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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.
Bringing emotions into arguments does no good.
I am not saying we should not have feelings. They are important, but we should not submit to them. They can give good advice but equally they can give bad advice.
Emotions are not factual, and they can change as the wind can change in Dunedin: taking a 360 degree turn within half a day.
I am also not saying that we cannot talk about emotions, there are times we must. What I am trying to explain is that
we should leave our emotions at the door when we enter a confrontation.
We can look back at them, we can reflect on them, but they stay where they belong: having no impact on the conversation. When we manage to do this, we can keep ourselves from falling into fright/fight/freeze mode. Which means we can use our logic in our arguments, we are able to listen carefully what the other party is saying, and we can even find ourselves showing empathy with them.
Moreover, it is not only easier to leave a conversation when it is getting overheated, but it is far more important to recognise when it starts slipping into that category.
Leaving a conversation when the other party is getting more and more emotionally involved gives them space and time to reconsider the topic.
Listening well, I believe, is a key factor in effective communication. It takes time to learn but brings huge benefits.
When we listen to the other person without presuppositions, bias, and our own agenda, we can understand better their point of view, analyse their arguments, and more likely find a solution which satisfies both of us.
A key factor to success is to be persistent in our communication.
We need to learn to say what we think, leaving no place for others to try to figure out what we might have really wanted.
By doing this we represent transparency and accountability, which are essential factors in building trust.
However, it is a one way street: we can use it as a guideline in our perception and evaluations of what others say to us. Implementing this rule can save us a lot of time pondering about what others might have thought when they said something.
People say what they think. If not, it’s their problem.
This approach, although seemingly quite harsh, draws clear boundaries, ousts hidden agendas, and leaves no place for emotional manipulation. Then people cannot blame us by saying: “You should have known what I meant by saying …. “, because we can be sure we acted upon what they said, which is far more factual than thoughts and theories 😊.
When we manage to build up a habit of factual communication we are more likely to identify situations where we are being manipulated, and so, avoid them.
Upskilling ourselves in the area of ‘the dynamics of conflicts’ is beneficial both for ourselves and those around us: using this approach the way we re-act to others changes, which will most likely make them stop and re-think.
An emotionally heated argument is like a whirlpool.
It might only be a gentle pulling force at the beginning, but we quickly find ourselves pulled down to the bottom, deliberately hurting each other with labelling, and saying things we would have never said if our brain was working!
The improvement happens gradually. First we might recognise that the bottom of the whirlpool is close, so we just suddenly opt out: not making the other person cry at the end is a huge step. Then we might spot at an earlier stage where we have just been pulled into an emotional conflict, so we gently row away. And the time might come when we spot it before putting our feet in.
Sticking to the facts – including our emotions – demonstrates not only honesty but also openness: we are keen to solve the problem. We dare to show vulnerability as we talk about our emotions, but we are not willing to go down the rabbit hole of deception and manipulation.
“I know you did not mean it, but when you did such and such it made me feel such and such. Could you please help me to figure out why and what could we do about it?”