October 5, 2013 at 4:59 am #43234
People around me are stressed, anxious, frustrated, angry, worried….
I don’t mean to judge, but I sometimes feel its unnecessarily so. None of the things they sweat over need to be approached with so much negativity. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be talked about and talked through, but it could be approached more lightheartedly, without the need for so much driving for control, grasping, and clinging.
I try to be compassionate and empathetic to their point of view, but that approach seems to be met with even more disdain as if, in their eyes, I’m not appreciating the gravity and seriousness of the situation. My openness, lightheartedness, and willingness to talk it through in a calm and collected manner seems to bring about even more stress, anxiety, and frustration to the point where I start to doubt myself and begin to get sucked into their neurosis.
I see where they’re coming from. I’ve been there before. But I don’t ever want to go back.
Does anyone have advice on how to avoid getting sucked into these black holes?October 5, 2013 at 7:19 am #43235KimballParticipant
Last week, for the first time, I walked away from an acquaintance who went on a black-hearted tirade. In doing so, I told him that I chose to limit my exposure to negativity. Interestingly, to me, he immediately cooled his jets by half and requested that I not hold his tirade against him forever. I told him that I would not.
Walking away was probably not the most empathetic tactic, but he vastly exceeded my boundaries and I enforced them and avoided his ‘black hole’ of anger and negativity. The silver lining was that:
— it felt pretty good to have an experience that illustrated the effectiveness of personal boundaries, and
— my acquaintance benefitted from my action because I did nothing to fuel his rage, he cooled down, and perhaps he was left with a good example to ponder rather than the subject of his rage.October 5, 2013 at 7:54 am #43237
Thanks Kimball. I appreciate your response.
Setting boundaries seems like a really good approach. I tend to avoid conflict of any kind and so it becomes difficult to express when someone is making feel uncomfortable or giving off a “bad vibe”. I don’t want to walk away from anyone and sometimes (in professional circles) that’s not an option. I’d much rather help the person “chill out” because I know they have a lot of potential in them, goodness, knowledge, and positivity within in them, but it doesn’t shine through and get’s masked by past pain, hurt, anxiety, and worry.October 5, 2013 at 8:44 am #43238
It seems to me that you’re growing your tender shoots of compassion. As you continue to give what you can, you’ll naturally become more skillful. Notice how you see the unnecessary and impermanent conditions in those beautiful beings around you? That’s a far distance from the judge that used to declare them ugly. Remember to be patient with yourself, it takes time to develop “skillful means”. Said differently, once we see that others suffer needlessly, their pain sustained only by habitual momentum, helping people emerges as an art. Like all art, it takes practice and time to become proficient.
One thing to keep in mind is that we have very different views of the world, and our experiences within it. This means that some truths are unhelpful to those around us. For instance, if my wife burns her hand on the stove, it is not helpful for me to say “the pain is impermanent” or “when we are skillful at cooking, we don’t burn”. She needs cream, bandages, a hug, etc. Said differently, when people are in emotional pain, we can see it is only habitual momentum, but they cannot. Telling them, for instance, that they create their own pain can be invalidating, create more tension in their mind.
So what we can do is simply accept their suffering isn’t permanent, and leave it at that on our side. Suffering is a great teacher, but only when our eyes are open, when our heart has the space to look with curiosity. So we can invite them to look at it, such as saying “wow, that sounds painful, what’s that like for you?” When we ask questions about their side of things, we invite them to unpack their experiences into the shared spaciousness we help maintain. As we hear their stories, accept their attachments have real gravity, and intend on opening up the space, our heartsong becomes more wise, more healing for both.
This happens both actively, such as asking questions to others about what effective helping looks like, as well as passively, as our unskillful attempts cause us some pain which helps us to grow. This is why patience is such a virtue along the path of awakening, there is much sleep in our eyes… so patience with human suffering in ourselves and others remains consistently needed, even when we can see clearly. It reminds me of a quote from Children of Dune. “Its one thing to gain control of our perceptions, its quite another to gain control of our desires.”
MattOctober 5, 2013 at 9:23 am #43241
Thanks Matt. It’s a challenge being compassionate with someone as they sling their arrows of stress, anxiety, and frustration at you. You’re just trying to help. Moving things forward. Find a resolution to the problem. Better understand the situation and the arrows keep flying as if you’re just aggravating the situation and the only satisfactory response from you would be “Yes, you’re absolutely right, it’s the end of the world and we should just stop trying.”
So much easier said then done to be patient, compassionate, understanding, and listen to so much pain and suffering. It can be exhausting. It’s taxing on your reservoir of energy.October 5, 2013 at 10:47 am #43242
Yes, sitting patiently can require some energy from us, such as actively letting the words and arrows sling through us and just breathing, noticing our own ripples. Consider that “figuring it out” might be your agenda, not theirs. This can quickly become exhausting, as though we have some responsibility or personal desire to see them untangle their suffering. We have to let that go, we can’t force a bud to bloom, nor a being give up their suffering. If I were to guess, based on what I know of you, most of your energy might become drained by trying to inspire mindfulness by drawing attention to the knot of suffering they are experiencing.
