Compassion is the antidote to all suffering
Also published on MetroLivingZine
Well this article has taken me a lifetime to write. It really amazes me as I said in an earlier article that as soon as I have an idea of what I am going to share with you it shows up in my life, and this time I don’t mean it showed up lightly, but showed up more like a bull in a china shop, so to speak.
I have used every skill in my toolbox to manage myself in hopes of influencing the situation towards a positive outcome and not create a train wreck.
In fact you might even say I really learned what it means to be “Fiercely Accountable”
It is one thing to learn cognitively what one values, believes and understands about the principles that are important to achieve success, or create happy relationships and a harmonious balanced life, but to actually apply those principles when faced with adversity or conflict is the real test, and does require some real ‘Radical Responsibility” At least it did on my part and also required some integrity to stay in the fire when I actually wanted to run away and hide.
I learned a lot in the past few weeks about myself and feel very humbled and full of gratitude. I don’t feel I would have any right to coach anyone if I had not experienced real human challenges and experienced first hand the huge benefits that can be achieved in life by integrating the 5 Communication Principles that come from connecting with ones own heart, integrity and authenticity. As humans our prime motivator is to love and be loved, and when that is threatened in any way it can seriously test our resolve to remain compassionate, curious and conscious and not dissolve into emotional chaos and fear.
We have been discussing over the past months the 5 Principles for Effective Communication that create successful relationships and we have been delving deeper into each principle and how to develop those abilities and the actions it takes to use them in ones life.
So far we have whittled away at Consciousness and are still learning about Compassion. This week I learned how to use every possible skill I have been taught and integrated into my life over the years and really understood one of the most important aspects of Compassion. Compassion really is the antidote to all suffering
How so, you might ask? Well let me share how so………………
We all want to feel loved, liked, appreciated, valued by our partners, families, colleagues, however as humans we also experience conflict and upset at times.
It is part of the human condition after all, but it is how we manage those challenges that define us to ourselves and to others. My idea of being Radically Responsible means that for me, I show up with heart, authenticity, honesty, integrity, humility, grace and dignity. I do my best, fall down a lot and pick myself up to do my best another day.
This is a story about the process of reaching a compassionate place in the face of conflict. I think it is fair to say that most of our suffering can be linked to our:
- THINKING-We shouldn’t believe everything we think because our minds create stories about the meaning of events based on our own histories, learning, judgments, social values, assessments, upbringing, attachments and pre-conceived ideas that have become ingrained neural networks that are hardwired in our brains and are what causes our automatic responses. The interesting part about that is; what you believe is true, is not necessarily true. We create stories by filtering external events through our own experiences and we come up with a conclusion we believe to be true. If we believe that conclusion, whether it is positive or negative, that becomes our truth and is where a lot of our joy comes from, but also a lot of our suffering. We only create feelings based on what we think. Hear that again if you will
“we only create feelings based on what we think”
Your feelings are never wrong but your thinking might be less than optimal. Use your feelings like clues to discover what you are thinking. Pretend you are a detective on a hunt to solve the mystery of what you really think. I have learned over many years to let my feelings guide me to clarity about what I am really thinking and then I can assess if it is really accurate or if I am misguided in some way. The other part of our thinking that can get us in deep ‘do-do’ is believing that anything means anything about us, or in other words taking it personally. Nothing anyone says or does really means anything about you and is only their interpretation, through their own filters and life experiences.
I love this quote “don’t believe everything you think” so am learning to really look at what I think so I can decide for myself if there is any truth in what is happening around me.
- FEAR. Fear shows up in conflict by upsetting our emotional balance, disturbing our peace of mind, causing us to go into fight or flight mode, our hearts to race, insecurities to show up, childhood wounds to activate, hearts to hurt, defenses and walls to go up. When this happens it is nearly impossible to respond rationally because our brains are telling us there is danger to our wellbeing and safety. Ultimately safety is one of nine of our most primal needs in life.
When we feel hurt and upset, wounded and defensive, and are suffering, we are usually afraid of one thing. We are afraid of not being loveable, liked or accepted.
Conflict usually shows up as criticism, blame, rejection, accusations, name-calling, projections and the FEAR that shows up is that we aren’t safe and that some of it might be true. This again comes down again to what we are thinking and what we believe.
“If you have a sincere and open heart, you naturally feel self- worth and confidence, and there is no need to be fearful of others-Dalai Lama”
This is where my story starts, and it is important to know that usually, I am a happy, “wear my heart on my sleeve” kind of gal, however occasionally when faced with someone else’s upset randomly projected my way I can became quite unhinged, feel hurt, compassion flies out the door and it can be a while before I get around to some rational thinking and feel more grounded again. I can be “so not” Dalai Lama-ish and am human after all.
