Thursday, October 12, 2017

Just breathe

Just a few months ago, before I closed my Facebook and Instagram accounts, my life had become almost unendurable for me. Reading the news and posts and comments from friends and others was too upsetting. This world seems to have come to a tipping point. It finally broke openly into two sides. Black and white, good and bad, right and wrong, rich and poor. Albeit the latter two are very unevenly split. Everyone is screaming and fighting without stopping for one second to even consider listening to what the other side has to say. When you are one of those sides, it's easy to filter everything you hear and see to only hear and see what supports your own side of the story and be outraged at the sight of anything that doesn't. Scanning my social media feeds I felt myself taking a side. Of course I was right and mine was the right side. Of course this president was incompetent, a sociopath, and the worst that could have happened to this country. Or the world, for that matter.

But I knew that I could not go on like this. My self-development and all the reading and work I had  been doing for my coaching certification would not let me just judge and stay angry. I began to try and understand what had made so many people take this choice and why this person had become the man he is now. And I had compassion with them. I know, this doesn't really change anything, it won't undo the election results, it won't save any lives, it will not stop bombs from falling on houses of innocent people, or keep the pole caps from melting and the deserts from growing, causing billions of people loose their home and desperately trying to find a safer place to live. Given the amount of issues to tackle, we might feel overwhelmed and helpless and not every one of us has the time, the opportunity, the money, or just the right idea how to alleviate them. Nowadays, with social media, quite a lot of people seem to think that they can influence how other people think. That scientific facts could change the minds of climate change deniers, that photos of battered children in Syria could stop the bombs from being thrown, or that attacking someone who does not think that all men are responsible for gender inequality or all white peope must feel responsible for racism will make them get in line and assume the opinion of the troll. Or the troll would change his mind when you call him out for being one. Assuming, that troll is even an actual human being. Chances are high that none of this will work.

What it did help me with though is that I began to remember that we cannot change other people. We can't control what others think, change their opinions, their view of the world. What we can do, though, is change ourselves and how we react to what happens around us. Take a step back and try understand where the other person is coming from. Stop judging and beginning to be curious. And to a certain extent, accept. Accept that there will always be black and white, good and bad, darkness and light. While we might not see an immediate change in what is going on in the world, it will definitely make us feel better. I am not saying that we should look away, ignore what is happening around us, find excuses for behavior that cannot be excused, and sit on our couch without ever taking any action to improve the situation around us. No, what I am saying is that the only way we could ever make a difference is by changing our own behavior. Michael Jackson was onto something there.

It did work for me. Not from one day to the other and it might go away if I do not pay attention and keep working on it every day. I am still aware of the state of our world. The fact that we can't stop global warming, even if we had stopped emitting carbondioxyde yesterday. The countless wars and massacres around the world, affecting millions of innocent people every day. More and more countries being ruled by money and greed, ignoring and cutting constitutional and human rights that our ancestors were fighting for so hard. Or the smaller things, people who don't pay attention while driving cars, underpaid and frustrated agents on the phone of Medicaid who blame you for their mistakes and basically make it impossible for you to sign up for the free healthcare you qualify for and you've financed with your taxes for years. All of this used to want me pull my hair out and post angry posts on Facebook, yell at the people who annoyed me or sue them. Or just curl up in a ball, cry and never go outside again. But what would I gain with that? What would really change if I did that? Most likely my blood pressure woud rise and my day would be ruined. Which happened a few times. Worst case, I could get punched or shot by someone who just doesn't like to get yelled at and carries a gun.

So what do I do instead. I still get angry. You'd think that the fact that I'm even more attentive to and aware of what is going on around me would make matters worse. Would give me more reason to be angry or upset, sad or terrified. But somehow, I am not. At least not for long. I've come to be aware of the moment when the anger arises and I try to observe it and be with it. Granted, this does not work every time but it works more often every day. And instead of yelling or giving a sharp response to the person who just annoyed me, I don't. Which results in one less escalation and at least one if not two less angry people. Or maybe even two happy people. Many times, an unexpected friendly reaction to a usually frustrating event resulted in an interesting and lovely encounter with the other person. While I do miss yelling sometimes, especially at people who are shorter than me and get this funny scared look on their faces when they hear my German accent and see my furious face, not yelling has become my go to reaction. A deep breath or two, a warm wave of compassion that results in a smile, and I walk away from a situation that would have ruined my day before. And just like that, situation by situation, day by day, my life has become happy again.






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