Perhaps a visual that might help is the way we work with people that have seizures. We don’t try to stop their muscles from firing, we clear out the sharp objects around them. Said differently, we don’t try to stop suffering by pushing against it… as we learn to breathe in and out mindfully off the cushion, the arrows, words, experiences are perceived as empty from our side… much like the ripples in our mind on the cushion are empty. From that place of freedom and space, the untangling happens naturally, like breathing out… some effort, but joyous, simple.
For instance, your stuck patterns don’t ripple in my mind. I breathe your words in, and breathe out into concepts as the wind passes through. Then, breakthrough or breakdown on your side doesn’t create impact, ripples… on my side I am tending my mind skillfully, saying what appears correct without agenda. Tiring only happens when we struggle and resist the wind, the breath, forget to let go, forget to keep moving, take pride in “helping John”, trying to be brilliant, etc. Love and light are part of our nature, so we really can just breathe in and out. Tend dutifully and let go.
As far as the “yes, its the end of the world, we should just give up”… perhaps you’re approaching them with problem solving when they are still too emotionally charged to be ready for that. Hug, nod, soothe, gently hold their hand, and let the whirlwind blow itself out. If you toss new ideas into a tornado, even a piece of grass can cut through a telephone pole.
MattOctober 5, 2013 at 1:41 pm #43244
When you’re hired to figure things out and solve problems, it’s hard not to react. There’s external pressures – time, money, resources. Things need to get moving and in order to do so, there’s got to be a space for dialogue. Learning needs to take place – on both sides. Information needs to be exchanged. Questions need to be asked. Difficult questions. Hard questions. I’m not here to get anyone. I’m not here to undermine anyone, but I do have a mission to accomplish, striving for something bigger and greater than all of us. I wish I could approach it with even more compassion and more understanding, but time and money are ticking. People get attached to their work, they identify with it, it becomes their baby, I’m not attacking them personally, they’re good people, but the work needs scrutiny and needs to be examined. I need the full picture and I need someone to explain like I’m a two year old and I would appreciate some patience from them as well.
Apologies for the rant. It just feels good to get out sometimes.
But I hear what you’re saying. It’s not my agenda and it’s not my problem. I’m just the scapegoat. The man who has been sent it to do someone else’s dirty work and what else could I expect but a backlash?
I need to step back. I’m a bit in over my head. I know what needs to be done, but perhaps I’m not the one to do it. There a more powerful people who get paid a lot more who have a lot more training than I have to resolve these issues. I tried, but I’m reaching the end of my tether. If a ship is sinking, as a passenger, I can’t step onto the water and keep it afloat.October 5, 2013 at 2:46 pm #43246
Without knowing more specifics about the actual situation, it is difficult to connect to the tangle. Often when we look at ourselves as the genesis of the solution, it creates unnecessary baggage. For instance, if someone were to give you 5 bucks to buy an item, and when you get to the store, you find out it is a 7 dollar item, it might seem that you are the one to have the crisis. Its not your crisis, the forces of karma work through us, but we are only their carriers. We didn’t set the price, its not our desire to have the item, we are only giving our service.
Geshe Michael Roche wrote a book called “The Diamond Cutter” which helps bring mindfulness to business. It might be something you connect with, it was one of the introductory books on Buddhism for me, and bridged well into the deeper teachings.
One thing that comes up a lot, in western minds at least, is “yeah, spiritual growth is great, but I have business to attend”… as though business is something unique, demands us to act without our truth for the sake of profit or expansion or because of the social climate. We are the change we wish to see in the world, not the victims of other people’s structures. 🙂
MattOctober 5, 2013 at 3:48 pm #43249Alexey SunlyParticipant
It sounds to me that you are ready to become a performance enhancement coach, John 🙂 As a coach (business, life, performance, sports, etc.) you must know how to deal with these kind of challenging situations, and that’s exactly what you learn to do when you study to become one! You should look into it when you get a chance 😉October 5, 2013 at 3:51 pm #43250
That’s brilliant Matt. Thanks. I’ve have 5 bucks to buy a 7 dollar item. Of course there will be struggle!
That’s exactly where I find myself now – trying to bring my Buddhist practice and principles into the work world. I’ll check out the book you mentioned.November 4, 2013 at 5:13 pm #44830HannahParticipant
just wanted to say that I completely understand where your coming from. My mother is one of those people and still living with her can be hard – especially now I have come to realise that my possible over empathetic nature to her problems actually may have made me ‘sucked in to her neurosis’ as I have had my own mental health worries of depression and anxiety which I now see that I have difficulty expressing in the fear that I might be like her and do the same to other people! Ah its a complex mind we haveNovember 7, 2013 at 9:54 am #44952JuliaParticipant
I really can relate to “we can’t force a bud to bloom, nor a being give up their suffering”…..November 7, 2013 at 7:17 pm #44991GraceInMotionParticipant
I am a fledgling here. I just realized that happiness doesn’t fall from the sky and that it is a gift I can only give myself through love and compassion. I feel like I am a newborn with all the learning and expanding I am doing on a daily basis.
While I have nothing I can add, I do feel compelled though to say thank you for this thread. Thank you John for sharing and thank you to those that have responded so thoughtfully. It has helped me along my journey and opened me in new ways.
I found this especially personal and am very appreciative for it. When I read it, I felt like a bell had gone off. “Often when we look at ourselves as the genesis of the solution, it creates unnecessary baggage.” Thank you Matt.
Love and light to you all.