Depression sucks, but it has its benefits. It acts as a shield from life, from disappointment. When I was depressed, I was never much affected by disappointment or negativity because everything already felt disappointing and negative.
Since I left that behind, I have hope for the future, and for the world. Living authentically and kindly means the conflicts in my life happen a lot less frequently, but when adversity does strike, it’s a much harder blow.
The handy timing of drama
Last week I shared my Rules for Putting my Spirit into Action. A few days later, I found myself relying heavily on those rules as I navigated a stressful situation at work. When I felt misunderstood and disregarded, I used the rules to harness my own ego, to choose my behavior, and to put the events in perspective.
The rules allowed me to act kindly in the face of some nasty behavior and gave me the self-control not to strike back with frustration. I noticed when my gut reactions were disobeying the rules, and I redirected myself appropriately. This is how I put the rules into practice during my very stressful week.
Find Patience with Rule #1: Suffering is optional
I lost my appetite. For three days, my back muscles physically cramped up with the tension. My mind spun off replaying the events over and over. I judged myself. I judged everyone else. I could think of almost nothing else.
It felt so ugly and uncontrollable that I started to worry the stress would provoke a return of my depression.
This, my friends, is what we call suffering.
I know from my prior life experience that suffering is optional. It’s a reaction to negative beliefs. I knew that once I could work out those negative beliefs, my body would stop reacting and my mind would settle down.
Knowing that suffering is optional gave me the calm to endure it, the patience to ride it out, and the ability to look past it for solutions.
Neutralize the villain with Rule #4: Everybody is just a person
I believe that everyone is just a person. Everyone has a past, a pet, a family, a favorite movie and a funny story about that one time they woke up in the middle of the night to find their arm asleep.
Our similarities outnumber our differences, and we are all just doing our best.
When I found myself under stress this week, when I felt disrespected and mistreated, I reminded myself that everyone is just a person. No one is a villain, not even the person you hate the most.
When people act unkindly they do it out of confused thinking and misunderstanding. They aren’t reacting to me, they are just reacting to their beliefs about me colored by the lens of their own perception of the world, which brings me to the next rule.
Undo the hurt with Rule #7: Belief comes before everything
I believe that my world, the people and events in it, my beliefs and feelings about it, and my reactions to it belong to me. It isn’t reality, but instead my perception of reality, that makes me suffer. I believe this is true for each and every one of us.
Understanding that my reality is composed of beliefs rather than facts, and that those beliefs are the singular force that controls my feelings means I have an interest in approaching the world kindly. It means I can’t blame anyone else for anything I feel. It also means I know I can’t possibly be responsible for anyone else’s feelings or reaction to me.
Taking responsibility for your feelings isn’t about fault or blame, but about autonomy. It’s about not handing over your life and reactions to outside influence.
I knew that when I felt disrespected and mistreated this week, I had created those feelings by believing certain things about myself, other people, and events that occurred. It wasn’t those people or events that I needed to address in order to find my balance, it was my beliefs that were out of whack. I used the process of Inquiry to question my thoughts and separate imagination and reality.
That brings me to the next rule.
Rewrite the story with Rule #6: I am no kind of victim, ever
I’ve made the decision that I will not cast myself, or allow myself to be cast, as a victim, ever.
You’ve heard that there are “many sides to a story,” but I’m here to tell you that no side is the truth. Every story that portrays the past is arbitrary. The story of what happened, what you usually call reality, is your version of events interpreted against your own mind.
Your recollection of an event and its meaning even change over time as your mind changes. Before we learn to question our thoughts, we automatically interpret events dependent on our rules. We mistake our interpretation for fact.
Once you realize you create the rules and write the story of what happened, you can change the past. It was always just an interpretation in your imagination anyway.
And so I’ve decided that any rendition of a story that includes me being a victim is unacceptable. Playing the victim is disempowering. It preempts options for action. It makes me feel small and weak. It absolves me from responsibility in what happens to me. Choosing to be a victim also creates shame and guilt.
When I look back over the last seven days, I could say that an ignorant hateful witch unfairly attacked me and made me miserable for a week. OR, I could say that I bravely navigated an upsetting encounter with an energetic lady who’s blinded by her own negative beliefs.
The first option takes my power away, makes me resentful, and makes me nervous about interactions in the future. The second allows me to move on and be better prepared to deal with the next situation.
I choose the latter.
I choose peace, kindness, and hope for my life.
What about you?
Have you started to examine or rebuild the rules for your life? Do you think it’s affected the way you respond to others? I want hear about it in the comments below! Thanks for reading!