Get Over It — There’s reality and what you do with reality in your head. All emotion comes from you not accepting what is right in front of you, and working from there.
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And not even a beard to hide behind…
Here’s a little Haven story for you.
July will mark my 15th anniversary of my first “event” at The Haven —it was in 1996 that I headed West to do a 25 day Phase 1. Let me tell ya, a learned a ton. Including how thick-headed I can be.
There were 30+ of us in The Phase 1 Group. One of the first exercises was to select small groups for evening work. There was a 21-year-old in our small group, and she was deeply ambivalent toward me—something I was not used to. To boil it all down, she had one set of rules for the rest of the group, and another set for me.
Example: We’re all having dinner one nite. Quoth she, “I’m working on my language. Tell me if I’m blaming.” A minute later, “She makes me so angry!”
I bite. “Shouldn’t that be, ‘I’m angering myself over that?’ ”
Silence, then the glare. “Wayne, not you. Everyone else can tell me, not you.”
One of many examples. Finally, 15 days in, I decide to do a “clearing.” (Haven-speak for working through an issue.) Here was the gist of my argument, as I spoke to her in small group:
“You have one set of rules for the others in the group, and another set for me, and it’s not fair! I want you to change!” She replied, “My life, my rules.”
I’m pretty persuasive, so I cranked it up. The leader, my buddy Derek, kept saying, “Listen to her. It’s not about you.” I didn’t get it. I argued for fairness, or, in other words, I argued for what I wanted, and pretended what I wanted was fair.
She did not budge. I was amazed! She was saying no… to me! Derek kept saying, “Listen.”
Finally, after 45 minutes, the penny dropped. I got it!!!
I said, “Wait a minute! You have every right to decide how you want to relate to me, and I have every right to decide how I’ll relate to you. I get it! It’s your right to set your terms. I have no right to demand that you change so I won’t have to deal with my discomfort.”
Here’s a quote from Brad Warner’s, “Sit Down and Shut Up: Punk Rock Commentaries on Buddha, God, Truth, Sex, Death, and Dogen’s Treasury of the Right Dharma Eye
‚” a pretty nifty Zen based book.
Buddhism says that no matter how we slice up reality to fit into our brains–no matter what definitions we come up with of sameness and difference–reality itself remains forever unsliced, forever as it is. And it further asserts that the sliced-up image in our heads, never… matches up with reality itself. p.224
When I catch myself up, this is why. When you are caught, this is why. Every time.
Emotions arise at the point where I decide that reality ought to be other than it is. That reality ought to match up with what I want, where I think I am going. Thus, our emotions are like canaries in a coal mine.
- In my version of the story, the reality was that she was treating me differently than the other members of the group—mostly, she was ignoring me.
- I wanted her to like me, to listen to me, to want to hang out with me.
- None of that was happening, so there was a disconnect between how I wanted reality to be, and reality itself.
My slicing and dicing of reality was simple—she was wrong, she wasn’t learning anything, she needed to change. Further, I was a psychotherapist, for god’s sake, and knew best! And she smiled, shook her head, and refused to play my game.
Who knows how many hours I wasted, up in my head, trying to devise plots and plans. And then, more hours trying to implement them. And at the end of the day, even if everyone there had agreed that “It’s not fair!, the reality of what my friend was willing to do regarding me was not for me to change.
Fortunately, I got it, that time at The Haven.
I’ve gotten caught on this one time and time again. I catch myself sooner these days, but “It’s not fair!” is still an undercurrent for me.
And likely for you.
Once I get past looking outside—blaming others, declaring situations to be “wrong,” I find that I am “just in it.” As in, reality. Reality is right there, all the time, despite our attempts to fit it into boxes of our own making.
It is wasteful of time and energy to try to force reality into the boxes we create for it. To “explain, blame, define.” It’s a fruitful intellectual exercise to think about stuff, to conceptualize, (notice the word—concepts are mental formations and therefore are not real…) but to think that reality is contained in our definitions is stupid.
Bald example: declaring the earthquake in Japan to be “awful, terrible, unfair,” is simply us, cutting and slicing. Getting on a plane a rebuilding a school, on the other hand, is real (if, of course, you actually get on a plane…)
No one forces us into this conceptualizing, slice and dice dance, even if it is popular. Reality is always right there, waiting to be interacted with. (Again, notice inter-act-ed… to act with…) free of demands that reality change simply because we are making ourselves uncomfortable. No matter what is going on, we always have the choice to be present with it.
We don’t have to like it.
We can, however, change our relationship with reality, from our side. There is no universal, “Fair!” There’s just personal preference. Remember my story: my “fair” was for my female friend to treat me as I demanded. Hers was to do what she chose to do, from her side. Fair? According to whom?
This week, notice how often your emotions bubble to the surface right at the point where your slice and dice version of reality ceases to match with what’s right in front of you. Have a breath, let out the emotion in private, and come back to reality. Deal with what is right in front of you, without games, judgements, or manipulation.
And then, let go, and move on.