by Jenny Leigh Hodgins
[Listen to this as a podcast here.]
This week, I’ve had some unpleasant experiences with people. It prompted me to reflect on how I responded. Despite realizing intellectually that people are negative because they are unhappy or suffering, I discovered I tend to take things personally, absorb outer ugliness internally, and dwell on that negativity.
AWAKENING TO HABITS
Wow, what an eye-opener for my personal growth. Even when it is obvious that the issue is coming from the other party’s corner, my tendency is to allow their negativity to overwhelm me. This has shed light on some of my deeper, connected habits.
I found that, amid multiple positive things or situations or people, I gravitate toward finding that one negative thing. I find it, spotlight it, analyze it, speculate on it and generally mope about it. UGH.
ADDRESSING OLD PATTERNS
This is directly tied to those old, well-ingrained thought patterns to doubt or slander myself. As I’m currently on a major personal campaign to change my Debby Downer self-talk patterns, having these uncomfortable experiences with others recently has pushed a button. It’s the button I thought I was getting under control.
Working on my thought processes is a major endeavor of itself. I have been consciously working to replace habitual self-slander with the most opposite, positive, affirmative statements possible.
MOVING TOWARD POSITIVITY
When I experience fear or doubt, I practice replacing those feelings with immediate, positive action based on my goals. This is hard, internal work for me, in the darkest, most vulnerable places of my heart. It requires a strategic, bold effort, sometimes from moment to moment, to overcome my critical self-talk and move myself in a positive direction.
I’ve made incremental progress with having a better outlook, and with appreciating versus belittling myself. I became acutely aware that treasuring myself does not come naturally to me, and I have to actively work on self-care.
I’m doing this emotional and psychological challenge while juggling with major financial and business aspects. My plate is full all the time as a single woman entrepreneur launching a second career in her mid-fifties. I’m learning to both swim as a new business owner and balance my life with being a caregiver for my mother.
I’m transitioning from having lived my entire adult life independently, to having downsized to a roommate in a smaller space at my mother’s condo. It’s a work in progress. But I’m adjusting myself to keep growing professionally, as a creator (composer/writer), and as a caregiver, with all its adjoining issues.
DOING THE WORK
I sometimes feel I’m climbing a steep mountain alone, while the air gets thinner, and the terrain grows more difficult. But that’s life, I tell myself. Armed with my daily Buddhist chanting, a kind of active meditation that boosts my spiritual optimism, I forge ahead, step by step.
I re-determine my determinations daily. I take action and knock things off my to-do list. I’ve learned the importance of working through issues with my mother to be a better daughter. I’ve started being more productive with my work-life by prioritizing to allow some downtime for myself.
Ah. Just when I felt I was getting into the groove of riding the waves, a few people with their baggage of problems, knocked me down. I know better than to take on other people’s baggage, and yet, somehow, my old habits resurface lickety-split. I wasn’t quite as stable on that wave as I thought, eh?
TRANSFORMING NEGATIVE INTO POSITIVE
This has boosted my soul-search to find that I have to do three things to generate a positive outcome from this:
The first thing is that I must regularly prepare my life-condition. When I have taken care of myself, I’m in a much better place when sh*$ hits the fan. I can dodge it better.
When I’m strong internally, the external things and people don’t have the power to sway me as easily. That’s a real key to handling difficult situations for me. Empowering myself so that I’m in such a positive, strong state that I influence my environment. Not the other way around.
LET GO OF NEGATIVITY
The second thing I must practice is letting go. I must let go of that magnetic pull that darkness has with my heart, and instead turn toward the light. If there is one negative thing, I must learn to ignore that and use all my focus to appreciate the good things and people.
FIND THE GOOD THERE
Finding the good is a scavenger hunt in the dark, but it leads to brilliant, beautiful treasures of the heart. When I keep my mind clear of the unpleasant, and look instead at what is useful or valuable there, I have the power to transform myself and the situation.
It’s probably one of the hardest struggles for me to simply look away from the negative. But as I’ve begun working on my personal affirmations and using my fears as fuel for action, I’ve already experienced positive results. So now I must expand my attention beyond my internal work, to my environment…
PRAY FOR THE SUFFERING
The third thing I have to do is pray for the happiness of the people spewing negativity in my environment. Happy people don’t dish out crap to others. Suffering people are the ones who stain the pot with corruption. When I take enough care of myself, I’m better equipped to open my heart toward relieving others’ misery.
I don’t necessarily need to do anything or say anything to those suffering. Everyone has their own journey and creates awareness on their own timetable.
PRAYER LEADS TO POSITIVE CHANGE
But I know that prayer for others’ happiness is effective at developing my empathy. Prayer also has the strength to diffuse a tense situation. People can feel what comes from my heart, even if I don’t express it.
TAKE CHARGE OF WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
This brings me full circle back to myself. I can only control myself. I can only change myself, not others. If I take care of myself, pray for myself and others, and practice appreciation, eventually, I make the situation better. I either improve myself, or find the good or value in the person or situation.
CELEBRATE YOUR GREATEST WIN
Being able to create value--especially in the darkest situation or most difficult relationships, is a huge accomplishment. Being positive in easy circumstances is no biggie. Forging my inner life to be strong, wise, joyful and compassionate, regardless of my environment, is the real victory.
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