I was reminded of something so important this morning by a Facebook post! Yes, it happens!
Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. – Buddha
This quote led me down the garden path of my mind to the idea that our happiness is separate of others unless we choose to make it dependent on something outside of us. Holding onto our anger is our choice and impacts us much more strongly than it impacts anyone else (perhaps except for those that have to live with a bitter, angry person). Research has shown that anger creates a metabolic cascade of biochemistry that leads down an unhealthy path. And, the longer we hold the anger, the worse the biological effects. It is like “drinking poison”–much wisdom in those ancient words.
Most of the time, I hear anger expressed because of something that someone has said or done or not said or not done–something outside of us. And, I also know that most things other people do or say (or not) have nothing to do with me. “It’s not about me.” The other person is being who they are and choosing their actions from within. It’s completely within their own control. And, if I choose to react with anger, it’s my own choice and completely within my control.
I hear someone wondering if I’m saying that feeling angry is bad. Anger is a natural feeling response we have to certain events. Anger is a signal to us that something has just happened that is opposite to our expectation, our belief or our safety. It is simply that–a signal. It’s purpose is to alert us to pay attention and to make healthy and appropriate choices for ourselves. Once the alert has been registered, however, the anger is complete and no longer needed. The next steps are needed–how to act in response to the alert signal. So, anger is good and useful. The quote states “holding onto” anger is like drinking poison. Anger itself is not the poison.
Back to “it’s not about you”…
Once I realized that other people are simply being who they are, I started telling myself “it’s not about me” whenever something happened around me. It helped me to separate my emotional wellbeing from external events. When something happens around me, it’s other people living out their own inner state. If someone lives in the state of anger or bitterness, then they act out of that place. I could get angry at their “unjustified meanness” or “rudeness” or whatever. Or I could simply remind myself that “it’s not about me” and give them the grace and space to do their thing. How I feel comes from my choice of how to respond to their actions and words. Since I began seeing the events around me as “not about me”, I have gained a tremendous inner peace about others. When I am at peace around others no matter what they do or say, I am able to see them more clearly which has given me great compassion for the challenges, and sometimes pain, that they live in. It is quite rare that I feel angry because of what someone else has done or said. Sure, it still happens sometimes–I am a human instead of a robot–and thankfully it is rare. It has been a huge gift to me–one that I am grateful for every day.
The next time you feel yourself becoming angry see if you can take a step back from the situation and tell yourself “it’s not about me”. You might be surprised at the clarity you gain about how to move towards a solution. And, you might be giving them a rare gift–seeing them for who they really are–that can free them to shift future actions and words.
This week, do your best to stop yourself from reacting to something from someone else just for a few moments. Insert the phrase “it’s not about me” into your mental monolog. You might have to repeat the phrase many times before you notice a difference. When you feel your reaction drain away, notice what you sense about that person and the real issue. Begin to address the real issue and see what solution you can create. You might just be surprised!