In response to a question about how to cope with painful feelings after witnessing an explosion of anger and verbal insults on others…
Whenever something traumatic happens to us, especially in a negatively charged situation, it’s like we absorb that energy. The more intense the exchange the longer it seems to linger inside us before it dissipates. It’s worse when we have no outlet for that energy to be released, whether through tears, screaming, talking, praying, or meditating. To suppress it doesn’t make it go away. You only keep it under pressure, which makes it more volatile and likely to unleashed on some unsuspecting soul who said something wrong to you on the bus in the morning.
Something hurtful happened in your presence. You may feel victimized, or you may feel guilty for not stopping it. Sit with your feelings and see them for what they are. Don’t push them away. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling the way you do. Just be with them. Allow yourself to feel them. What do you feel? Why do you think you feel this way? Be gentle with yourself. Hold your feelings like you would hold a newborn baby, carefully. But realize that you are not your feelings. They are not who you are. They do not define you. You experience them because you are human. That is not a defect, but they are not your identity.
Think about the person who unleashed their rage and anger on everyone. Rather than be angry or judgmental of them, imagine what kind of pain they must have been feeling or must have experienced in their life to cause them to lash out at others in such a way. No, it doesn’t excuse their behavior, but remember “hurting people hurt people.” You can choose to take your confusion, frustration, and anger out on others to continue the cycle of rage, or you can choose to love, to forgive, and to let go. The Buddha said that no one in the entire universe is as deserving of your love and acceptance as much as yourself. Begin with yourself.
- Practice loving-kindness meditation first for yourself. “May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.”
- Then for a loved one, “May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with ease.”
- Then for someone who has received good news or good fortune. Be happy for them and wish them well, “May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with ease.”
- Think of someone you know who is suffering or hurting and wish them well also, “May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with ease.”
- Then finally, think of this person who is upsetting you and wish them well with your full intention behind it, “May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with ease.”
It may be awkward or difficult at first but push through it. Then do it tomorrow. Then the next day and the next and so on. See how you feel in a week. Walk slowly, pausing often, be gentle.
I wish you well.