Irrational Anger, Mindfulness and Growth.

I reckon that we’re all going to meet a few (if not many) people who make us angry. Like irrationally angry. It’s these people who bring out a side of us that we very rarely see, and even more rarely acknowledge. I believe that the reason these people bring such strong emotion out of us is not at all because they’re mean, selfish or just all-round bad people (though they may well be some of those things) – but because they reflect a part of our own personality that we simply cannot accept. The result is often angry rants to friends, defensive comments, going out of our way to prove that they’re the ‘bad guy’. If you haven’t caught yourself at this, there’s a good chance you’ve seen this kind of behaviour in others. It’s when we’re exhibiting this kind of behaviour that we’re right on the edge of dealing with an emotional issue that we haven’t quite been able to get to grips with yet – only it’s so easy to turn what could be an experience of emotional growth and development, into a raging emotional battle. A battle almost entirely fought with ourselves, I might add – though it probably doesn’t feel that way at the time. The way I see it, this is a large part of the reason people say that there’s a fine line between hate and love. In fact it’s often the people we do love who bring out those irrational feelings of anger. I think this should be viewed as a positive thing – an opportunity to acknowledge a part of your life that you haven’t been able to accept, one that doesn’t have to be negative either. It could well be that we need to admit to ourselves that ‘I am good enough’ or ‘I do deserve to be treated better’ just as easily as it could be ‘I’ve always been selfish in this area of my life’. The only way to understand and accept what’s really going on in these situations is to be mindful and to take responsibility for our own feelings. I think we generally know the truth to some degree – it’s more just a matter of unlocking it through understanding. Sometimes we don’t manage to uncover the truth and it stays buried, ready to emerge at a moments notice when the next ’emotional opportunity’ arrises. (I think this is why some people avoid certain situations like the plague – they know what’s coming and they’re trying to run away from the feelings.) Sometimes we achieve truth by yelling and screaming until it eventually comes out – but it’s often easier than that if we’re consciously looking for a solution and not attempting to run or blame others for our feelings.

Being mindful of your feelings is not all that different to being mindful of your surroundings – like making sure to be consciously aware of traffic when walking near busy roads. Much like learning to look out for traffic, you also have to learn how to calm your mind and take a moment to understand what’s going on inside your head before ‘blindly walking out into the road’ – so to speak. I actually find thinking of traffic very helpful for this. Imagine your feelings are big cars and trucks driving loudly around you – then turn off the sound, place yourself in a protective bubble and watch your feelings drive past you and back the other way without the stress of all that noise. This way you can observe the chaos of your emotional state without feeling like a direct part of it.

You’re also going to meet people (younger and older) – who are more ’emotionally experienced’ in certain aspects of their life than you are. These people can make you irrationally angry too, only in my experience they are the people who are easier to learn from – because they generally don’t throw your feelings back in your face. This can be a really positive experience if you see past the potential feelings of jealousy or inferiority you might experience in the presence of someone seemingly more confident or composed than you are. The phrase ’emotionally experienced’ could easily be replaced with ‘tolerant’ or ’empathetic’. So if you meet someone who’s emotional experience is much greater than yours in a given situation that you’re not coping with well – you’re much more likely to receive kindness, care, or at the very least a neutral response from them because they understand what you’re dealing with – and likely have no care to indulge your irrational behaviour.

Try to think of a time that you’ve been treated kindly when you know you didn’t deserve it. It’s one of the most humbling experiences you can have in life – to have someone take all of that anger and pain you’re throwing at them and rather than getting emotionally involved themselves, they give little attention to how rude you’re being and simply acknowledge what you’re really saying to them – that you’re upset – quite likely not because of them and that perhaps you need some help. I’ve experienced kindness like this several times in my life and it’s these experiences that make me want to be a better person more than anything – that make me want to be as good to other people as this person was to me, even though I didn’t deserve it.

