If only she would stop doing that, if only he would listen to me, if only the kids would straighten up, if only they understood……..
Then all would be right. That’s what we think, isn’t it? If we could magically change others to fit our ideals, then we would be happy. Of course, we know we can’t change other people and rarely can we change their minds, but don’t we keep wishing?
We hold our happiness out of reach by focusing on everyone else’s words, thoughts and behaviors that differ from ours. We project our issues, problems and suppressed attributes on those outside of ourselves. This is life’s wonderful way of putting it out there for us to see, so that we may become aware, so we may see… yes, that habit is indeed something I need to look at within myself.
The quick fix is to notice when we do this and remind ourselves that what others do and think is none of our business. They are just where they are supposed to be. They are learning and experiencing for their own higher good. Our reactions to them are our key to insights.
The more lasting fix is to become conscious. Watch those thoughts and find the source inside of us. Why does that person and his judgmental thinking bother us so much? Why do you cringe when you hear her opinion? Why does it bother you to see someone who looks out of control?
We have endless opportunities to observe this in action, especially during political elections when opinions are abundant from passion and hope to vitriol and everything in between.
You always have three choices when noticing your unpleasant reaction to others’ words and behavior:
Our first choice, the usual default, is to allow our minds to be gripped by thoughts that cause more stress; such as, “I can’t believe she said that. There is something wrong with her to think that way. Doesn’t she know any better?” or “That idiot’s car almost hit me! He doesn’t know how to drive! He needs to get the hell out of my way! *&@#*!” Staying here, (which can set up our whole day to go this way) causes stress, moves us from wellbeing, and may eventually cause illness.
The second choice is to become conscious of our physical and emotional reactions. Move our awareness into our body and its sensations. Notice our heart, gut, muscle tension, posture, etc. This does two things: it moves us from the stressful train of thought and it allows us the opportunity to relax, take a few deep breaths, and move on mentally.
Third, take the opportunity to back away from the thinking and question it. Question if it is really true. Question why that particular person’s actions have meaning for us. Why does it matter? What does it have to do with us and our own lives?
Just by living, we are going to be triggered. What we do, how we react, and how we allow others to influence us just could define our happiness.