This is a regular series of blogs focusing on creating balance through mindful activities.
Please read my first blog: Bringing Depression to the table, to provide more context.
Have you ever looked at a close friend and thought, “Oh Jesus, here we go, they’re gonna kick off any second!”?
You know exactly how they’re going to react to something before they do, like you can see it coming?
I’m sure if you put your mind to it you can think of more than one person, especially if you include your family.
What about you? Are you brave enough to apply this to your own life? Are there any instances where someone says something that triggers you, and before you know it, you’re reacting the same way you always do? Exploding with anger, bursting into tears, or locking yourself away for a few days.
We repeat these actions so many times, yet days later, when the feeling has passed, we are still surprised with ourselves at how we reacted. It’s like someone went onto Spotify and selected the song “Stuart reacts to someone not saying ‘Thank you’ when he holds the door open”, and on comes the exact song (our reaction) that has played the last 200 times it’s happened; same words, same melody, but maybe at varying volumes.
In the same way a compass always points North, under stress we revert to our own ‘True North’. This could be to scream, fight, lie, run away, or simply be pessimistic.
But what if we could reset that compass to point at humour, or optimism, or empathy, or compassion. If every time someone didn’t hold the door open for you, instead of imagining yourself slamming their head repeatedly in the closing gap, you told yourself, “It’s okay, they must have a lot on their mind.”
You could make a game of it. “Okay, I’m going to stay here and see if three people in a row don’t notice me.”
When you delve deep enough, there are very few things in life totally under our control and, in this case, our reaction is all we should focus on. Because it is our reaction to the situation that needs fixing, not the situation itself. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but for me, it’s about being more present when these situations arise, so I can notice when I feel that sudden shift in emotion. Meditation has been key for me here and if you read the second blog in this series – The ‘M’ Word – I go into much more detail.
But that’s only one piece of the puzzle. I must also reflect on these incidents after they happen. Not to punish myself, but to work out what I can do differently, and to try and leave my ego out of it. I can’t control the way other people think, or the way they behave. But I can take ownership of my actions. If I flip a table over every time my brother winds me up – then he is in control of me. I don’t like the idea of being someone else’s puppet, or letting my past dictate my future. I had to learn to reset my True North.
Think about the areas in your life that trigger you and how you react. If we can learn to reframe these incidents, and the meaning behind them, perhaps we can start seeing a shift in our pattern of behaviour (we’ll dive into reframing in more detail in a future blog).
I’m sorry to break it to you, but resetting your compass is no easy task. You may have had a lifetime of programming up to this point. But the good news is, if you’re reading this, then at least you’re aware of it, and that puts you on the right path.
For me, it’s been a six-year journey, incorporating all the table legs I’ve mentioned earlier in this series, and the many more yet to come.
It doesn’t happen overnight, but one day, you might be standing outside in the rain, holding open a heavy door, letting a party of 12 drunken socialites pass you without so much as eye contact, and you’ll just smile to yourself and think…
Today is a good day.