My message here is to embrace all interactions, perhaps even try to enjoy the raging battle of emotions life can throw at you – just try not to take it out on other people. Take responsibility for your own feelings – believe in yourself and your values enough to know that you’re not directly responsible for the way others feel. If you find yourself in a situation with someone who is equally emotionally inexperienced as you, take a minute to be mindful of your feelings before you say or do something regrettable. If you’re confronted by someone less emotionally experienced in a particular area than you are, and they’re taking it out on you, don’t bite back or antagonise them – be the bigger person and imagine what kind of an impact you might have on them. Consider how much they might seriously benefit, learn and grow from not being chewed out for being an asshole, and simply being understood – or at least listened to.

Thanks for reading!

Sean ❤

Must & Want. What’s the difference?

I’ve realised that in life I never seem to enjoy or be satisfied by anything that I feel I MUST do, even if it appears essential. Events and situations can be subject to incredible and rapid change, so surely my potential expectations should be too. I think that the feeling of need or desperation to do something is often created by a fear of not being good enough, so I believe that even if something I am doing is necessary, I’m still doing it because I want to – at least in some way, because of where it will lead me in the future. I find thinking like this both empowering and productive!

If what I really want to achieve in the long term means that, in my current emotional state, I should spend an hr sitting on my ass watching T.V to collect my thoughts or take a break, then sit on my ass I shall.

I think the real insight here, comes from understanding the difference between what is helpful to us, and what is actually just an excuse we make to self sabotage. I’ve never felt more focussed, determined or capable than when I’m being kind and really listening to myself.

Thanks or reading.

Sean. ❤

Fear of Failure & Not Being Good Enough.

I often think that a fear of failure or not being good enough is the root cause of so many problems we face. If we’re afraid to fail then we are essentially afraid to do, or at least afraid to do anything meaningful. This doesn’t mean to say that we should put ourselves in situations we don’t want to be in, but I think that people often struggle to differentiate between what they don’t want and what they are too afraid to pursue.

I’ll give you an example of a situation I’ve been in where I was in a job that I didn’t like and I felt like I was going absolutely nowhere with it, which was frustrating and depressing. The reasons I didn’t liberate myself from this position were numerous, but the one that stands out the most for me was my fear of not being good enough, which directly correlates with a fear of failure. So I found myself in a position where I felt directionless and even though I tried pursuing hobbies or other activities outside of work in the hope that they would lead to something – in the end I felt like I was right back where I started, like there was no hope of anything ever being different. Sounds extreme I know, but fear can do that to you – it can cause an anxiety that makes irrational thoughts feel frighteningly real and inescapable. Essentially I became so afraid to fail that I ended up subconsciously self sabotaging and ending up in the same place over and over again. Fear creates the anxiety and the anxiety causes us to refuse change, which I believe is our instinctual way of protecting ourselves. The trouble with this is that it’s pretty easy to get it wrong, owing to the immense pressure we place on ourselves. So even if we truly desire change – when we’re afraid, what we truly want becomes distorted. I desperately wanted to get out of the job, but my fear held me back. It took me a long time to realise that I was convincing myself that I couldn’t do better because I was too afraid to try.

The point of my example is that I believe if you’re going to successfully break away from a situation where you feel stuck, first you have to accept why you’re stuck in the first place. I think a lot of people focus on the consequences of being stuck rather than why they are stuck. For example; a consequence of being stuck might be hating your job and/or the people you work with. Why you are stuck is more likely to come down to your lack of self belief and the self-destructive attitude that goes with it, but all you focus on is how much you hate going to work each morning. I think the hard option here is to spend time understanding the situation and digging for the real reason you’re unhappy. Unfortunately, I think it’s much easier to choose to believe in our own excuses – like the job is beneath us, our colleagues are assholes, or ‘that’s just how it is’. Whatever the excuse, I think we have to consider that there is often an underlying emotional cause – like being afraid that you’re not good enough, that you won’t fit in, and thus making it so.

It’s so important to be able to admit to yourself that you’re afraid to fail or that you don’t think you’re good enough. The joy of putting yourself outside of your comfort zone is the learning process involved – win or lose, I don’t think you can ever truly fail, because you learn something about yourself, what you need to improve on and what works well for you. Fear of failure is naturally built into most of us to some degree but I think the main difference between people who succeed and those who don’t even try, is all down to how much they let the fear control them and dictate their actions. The way I see it, you are ALWAYS good enough because you are you, there’s only one of you and you are the only real measure of your own success. Sure, other people can appreciate and recognise what you’ve done or what you stand for but they’ll never deeply understand everything that it means to you and your own journey. Like I said before, you can NEVER truly fail either, because with every failure comes an opportunity to learn and grow. What do you think?

