Have you ever felt so upset with someone for hurting your feelings that you didn’t want to ever speak to them again? It’s a common scenario: someone says something that’s rude, accuses you of doing something wrong, or in some way makes you defensive. But does harboring dislike, revenge, even hate, do any good? Does it make us feel any better or does it just create more stress?
It’s important that we acknowledge what we are feeling–all the anger, unfairness and aversion. Repressed feelings means they’ll just come up again at some point, most likely when another situation triggers a similar response. But negative emotions sap our energy, and they can spread like wildfire, like a single match that can burn down an entire forest.
Negativity also creates an emotional bond with the abuser, so that we keep replaying the drama and conflict over in our heads, justifying our own behavior and dismissing theirs. In the process we become a not-very-nice person.
Anger, aggression and bitterness are like thieves in the night who steal our ability to love and care. Is it possible to turn that negativity around and chill out so we can actually wish our abuser well? This may sound challenging, or even absurd, but it can make life’s difficulties far more tolerable.
1. Recognize no one harms another unless they are in pain themselves. Ever noticed how, when you’re in a good mood, it’s hard for you to harm or hurt anything? You may even take the time to get a spider out of the sink. But if you’re in a bad mood or are feeling very stressed, then how easy it is to wash it down the drain.
2. No one can hurt you unless you let them. Hard to believe, as no one actually wants to be hurt but it’s true. When someone hurts us, we are inadvertently letting them have an emotional hold over us. Instead, if someone yells at you, let them yell, it makes them happy!
3. Respect yourself enough that you want to feel good. Deb did this with her father, an abusive and angry man. Deb made the decision that she wouldn’t respond to him with negativity, so she turned it around within herself and began to wish him well. He died recently and Deb was able to feel total closure.
4. Consider how you may have contributed to the situation. It’s all too easy to point fingers and blame the perpetrator but no difficulty is entirely one-sided. So contemplate your piece in the dialogue or what you may have done to add fuel to the fire. Even when he feels he is 100% right, Ed always looks at a difficulty to see what part he played in it.
5. Extend kindness. That doesn’t mean you’re like a doormat that lets others trample all over you while you just lie there and take it. But it does mean letting go of negativity sooner than you might have done before, so that you can replace it with compassion. Like an oyster that may not like that irritating grain of sand in its shell but manages to transform the irritation into a beautiful and precious pearl.
6. Meditate. Meditation takes the heat out of things and helps you cool off, so you don’t over react. A daily practice we use is where we focus on a person we may be having difficulty with or is having a difficulty with us. We hold them in our hearts and say: “May you be well! May you be happy! May all things go well for you!”
Ed & Deb are authors of many books. Deb is the author of Your Body Speaks Your Mind, now in 19 languages. They have three meditation CDs. See more at EdandDebShapiro.com