Growing Home: End Your Inner And External Wars
Do you fight with your loved ones?
Are you afraid of others’ judgment?
Are you impatient when others disturb you?
Are you self-critical?
Are you critical of others?
Do you worry?
Do you tend to want things your way?
Do you think you should get your own way with your kids?
Join the human race! We are busy, stressed and often impatient because we believe we don’t have enough time to live. We get frustrated because we want life to be easier!
Our brains get caught up in this chaos and we end up feeling helpless and frustrated that we can’t find ways to be more effective as parents, partners, friends, colleagues and people. We often feel badly about how we are handling things and can get quite down on ourselves.
Our daily frustrations can start to feel like daily battles. Family atmospheres can be pretty tense. In fact the environments in families, offices and communities can feel toxic and even like war zones given the level of fear and defeat that exist.
What is your first response when your child refuses to get in the car? Or when your spouse forgets something important to you? Or when your colleague doesn’t get things done on time?
We live in an ‘Us against Them’ world. When politicians disagree they take sides against each other and we join them in that duality instead of seeing someone with differing views as a valid human-being worthy of respect and esteem. On a personal level when something frustrating or annoying happens we often assume the worst and we can lash back – even if it is an unknown person like a fellow driver.
Energy that is used against another person is a type of war energy. In war mentality we defend and offend in order to have some sort of power over another. In our relationships, we put on our protective gear (defensiveness, silence, excuses, and/or refusal to listen) and pull out our weapons (anger, impatience, criticism, judgment, stonewalling and/or condemnation). When engaging in this kind of a dynamic we hurt ourselves and we hurt the other, even when we don’t intend to do so.
Humans are very skilled at keeping a focus on threats to survival. In fact, we are so skilled we see threats when there are none. And when we can’t find threats, we make them up - “I know he did that to get back at me” or “I know she thinks I am stupid!”
Why do we do that?
We are wired to keep our focus on danger in order to keep safe. The moment we enter the world we immediately sense what is safe and what is not and we learn to respond accordingly. As a result, our negative mind becomes overdeveloped and fear becomes our constant companion. We actually learn to believe that listening to fear will keep us safe. For example, “if I do that presentation my colleagues will know I don’t know enough, so I just won’t do it.” This fear-based thinking is at the root of much of our anxiety, impatience, fear, lack of confidence and low self-esteem.
Does fear keep us safe?
The short answer is no. Avoiding the presentation will only reinforce your lack of self-confidence. It might give you the impression of safety since you feel better not exposing yourself. Avoiding something only gives fear dominion over you and how you live. Presenting to colleagues can give you a chance to overcome your fear, share your knowledge and be of service to others.
The negative mind is designed to be aware of actual threats.
In the beginning of time when the bison stampeded, people were alerted by their intuition that danger was imminent. Because they trusted their intuition, they would have time to prepare for the threat. We are still able to detect subtleties but have become hypersensitive to things that are not actually dangerous. Also we take things personally and feel in danger as a result. For example a person recently told me “my boss didn’t speak to me all day and I could feel the anger coming at me – I am terrified I am in trouble and I think I am going to lose my job.” This person’s radar may have been accurate but he may not have been using his intuition to determine if there was a real threat. The boss’s state of mind may have had nothing at all to do with him.
Our minds are deeply affected when we use war-like words such as furious, terrified, or powerless. When our minds hear those words we physiologically prepare for a war and the ‘fight, flight or freeze” response kicks in. This will be felt as anxiety, anger, terror or panic.
We have habituated to our fear states in a way that no longer serves us and in fact can create danger for us.
To add fuel to our inner fires we witness our world at war on an hourly basis – and I don’t limit that to the actual killings and torment that prevail, I mean the wars we wage against people we label as threats and the internal wars we wage against ourselves.
Here are some examples that you may relate to….
In me against others:
If my child doesn’t obey me I have to show who is boss.
If I keep track of all the errors, my spouse will change
If I give into pressure others will walk all over me
I can’t stand it when my spouse…
If only my boss would…
What is wrong with him/her?
How stupid can you be?
What an asshole!
In me against myself:
If I do that, people will think there is something wrong with me
If I tell people how I really feel they won’t want me
If I don’t get that promotion people will think I am a failure
If I don’t get this done then I am in real trouble
If I don’t agree with my friends they will ostracize me
What if my others don’t like me?
If I don’t do this perfectly people will think…
… the list is endless.
We create stories and scenarios in our heads that we believe and that keep us locked in fear. All of the thoughts above are made up and when they are made up, the person inventing the story believes it fully.
The Donald Trump era is the most graphic example of how our fellow citizens-of-the-world turn against each other. People turn their attention and spend their time on social media to load up their arsenals against Trump by finding proof upon proof of his inadequacies. Don’t get me wrong, I have no confidence in his presidency but I refuse to let myself be a hater because that puts me at war with him and within myself.
Just because I don’t agree with someone does not mean I have to be at war. When someone is different we tend to close our hearts and begin the process of self-protection. This could be against Trump but it can also be your friend, spouse, colleague or child.
Think about this – the last time your spouse did something that annoyed you – what did you feel and how did you handle it? Or substitute your child, friend, sibling, or parent – did their behavior feel threatening to you? Did you respond by fighting?
Why do people fight with one another? We fight when we want our own way or when we disagree because fighting is the primary way we have been taught to achieve influence. Is it possible to disagree without fighting, without hurting others? Is it possible to disagree and not make the other person your enemy? Is it possible for you to stay safe by keeping your heart open rather than fighting, shaming, defending and judging?
Please do some soul searching. It is not just aggression that creates a war-like atmosphere. Self-defending is usually done in response to a perceived threat. Giving someone the silent treatment is a form of aggression. None of us are innocent.
From a psychological and yogic perspective the only way to have influence and to maintain a sense of safety is by keeping open. Our hearts and minds need to be wide open so that we can intuit when something is an actual threat. When communicating with loved ones, unless they are abusive, we need to listen and care about their perspective. Love is about being able to tolerate the differences and care about the person who may feel like a threat to you but is actually a person who needs your understanding, love and patience.
Is it possible for you to keep your heart open when you are irritated, afraid, impatient, judgmental and angry?
Let’s have some discussion around this. I invite you to give some examples of where this has been difficult for you and how you would like to find new ways of being in relationship that keep you and your loved ones safe.
What if we actually believed that everyone was a valuable human soul and not an enemy?
Imagine if our goal in relationship was wanting the other person to feel safe in your presence. What would you have to do to make that possible?