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Advice via Brahm


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It takes many voices and senses to guide a person forward in their personal evolution. When they are unable to answer their own questions (or need to find a concurring opinion), they become seekers. Here, we approach dilemmas, healing, perceived shortcomings and melancholy from multiple perspectives.
It is a divine act of hubris to think any one being has an answer for everyone. Just as every person has a completely unique experience and destination; so the best answer could come from an array of sources. The words of Brahm will be heard from this source, but the voices of Brahm are many.
(Letter from Seeker)
When I was a teen, I was in an abusive relationship. I was too young to understand the level of abuse I was being subjected to, so I stayed on – thinking that it must have been what all relationships were like. It wasn’t until I was 20 that I realized how wrong I was.
I finally got out of the relationship when I was 23. I then met the most wonderful woman and she has been my wife for seven years as of today.
My problem is, now, that whenever I feel as though someone has slighted me, I cannot let it go. I will ruminate and ruminate until I confront the person, usually in a hostile manner. More than once, I’ve made an incorrect assumption about something someone said or did and ended up seething to the point of attack.
I want to be able to let the small things go. But I seem to have a mental block that just won’t allow for it.
Worked up in Wasilla
~An answer~
Ours is a binary species. A complex mass of biology and chemistry, that reduces to simple ones and zeroes. From the on/off switches in our DNA to the physical and metaphysical effects of polarity. We fight or flight, sink or swim, give or take, live or die. We create actions and have reactions. We insist to have equals, and oppose opposites. It has been our evolutionary and modern history to pick sides in all things; internal and external.
Emotional response in particular is programmed deep. For survival of self, we have to learn quick which animals will consume us, and those who will nourish us. Emotion is the first chemical reaction to happen in response to stimuli.
Discoveries abound showing where many of our emotive responses are genetically given by our ancestors; many more are learned behavior from parents and mentors. All response is in some way influenced by personal and biologic experience – our hardwiring if you will; our own code of autonomous behavior. These responses we repeat, over and over. We fine tune by trial and error, failure and success. With these compiled data, we develop the methods of reaction that best suit our need for safety and build us into the body operators we are as adults. It is usually emotive responses that are made on the fly, often with little consideration of the present facts and without any judgment of our own motives. I think because these programs are written first. By adulthood we have hundreds of thousands of interactions to draw from.
There are many reasons some humans are more are apt to react with less self-examination and jump to conditioned responses. The young have less to draw from but will energetically surge forward. They go with what makes sense first, iron out the details later – they have time. The elderly have mastered their responses, and may feel little need to second guess their time tested methods.
Abuse sufferers and survivors may also act impulsively, and often in ways counter-intuitive to rational thought. Some people freeze in rapidly changing environments. Some of these diminished folks will balk at obvious opportunity. And many lash out with unwarranted vehemence or succumb to unexpected sadness.
One who has lived for any period of time in fear of another person, was constantly challenged to find positive responses that would offer them solace, comfort and safety. The given rules were either viciously rigid or constantly upended. They learned only what reactions would keep them in a stasis of known expectation, and in some cases, alive. In this vacuum of experience, their source binary becomes only victor or victim. Sadly, some become abusers; and many will stay victims. Those who escape that paradigm may still suffer to first react as if their conditioned binary is all that exists.
It is hard for the survivor to keep in the forefront of thought that not everyone is an abuser. Not all interactions are about control. Despite our innate duality, there are more than two responses to any scenario.
I do not know if your childhood was tumultuous or not. That you couldn’t recognize an unhealthy relationship begs the assumption that those you witnessed as a youth were at best ambiguous or neglectful, but most likely their own vortex of dysfunction.
I am drawn to your assertion that, at these slights, you “cannot let it go”. You are telling me you have no choice; that some law of psyche or physics won’t let you put a slight aside. Even though you recognize that your rage over something small is counterproductive, you have given control to your victim code. But it is you, Worked Up, who is holding fast to the rage. Even though you have moved past being the abused, you are still applying your learned victor/victim paradigm; in these scenarios you respond as aggressor.
Here you are, in situations, and in relationships that don’t jive with your past set of instructions. Your source code is being challenged. Sounds like a splendid time to rewrite it.
First, be more gentle with your memories. You know all the rage buttons your former life pushed; you recall in explicit detail the pain you felt. You are intimately tied to the reactionary emotions you either expelled or retained. You have such an extraordinary memory of that experience, you still allow it to affect your current experience. Your memories are so vivid, your organic self, your chemical brain doesn’t know the difference between yesterday’s feeling or today’s. Recognize you are still reacting to THAT emotion, and check yourself. It’s been seven years. You are long past that experience – don’t keep dredging it up. Delete that emotion. It is just a thing now, a thing that happened. You are not that person.
You recognize that the anger you are accessing stems from your past. This means you are connected enough to your brain that you CAN make a conscious choice to do something different. I suggest trying first delaying reactions when you can; pausing for a breath or five. Give your synapses a moment to burn off the bullshit. As you do this more, and work out your own reactionary motives in your head before you jump, you allow the perspectives of those other than yourself to be seen, and their motives better understood. Once we know ourself, we can know others.
Ruminate on yourself. Find a way to decommission your old methodology. I have found personal success with Emotional Freedom Techniques, although it was most helpful with a coach. Through its mechanism of physical and verbal repetition, you identify, delete and update to new programming. Just remember, with updates, there are always bugs, it may take a few versions before things run smoothly. Through EFT, you can disempower these old cycles. Defrag, man.
If that isn’t your cuppa; find your own means to alter your code. Open yourself to the realization that you are not a static creature. Every experience, and every relationship is a chance to recondition your innate programming.
Make and maintain relationships with non-venomous people – consistently even-keeled responses from others will help condition you to expect the undramatic.
Praise yourself, especially when no one else does. Recognizing your self worth will build pride as well as remind you of the worthiness of others.
When someone has clearly wronged you, forgive them. “nothing annoys them so much.” (hat-tip to Oscar Wilde)
And Be wary of the old programming trying to sneak back in – don’t get caught by the trojans in your head.
Suggested reading:
Thich Nhat Hanh – Anger (Chapter 7: No Enemies)
Do you need some life advice? Submit your question to advice@alaskacommons.com and you may see your answer get published in a future column.