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May 14, 2013

Not Drinking The Poison

If your heart is a volcano, how shall you expect flowers to bloom?

 ~ Kahil Gibran
In my last post, I talked about who I want to be when facing difficulties and resentment. It is slow to implement, but I have been employing the idea of thinking how the optimal version of me wants to respond to a situation and trying to act that way. I ask myself, "How would the person I truly aspire to be handle this?" This has helped me greatly in many scenarios and kept me more grounded more often.
However, there are still (and probably always will be) those situations where I lose it or don't practice my habits. More often these are times where my obsessive-thinking and ego-driven qualities take the wheel. As I imagine most of us do, there are times I just want to be upset and my brain is very helpful in those endeavors. I'll replay the thought over and over, making myself feel threatened, even when I'm not.
The toughest ones are when the rational side of my mind understands and discerns the item as a non-issue. Often I've not even been wronged. However, there is a primal emotional child in my limbic system that wants to throw a tantrum and scream how I've been hurt. The irony is I've not really been hurt, but the emotional response I have actually hurts. My head and my heart are not in sync.
Fortunately, my head still gets to control my behavior. So, while the pain is real (deserved or not), I can act as a reasonable adult and keep my childish tantrum-spirit at bay. As a good friend (and clinical psychologist) says in his book, this is the moment where you say "Ah, pain; yes, I recognize you." Then do the best you can while the time heals the hurt.
However, something else that I think helps (besides writing down thoughts to get them out of the brain) is forgiveness. Now, I have to be careful here because remember, I've not actually been wronged. To tell the person he or she is forgiven when no foul has been committed would be picking a fight and quite sanctimonious on my part. Imagine if I am jealous of someone's new car, which develops into an internal angry obsession, and then I go tell that person I forgive them for having a nice ride. Wow! What an ass I'd be. But I'm sure we've all done something close to as silly at some point in our lives.
Yet, the same steps as forgiving are taken in such a case to get past the anger of non-wronged pain. Forgiveness is a letting go and a self-removal of authority over the situation. More importantly, forgiveness is something given freely, not something conditional. Often I hear people claim they will forgive an offender when that person says he or she is sorry. That's not forgiveness; that's a grudge in the guise of etiquette.
No, true forgiveness is given even when the other person doesn't deserve it and whether or not the offender shows remorse. I believe remorse is more of a factor for measuring punishment, which is not part of the forgiving process because I must still be claiming some level of authority if I am weighing in on someone's punishment. (I could discuss the difference between a consequence and a punishment too, but that's for another time.)
Thus, in the event where the person I must forgive has done nothing to harm me, and I am choosing to be upset for whatever internal tantrum reasoning -- it is at this time the act of forgiveness (the process it takes) is vitally important. I let go. I remove myself as a judge over the situation. I worry not that the object of my ire may never even know I have been hurt. It's not about them; it's about what I need to do for myself.
At the end of the day, this all gets wrapped up in the qualities of love. Whether parental love, spousal love or brotherly love, all carry the same defining characteristics. One of the most-significantly overlooked one for me is love keeps no record of wrongs. It's a tough one to put into practice, and I have to revisit it a lot; however, the peace I get from putting down the score pad has been life-changing.

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