Thanks for reading!

Sean

Respecting People As Individuals

Firstly, I’d just like to say that I believe respect to be the core foundation of any positive relationship and I also believe that respect, especially for a person as an individual, is incredibly undervalued in society today. I’d also like to mention that everyone is different, and as a result we can’t possibly expect to get along with someone if we only like and respect them for the labels we place on them or the assumptions we make about them.

Respect is an interesting concept. You can show respect for someones abilities with words like “That was very impressive, well done!” and really mean it, however this doesn’t necessarily mean that you respect them as a person, or individual. Respect for someone as an individual means accepting who they are, who they might be, what they do and what they might do in the future. Obviously it’s hard to know all of these things for sure, which is why respecting someone is essentially like having faith in them. Now you could be wrong about a person and they might, in your eyes, change for better or worse. This is not of major importance because if you respect yourself then you can accept that you could be wrong, things might change and that it’s ok either way.

Respect is very give and take. You’ll often get respect from those whom you respect and vice versa. The trouble we often run into is expecting or perhaps demanding respect without first offering it. Giving respect to someone as an individual – having faith in them – can feel a lot like giving the benefit of the doubt. It doesn’t matter what experiences you’ve had in the past that might cause you to make assumptions about a person – allowing your assumptions to dictate the way you treat them is, in my eyes, incredibly disrespectful. I’ve seen it a lot between children and adults, where the adult will demand respect from the child in a totally disrespectful manner. These conversations tend to manifest from the assumption that ‘this is how you speak to children’ – as if there’s some sort of formula for dealing with a child like you were mixing concrete or calculating your tax return. I’ve often found that this demand for respect comes in varying forms of verbal and/or physical abuse, and the resultant behaviour from the child is either retaliatory or mindlessly obedient – neither of which I would view as healthy. I’ve seen it between couples, where one party is being totally unreasonable or difficult and just expecting the other person to know what they want without explanation. The response is, again, retaliation of some description, or mindless obedience. In both examples the underlying problem is the same. You have a child who is responding to a lack of respect with, you guessed it, a lack of respect, or perhaps they are too afraid to confront the disrespect and simply accept it. By doing this they are essentially admitting to themselves that they don’t deserve to be treated better. Having been a child in this situation, I know that sometimes you feel powerless to question things so you just accept the situation and the baggage that goes with it. Exactly the same applies to the couple, only in my experience irrational expectations are often caused by feeling disrespected in the first place – interesting thought huh?

In regard to these examples, my solution consists of two parts; firstly you have to respect your own feelings and values. I believe this is absolutely imperative to being able to respect others. If you don’t respect these things, or you compromise your values, the result is generally just giving in and quietly accepting the situation as mentioned in the example. If you only respect your own feelings then you end up retaliating in an attempt to defend yourself and your values – which brings me to part two; respecting the feelings of others. If you can do this then you put yourself in a position where, even though you may feel the desire to retaliate, (chances are they’ve said some hurtful things), you are able to give them the benefit of the doubt and allow them accept that their feelings are their own. Whether you want to or are able to help them or not, your respect for their feelings will, at the very least, never worsen a situation. For couples it generally only takes one person to break the negative back and forth, and as time progresses I think you learn to help each other, even when you’re both having a bad time.  In my experience with relationships of any kind, the ones that last do so because mutual respect is present. If one party in the relationship believes themselves to be above (or perhaps below) the other, a bitterness tends to develop between them that will inevitably end the relationship, often not on good terms. In the case of children (at least young children), I think it can be different and more difficult because the responsibility lies primarily with the adult to initiate a respectful interaction. You can’t teach someone to be truly respectful by demanding respect disrespectfully – am I right?  I’d love to know what you think.

Thanks for reading!

Sean