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Sunday, June 7, 2009

When Things Go Bad, Examine Yourself First

All of us suffer setbacks. It takes a lifetime of unconscious behavior to shape and acquire your ego, recognizing it and eliminating it takes time and a daily commitment. Despite your best efforts, you may suffer an emotional setback from time to time.

Relationships with family and friends are the breeding ground for negative and hostile emotions. Those who profess to love us the most tend to be the ones that can "push our buttons" and they will test you.

I have to ask you to accept a premise here. I'd like you to pause and reflect on this statement.
"All negative emotion is grounded in fear." Do you agree or disagree with that? When I speak of fear, I am talking about the emotional and irrational fear of your ego. (Some fears are quite healthy and real, they have allowed us to survive.)

The fears that your ego conjures up are virtually all irrational. They are the result of your perceptions as they are checked against your belief system. So about the time someone says to you, "that remark you made was callous and insensitive." You have a couple of choices. Agree and disarm the speaker. Walk away. Or disagree, feel a negative emotion that leaves you irritated or angry, offer an explanation, or launch a counterattack.

Is there a fourth option? Yes of course there is. It takes practice and you prepare for it in advance. It is rehearsed, risk managed.

Anytime your ego perceives a threat, cynicism, labeling, judging, diminishing, or "one up" behavior and you feel a negative emotion, try to recognize it immediately. Once you recognize that negative emotion, you will know immediately that you fear something.

Let's suppose that someone has called you a "dumb ass" in a way that you recognize as serious rather than harmless kidding around or teasing.

Ask yourself, "what do I fear?" Do I fear the impending confrontation if I launch a counterattack? No. Do I fear this person? No. Do I fear that I really am kind of stupid and that this person knows this? Maybe. Perhaps I have bought into a belief system wherein my family and friends used to say similar things. They are no smarter than I but they subjected me to this type of verbal abuse. You have made an agreement with yourself. You have acquired a belief. You have told yourself that even if I am stupid, I am never going to let some one degrade me this way again. Your ego and belief system have you painted into a corner. Chances are good that under this set of circumstances that things are about to escalate.

Many of us call that striking a chord or a nerve. We cannot control our exterior world and some of the things that are told to us but we can control our reaction to those nasty slices of life when they happen.

Let's suppose you have a belief system, an ego, that has prepared differently. You simply have rejected the notion that you are less than or greater than anyone else in terms of intelligence. You have decided to risk manage your emotions. You have made an agreement to accept this as true. You have also made an agreement with yourself not to take anything personally. You accept that what others say is just an opinion, a reflection of their belief system. It has nothing to do with you even when it is directed at you. Your response under this belief system is entirely different. You are puzzled. No emotion comes to the surface. You think through it. You do not react. You suddenly realize the comment has nothing to do with you. It is merely a reflection of someone who is entitled to their beliefs true or not. You do not feel diminished. You do not respond in a way that escalates the situation.

You are in control. And in a very real way, you win. You will not feel ashamed or guilty for not engaging in a verbal assault contest. You will leave your hostile judgment maker in a much better frame of mind than he/she will be in and you will not have to utter an apology later on. Your recovery time is virtually non existent wherein your adversary may dwell on it for hours and days.

That is the power of self examination and emotional preparation. You are not a hostage to negative emotions. And even if you acquire some mastery over this skill, you can always expect setbacks. They will pop up. When things go to hell, apologize, examine where you went wrong and make the adjustments. Seek first to understand then be understood. Over time you will find yourself in much happier space. You will suddenly realize that being happy is far more important than being right-and unfortunately those two things are often mutually exclusive.

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