…where it stops, nobody knows!
In a recent discussion, I was asked about the ups and downs of life. Here was my response:
I play a game with the kids called “fortunately, unfortunately” that arose from an old story of a farmer and a horse, sometimes titled, “Who knows?” The game is best played with an odd number of people as one person starts a story with Fortunately… and then the next picks up with Unfortunately… and next to Fortunately… and around and around we go. For example: Fortunately I found a $20 bill on the ground; Unfortunately it was Mexican Pesos; Fortunately I was in Mexico; Unfortunately… The game has no end, but stops when our food arrives or whatever.
This game demonstrates that we don’t know the outcome of any given scenario. The ecology of the situation is too complex. What appears good can turn out bad (think lottery winner that dies of a heart attack from all the excitement) and often what appears bad turns out good (like relationship troubles that force players to learn and grow). The only truth about the Universe that we can agree upon is that it’s expanding and I like to interpret that to mean that there’s always another opportunity ahead. If I hold onto frustration, anxiety, anger, resentment I’ll likely miss some great opportunities.
Changing how we react to situations first requires awareness of how we are currently acting. After analysis, if we see a better way, we begin practicing until it becomes 2nd nature. Being well-nourished (sleep, food, love, laughter, purpose) will really help as our minds are definitely affected by our bodies. But changing how we see the world requires an inner inquiry into our soft-squishy centers that can reveal some painful truths. Accepting them with resolve and without resistance takes a willingness and vulnerability that is courageous to say the least.
To answer your question about how to greet certain feelings, I would start with validating them. Call them out and then question them. Why am I feeling resentment? What’s so awe-inspiring about this? How come that just seems normal? And then practicing non-defensive responses that refuse to run and hide, nor become aggressive. Luckily, our mind can change in an instant. Our body may take a little longer…
Earlier I said the the body directly affects the mind, the opposite is also true. When feeling angry, resentful, or even vulnerable it triggers a stress response that leads us to fight, flight, or freeze. Once we become aware of the ‘negative’ feeling we can work to replace it with something more helpful. I search for compassion when angry. Forgiveness when feeling resent. Courage when vulnerable. Right then and there as I become aware of the emotion so it doesn’t linger and soak in. I can find the more positive response by inquiring deeper into the offender’s motivations as well as my own nature. Almost always it reveals that the offender is not so offensive, and that my nature could use some enhancements. In the end, I’m left thanking what originally hurt me. And around and around we go.