I sometimes still filter events through my own challenging experiences from childhood, can become easily shocked, wounded and scared out of my mind.
When I feel accused, judged or criticized I can usually remain grounded and not pulled off centre but sometimes, only sometimes, I am vulnerable to emotional invaders and from my childhood self I wonder if what they say is true and I almost believe it as the universal truth, and on and on my mind goes pulling all the evidence through the lens of all my life experiences from childhood with an abusive alcoholic parent, through my challenging teen years and my experiences with critical parents and partners and I can become completely unhinged me, take it personally and feel hurt. Our brains become hardwired to respond in the way we did when trauma first happens and is why it is so hard to manage ourselves once we are re-triggered. It is essentially the same neuro-wiring as PTSD.
Luckily the unhinging only lasted for a day or so, because I did one really important thing, something I have never done before, something even after all the years of counseling training I still did not understand, after years of thinking about others first, always trying to resolve things immediately because I was afraid if I didn’t work things out my world would not be safe, I would lose love and connection with those that were important to me and that includes people personally and professionally.
I care about those in my life, I want people to like me and there in is where I sometimes get myself into trouble by being over-responsible and driven to have peace and harmony.
This time I knew I needed to do something radically different than I have done in the past, because this was some serious shit going on. This is not a story about what happened but is about how I managed in the midst of trauma and hope that you too will see the wisdom and benefit I am sharing with you when you feel triggered and upset. This is about the principles one needs to action for more peaceful loving relationships.
So instead of how I would normally manage things, for the first time I gave “myself the gift of compassion” and with giving myself compassion first I gave myself time to work it out for me and not try to fix. I think in that moment I realized that the words Radical Responsibility and Fierce Accountability (still really loving those phrases) really mean honouring ones own truth and experience, owning what is, being deeply honest with oneself and others, rather than denying what is real and compromising oneself in the misguided need to be liked and approved by anyone.
I also realized that not everyone is going to like me and when I gave myself compassion for being human I allowed myself some room to process, how I felt, what I was thinking and what was true for me. I didn’t rush from my ‘fear to fix’ which would not have helped the situation.
Compassion is something I always give away to others. I am a Coach, Counsellor and Consultant after all and compassion is the foundation for my connection with everyone, personally and professionally. Compassion is my religion but what I never understood, never integrated, was I needed to have compassion for myself as much as I do for others. I needed to liberally bathe myself in compassion so I could heal my wounds, create some rational thinking and be able to be my best most authentic heart centered self, so I am ‘able and willing’ to resolve differences in the future.
When I had time to sit with how I was feeling and discern what I was thinking I could then ask myself some good questions:
- Was it true?
I realized what others believe is what is true for them, based on their own perceptions and experiences, and their reaction or beliefs have nothing to do with me. I am only a catalyst for someone’s experience as they are for me, and so on that note I chose not to take anything personally or project my history on that moment.
Really understanding that anyone’s opinion actually says more about them than me caused me be able to move slowly back into rational thought rather than emotional reactivity.
I do sometimes wish I had the ability to process faster LOL but that is where some more compassion came in and I told myself I am only human and can only do the best I can at any given time. I can’t fight the truth and pretend I am not upset, I have to “be with” being upset. So hard but I do believe that is why counselors and coaches are so invaluable as support. Most people have a real challenge with ‘being with’ how they feel and it can be invaluable to have someone to support you in some of those challenging processes.
- Did I believe their version of me?
I know cognitively that someone only has the power to hurt me if I believe what they say, and I came to the conclusion that I didn’t believe their version of me. They might, but I didn’t. When I realized that I could really only feel hurt and upset if I believed their version of me, and that I unequivocally did not agree with those assessments, I felt completely different and I returned to balance and contentment almost immediately.
Returning to our normal state of balance allows us to then be able to move into resolution with someone more effectively. For me it meant as I moved through a new level of Consciousness, I started again to feel Compassion, Curiousity, Courage and Commitment in the hope and intention of creating a more successful relationship going forward. It does take two people with the same intention and hope but that is my intention anyway.
“True compassion is not just an emotional response but a firm commitment founded on reason. Therefore, a truly compassionate attitude towards others does not change even if they behave negatively-Dalai Lama”
I am learning to trust myself more and hope that some of what I have written over the past months will support you to trust yourself, learn more about what it takes to Create Amazing Wonderful Relationships and help you in creating more Love, Happiness & Success in your life. Please read the other articles in the series from the links below if you are interested and do let me know what you think about my ideas, if you have tried implementing any of the principles or if you ever want to connect, ask questions or ask for support.
Next time we are going to look at how to be curious. Hint: it does NOT include the word Why.