When an external trigger creates internal tension, the natural tendency for me is to seek relief in the external world. I turn to music, my favorite foods, cleaning my room, anything to take my mind off the situation. I have recently realized all these channels are merely a distraction to take away from facing the source of my pain. A fantastic friend and I were in deep discussion, and he shared a personal story with me that added a layer of insight into how seeking external relief creates the illusion of healing, when in reality, we are subconsciusly risking forming new attachments.
Imagine your housemate or partner has created a terrible mess in the shared living space and this terribly irks you. You immediately feel a sense of discomfort, unease, and perhaps even disrespect as you witness the result of what seems to be careless action. The majority of us would then take 2 routes:
A) Fall into a thought loop driven by frustration, thinking something along the lines of "How could he/she do this when they KNOW this upsets me?" Allow the emotions to take charge, evoking the ego, and then letting doubt slip in. "Should I even be with/live with this person?" Perhaps this would even inspire an obsessive craigslist search for a new place to live, or a mentally exhausting internal dialogue questioning your compatibility with the "culprit". By sinking into this victim mentality, the "me vs. them" game, we are in a sense now turning up the dial of our own suffering without even realizing it.
B) Reframe the situation as "They probably didn't mean to do this... I'll just clean it up anyways." By playing the cool, dismissive, and over-forgiving role, we run the danger of falling into a cycle of self-sacrificing behaviors in fear of jeopardizing the relationship. Don't get me wrong, it's a great quality to forgive and move on, but it becomes a delicate line when choosing to honor ourselves or to ignore what we are feeling for the sake of external "harmony". In a sense, we subconsciusly sink into the delusion that "external harmony" is more important than "internal harmony".
In both scenarios, we are placing power in the external environment to resolve the internal turmoil. We become dependent on external configurations as a means of validating our internal happiness. Thoughts like, "When I move elsewhere, I will be so much happier. When they realize this and this, things will be so much better," continuously place our own happiness and well-being contingent upon external factors while giving little attention to the internal configuration during this experience. The truth is, even if we do move into a new space, when the same trigger comes up again, the same emotion and thought patterns are highly likely to repeat. Even if your roommate/partner does catch notice and apologize, this might lead to an unsustainable and unhealthy self-conditioning where passive-aggressiveness through self-sacrificing behavior is the only way to inspire behavior change without thwarting the relationship. By replaying this karmic cycle over and over again, with different faces representing the same archetypes, we are doing ourselves a huge disservice and inhibiting our own growth.
When these feelings arise for me, I am learning to remind myself to self-observe without judgment, and to watch my thoughts rather than jump to attaching and acting out of them in a disrupted emotional place (for when we act out of pain-body identification, we tend to project our hurt onto others and say/do things we later regret). I remind myself that these triggers are by no means meant to be interpreted as a character flaw in others, but rather an opportunity to recognize a part of me that is yet unhealed. With this awareness, I can choose to ask myself more questions such as, "Hmm, why does this bother me so much? Where is the root of this trigger? What would the best case scenario look like if this were to happen again? How do I communicate my true desires in a loving way that will help the other understand my perspective without coercion?" This opens up the path for honest self-reflection and creates a fertile ground for us to observe our own reactive tendencies with compassion. From a place of compassion and unconditional love for oneself, we are then able to interact with others in a much more authentic and loving way. When conscious communication honors both parties involved, only then can sustainable behavior change occur naturally, giving way to growth.
"Doing the work" to me is one of the critical components of living consciously. Through recognizing our own capacity for growth by practicing self-observation without judgment, we are able to navigate the realm of emotions much more smoothly without over-identification, and lessen the likelihood of unnecessary friction within ourselves and between others. "Doing the work" does require more mindfulness, but I promise you it's absolutely worth it. Once we exercise the mindfulness muscle, we are re-wiring our own reactive patterns and making it easier for future versions of ourselves to navigate similar experiences much much much more quicker and skillfully.
By owning and taking response-ability, and honoring our ability to respond, we are doing the work not only for ourselves, but on behalf of the collective. Stay awake, stay loving, and most importantly, stay true to your higher self. I believe in you and love you.
Love & Light,
Welcome to the inner musings and mind gems that I've harnessed from the thought streams that scurry across mind. Here you'll find the experiences, reflections, and learnings I feel worthy of documenting as my journey unfolds.