take time to alter our instant reactions.
Old attitudes will try to sneak back at least a few times, demanding attention and the refocussing on the pain we suffered when we were hurt. Now, we can simply reject this desire by repeating to ourselves “but I have forgiven”.
Although it is a process, the time will come when we do feel forgiveness: the relief of not carrying the backpack of stones, the feeling of freedom from pain, guilt and resentment.
The most beautiful part of it is that
we do not need them to forgive them.
We do not need to tell them, we talk to ourselves: it is an inner process within us.
And because of this we can deal with the pain we suffered from those who have already died, or who we are no longer in contact with.
We just shout out our decision to forgive, and then stick to it. It will bring us joy.
Check out where you have started off: Let’s build resilience!
Many might think that emotional conflicts are more likely to happen in households, but they are widely prevalent in workplaces as well. Being reprimanded for things that are outside our control or are not our job assignment, experiencing others pouring out their own frustration onto us, a boss not listening to us but jumping into presuppositions about what we are saying (but we are saying what we think!), and many more.
When we know who we are and know how to control our emotions in heated situations to ensure they do not take over (breath!) we can dodge many of these fights.
We come to understand that most of these outbursts are not about us.
The teenager having a tantrum is, I believe, just seemingly unhappy with us (the boundaries we set up for them).
What really bothers them is the feeling of incapability and hopelessness.
At least this is how I remember my teenage years. It is true for adults as well 😉: every outburst we have represents our inner frustration, the fact that we have no control over what’s happening to or around us.
What we do have control over though is our reactions: while a tantrum likely won’t solve the problem, running away to a quiet place and calming ourselves down, breathing slowly, can highly improve our chances of finding a rational answer.
When we erupt like a volcano it is never about the other person we pour it out onto. It is solely about us.
So when someone else is acting like a “2-year-old having a tantrum” what should we do? Tap their head and leave them alone to settle down 😄.
Is it about us? No: the underlying issue might be but the emotional upheaval “add-on” has nothing to do with us. And, as we discussed, it is useless to engage in a conflict like this, so let’s provide them an opportunity to have another go at solving the issue later, in a respectable manner.
This leads to quite a painful area:
If I am offended, it’s my problem.
It shows that I need to work on myself.
It took me many months to accept this, so I do not expect anyone to swallow it easily.
On the other hand, I found this one of the most helpful guidelines.
- If we take offence and the feedback we have been given is valid, it means we need to improve.
- If we take offence and it is not valid, then we need to figure out why we took offence when we shouldn’t have. Quite simply, if it is not valid we just should shake it off, and move on: it is not about us, it is about them as they outpour their inner frustrations onto us.
Even if it sounds logical and clear, it is not always easy to do. However,
the less offence we take on, the more time, energy, and motivation we have left to use for other positive things.
Every situation where we get emotionally hurt can deeply affect us not only mentally, but also physically. When it can push us into fright/fight/freeze mode it will trigger its physiological symptoms (elevated heartbeat and blood pressure, more frequent but shallow breathing, etc). To stop this, we need to get our “brain” back by deep, slow breathing.
every time we recall these painful events, the symptoms come back, we re-live the situation, emotionally and physically.
Which means, every time we ponder upon past hurts we wound ourselves again, and again, and again – and it all has a negative effect on our bodies and mind.
That’s why we should learn to let these things go, to deliberately avoid recalling them and learn how to deal with them when the unwanted memories appear in our mind.
Who’s in control?
One of my most painful revelations came when I realized that the source of my ongoing problems with my bosses in my frequently changing jobs was me.
Of course, at the beginning I started with blaming others (especially them), the circumstances, the workload (too much or too small), desperately trying to justify I had nothing to do with how they treated me. I was absolutely sure it was not my fault in any way that they showed barely any respect for me. Well, at least, that was how I saw it for quite a while – changing jobs and hoping to find peace.
Then one day someone asked me a question. I have no memory who it was or what they asked, but I still can recall the feeling of being punched in the stomach when I realised that it was all my fault.
My bosses treated me the way I let them treat me.
I did not respect myself, I had fully submitted myself to them (in working matters), and I was surprised at the lack of their respect.
When we act like a doormat we will be treated like a doormat.
Even if we are not treated like that, we likely would perceive it, simply because this is how we see and evaluate ourselves. Good news is we can change it –
we cannot change how they speak to us but we can change how we react.
I am not saying it would be as quick as it was for me, but we do have power over what battles we choose to fight, and whether we engage in emotionally heated ones.
As we teach our children about healthy boundaries and the right to walk away we also might start practicing it 😄.
Reflecting back on my own story, I believe we are wired to find someone or something else to blame first when things don’t play out well. It takes courage to humbly admit when it is our fault, but this is a key step in the process, because now we can focus on the how.
Whenever we find ourselves in an unexpected and/or emotionally involved conflict it seems we cannot think clearly. Which is true, we cannot think because our brain has switched into fight/flight/freeze mode. This is when the reptilian brain and the limbic system takes the control over, so the neocortex – where logic, planning, self-control are situated – switches off.
No wonder we cannot think.
However, we switch this back on when we pause as we have started the process of rewiring our subconscious. To turn our brain on we first need to turn our survival mode off by slowly breathing through our nose down to the bottom of our stomach. Then we can think, evaluate our situation and can choose a different response to it. It is absolutely fine to walk away to a secure place and avoid immediate confrontation.
Leaving the situation does not mean acknowledging the other party is right.
Walking away simply means acknowledging that it makes no sense to continue the argument.
The conversation can be resumed at a later time when both parties have their logic switched on. Undoubtedly, it is a choice that is hard to make, as deep inside we carry the false impression that leaving an argument means defeat.
However, stepping out of a fruitless conflict requires courage, but implies the benefit of creating a future chance to solve it. Staying in a heated conversation when both parties are throwing smelly buckets of emotionally rooted garbage is a loss, for both of them. Even if it does not seem like it at first: one usually leaves feeling victorious and the other defeated. However,
winning that battle might bring ruin long term:
the unconscious feedback we get from that “victory” could push us to resolve all our conflicts that way, and we find ourselves fighting most of our battles using emotional pressure. This way worked before, so we keep on using it. But
it will damage us.
Over time we might become “what we are”, like a puppet driven by uncontrollable emotional eruptions. Finding our way back to “who we are” would take a long period of painful corrections in our thinking.
Was winning that argument really a victory?