28 — Fix Yourself First!

I’ve always been solution-oriented—meaning, if I saw a problem, I would try to fix it. Even when a fix wasn’t called for, or when my partner really only wanted me to listen, not try to fix things for her. Particularly during the G W Bush years, I read voraciously to understand what was wrong and how I could participate in fixing it. So much of that time, in particular, really irritated me. This irritation could occur at all levels—the Bush and crew antics were national and global, but there were local things that got to me, too; e.g., the football stadium that the local school district wanted to build in a 30-year old residential neighborhood. There were also things that various partners did that irritated me.

Was my life all irritation? Of course not. There were many very satisfying and fulfilling times, moments, events, partners, and friends then, too. But things would trigger me regularly nevertheless. I could really “get off” on politics, for example—and still can with so many social, political, and economic issues today.

In much of the spiritual and consciousness reading and work that I’ve done over the last few decades, one theme (of many) has emerged:

If I’m triggered, this is a pointer to something within me that needs to be seen. 

In reality, I didn’t really believe this because I could get really caught up in what the other person did, or how they treated me, or what they said. And I had lots of justifications and rationale for why they were wrong—and therefore why I had a right to my anger or irritation. I could then hang onto it for awhile—either silently or in my outward behavior and speech to the other person.

After a particularly rancorous encounter the other day, I went into our meditation room to seek guidance as to what was really going on. What came to me is the theme, above, except this time it came as a realization—a knowing: I knew that it was true that something within me needs to be seen in every case! And my upset was the indicator that I needed to step back from, and out of, the irritated or angry dialogue that was going on in my mind.

What has resulted from truly realizing this theme is that the stepping out of the situation is really a stepping out of the mind and its stream of thoughts, which is where the irritation or anger is coming from in the first place. In other words, my realization is that the upset was being created by the mind, and my engaging with the thought stream that the mind produced deepened the upset and made the situation worse!

Now, this doesn’t mean that what the other person does or says is always acceptable. But if I’m interpreting what they say or do from the stream of angry and irritable thoughts coming from the mind, I can’t possibly discern what is truly going on—either within them or within myself.

When we get angry with someone and attempt to control that anger, several things happen. First, the anger doesn’t go away—it just gets “saved” for another day and another encounter with that person. That’s why so many arguments with one’s partner, for example, result in past insults and injuries being brought up, along with whatever is the current perceived upset.

Second, how we relate to the other person changes—sometimes imperceptibly—and there’s a pulling away, however slight. And with the next one that gets buried, another slight pulling away happens. And we blame this on lots of external factors—he’s changed from the person I married, or she’s gotten more irritable as she’s gotten older, or we start looking for someone with whom we’re more compatible, or … .

As long as you believe what you’re upset about is a problem with them—be it with your partner, or your local school board, or politicians, or your favorite target to be upset with—you will continue to collect your upsets and hold onto them, often with righteous indignation. As described in blog # 27 — Our Lives Are Ruled by the Rules of Our Lives!, you are creating a tighter and tighter web of rules and viewpoints that further and further limit your ability to see the situation clearly and to relate authentically and intimately to the other.

So, if you accept that

If I’m triggered, this is a pointer to something within me that needs to be seen. 

what does it mean to “see” that something? It means that you have stepped back from or out of the mind sufficiently that you see that it is creating the upset. And this stepping back is not an action on your part; it is not something that you try to do or you make an effort to do. Rather, it is an allowing yourself to move away from the mind.

You may ask, How do I do that? You may even doubt that you can do that. If you close your eyes, slow your breath or go into a meditation, and contemplate this allowing, you will see that, in fact, you already know that you can do this, and you need do nothing more than set the intention that you are moving away from the mind’s stream of thoughts, and that you will see the mind creating the web of thoughts it’s creating in this situation.

What you will find is that, as soon as you move enough away from the mind’s stream of thoughts that you see the mind “chewing” on them, you will find all tension and upset with the situation and the other person fade away. You will relax, the emotions will subside, and you will then be able to respond to the situation from a place of clarity and discernment. You will also find that you may re-evaluate how you feel about the situation and about the other, and you will most likely see alternative responses to the situation—including doing nothing.

The conclusion of all this: Fix yourself before you attempt to fix another!