I am not happy about how things are going in my life. Careful, I am not saying that things are going wrong, on the contrary, everything, in general, is fine: my daughter is healthy and happy, in my family there are no health issues or financial troubles, my job is the result of a great passion … even the cat sleeps peacefully on the sofa with a satisfied expression drawn on her face. So… what’s up? The point is that there are more or less important details of my life that my mind had imagined in a certain way and that have not been achieved in the exact way in which I had planned them. As my sister would say, this makes me as angry as a South Eastern Asian hyena (according to her we do not get as angry as a bull, but as a hyena… I don’t know whether South Easter Asian hyenas get angry instead of laughing, but I like to think that they do).
Please do not turn your nose up … I know that most of us think alike: if we earn a certain amount of money, we would like to earn a bit (or a lot!) more, if we are single we would like to have a partner, if we do have a partner we would like them to be more present in our life … or to give us more freedom. The point is: we love to wallow in our dissatisfaction. We do not flow with reality and we dig our heels on those details that do not allow us to be happy.
This attitude starts a war in our mind that makes us live in constant tension and leads us to point our fingers at others: I am angry because HE made me angry, I am not satisfied with my work environment because MY COLLEGUE is incompetent, my day is ruined because MY NEIGHBOUR snapped at me. We constantly delegate our responsibility to other people, we would do anything not to consider ourselves responsible for our actions or thoughts.
We unfortunately do not realise that this constant tension is caused by OURSELVES against OURSELVES, no matter who caused the situation that triggered our conflict: the conflict already existed within ourselves, we only needed a situation that could bring it to light. And this is when the partner, the neighbour and the colleague mentioned above come into play.
So… how do we get out of this situation? By getting into the habit of looking inward, attend to our own house.
I realize that even the most open-minded people can consider this is a very hard task, but everything always starts with baby steps.
When we are suffering we can start with asking ourselves what is that we are feeling: identifying how we feel is a very important step. Some of us are so disconnected from themselves that they cannot even tell what their feelings are.
My daughter likes a game that she was taught in preschool (she still plays it even if she’s already a teenager): she takes a few faces drawn with different expressions – joy, sadness, anger – she lays them in front of me and asks me “Mom, how are you feeling?”. Children’s wisdom always amazes me! They are absolutely aware of the importance of emotions.
Once we identify what we feel we seek within ourselves the cause of it. For example: if I am angry with my colleague because, besides being incompetent, he walks around the office showing off about being a great worker, maybe my irritation is actually caused by my ego that pushes me to be extremely self-demanding. Self-demand is a bête-noire: the desire to be perfect and the irremediable impossibility of achieving it causes irritation towards ourselves and others, in which we see our imperfection reflected.
Therefore I work very hard, get my reports ready before delivery date, take as few coffee breaks as possible, and yet that opportunist always ends up being considered better than I am, even if he spends the day talking to his co-workers. So what? If we always compare ourselves with other people our serenity is destined to be shattered. If we only focus on ourselves we will realize that all we struggle with are the standards and the boundaries that we have imposed ourselves.
The minute we become aware of that, we will forgive us for having shut ourselves in certain limits, we will accept all our wonderful imperfections and we will finally be able to breathe deeply, see a ray of light entering through that small window and, burying the hatchet, enjoy some peace.
Cover photo by Fabrice Van Opdenbosch