This blog post talks about a strategy for maintaining your positive energy, namely simply letting others off the hook. This is the best strategy for both ourselves and others.
Keywords: happiness, irritation, letting go, negativity, off the hook, positivity.
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In this blog post I am going to present the general idea that we must really care for our emotional state of affairs. I do not mean to say that we must do so in a casual way; rather, we have to do it in a very deliberate way.
We must be aware of our feelings, at all times, and protect our positivity at any cost. And this just as important when we are alone as when we are with others.
In fact, in some sense, it is even more important when we are with others. This is because it happens, from time to time, that we suddenly are facing an “unknown” situation, where our emotions may not be so easily controlled.
There are many situations that we don’t like. And in those cases, the “threat” is that we will, somehow or other, express our disliking in the form of words, phrases, and sentences.
These words, phrases, and sentences may be expressed, of course, in a conversation, or, perhaps, as a direct command (“Don’t Do That!”).
But already at that point, the situation has gone to far. Or at least it is on the limit of what we should be engaged in. All is dependent on the amount of emotion that we have mobilized into those (irritated, angry, etc.) commands or comments.
The more negative emotion we have “raised”, and the longer time we have contemplated it, the harder it will be to “recuperate” and regain our composure.
And here I really mean composure in an “inner” sense, not just seemingly balanced, as seen by others, but actually balanced inside, in terms of real emotional control.
Letting our anger out, especially after having contemplated it for some time, will not be cheap, in terms of emotional recovery. Just looking at my own experience, it may take days, or a whole week, to recover from an “emotional downfall”.
The Power of Thoughts
There are some situations in which we may react in a sort of “split-second” manner, simply by reflex. And in such cases we must quickly understand what we did, and not escalate things.
But that is, I think, a more rare situation for most people. In my estimation, most people have plenty of time to think lots of thoughts before they say what they want to say (or cannot resist saying, even though they may not really want to say it).
So even though we certainly want to watch out for negative commands or comments, it really has to start earlier than that. We have to control our thoughts about the world, and people in particular.
For thoughts mostly come before speaking. So we have to immediately recognize those thoughts that are negative. We have to recognize those feelings we have when we think negatively about other people (and about other things, as well).
And our mission then, is to re-focus ourselves: we have to switch “topic” inside our heads, and start thinking about something else that is pleasing to us, instead of irritating us.
And this is possible for most people to do. We can control our thoughts, if we just are aware of our situation, and if we just have deliberately practised it many, many times before the situation manifests.
The Time Limit
The general idea, then, is that we must be “Mental Houdinis”, of sorts. We must, somehow or other, escape our “mental situation”, as soon as possible.
And here it is really important to note that this escape must be quicker than any of Houdini’s performances. And I’m not here referring to any of the longer performances either (which took over an hour). Rather, I’m referring to the quicker ones, where he took, say, two or three minutes to free himself from whatever troublesome situation he was presented with.
So when I say it has to be quicker than Houdini, I am saying that you have less than one minute to do it. In fact, you must discover, and correct, your troublesome thought within a few seconds.
This basically boils down to, in practical terms, that you must recognize your negative thought already before you have completed the whole negative sentence in your head.
If you keep thinking a few negative sentences on the same subject, you will start building negative momentum, which then may trigger that you start expressing it with a comment or command.
So only if you can let the situation go within a few seconds can you maintain your positivity, whatever level it is on (whether you are, say, a “weak positive” P1, or a “medium positive” P2).
In fact, the same is true for those who are negative, and it may be even more relevant for them. For they may not know so many ways to regain their usual emotional level, and it may thus be more difficult for them to recover, if they were to fall down.
So, for example, a “weak negative” N1 may temporarily fall down to N2 after a “mishap”, but then have a harder time to get back up to N1, in terms of getting a little more positive.
In any case, whatever level we are on currently, it is very important that we do not fall down, or stay down. We must protect all positivity that we have, even if we, in general, are classified as, for example, a “weak negative” N1, or a “medium negative” N2.
Example 1: The Suitcase
In the first example, we are on a train. It’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. Here is what happens:
You’re sitting on the train. There’s an empty seat next to you. Suddenly a tall, dark man approaches your seat. He puts his enormous, heavy suitcase on the shelf right above you.
And you are well aware that the many warning signs explicitly mention that no heavy or big suitcases are allowed on the top shelves, and that many previously have fallen down.
YOU: You cannot put that big heavy suitcase up there. It’s not allowed.
THE MAN: I don’t care. I’m tired.
So what do you do after that?
One alternative is to heat up the discussion. You could argue that the train crew will immediately order you to take it down, and it’s breaking the regulations, and risking injuring people, etc.
But that’s not a good alternative. This is not because you aren’t right about the whole thing; you are right. Unfortunately, that’s not enough. For well-being and happiness is all about emotion. So if you feel bad, you’re in bad spot, so to speak.
In other words, the only “easy” way out (i.e. to avoid not getting more irritated, and to avoid becoming really angry), is to let the man off the hook. And sooner rather than later.
So the only practical thing to do in a situation like this is simply to move yourself to another seat, as far away from him as possible (preferably in another part of the train). At that point you will no longer see him or hear him, or otherwise sense him with your five senses.
This, however, may still not be enough. Perhaps you took too long to make up your mind to go. So you still have to work with your mind to “fix” the situation. But at least you have physically removed yourself from the immediate situation.
At this point then the job is just to switch the subject by any means necessary. Maybe there is a wonderful view from your new train window that you could focus on. Perhaps there is some attractive mate in the vicinity that you can feast your eyes on. Or perhaps you can remember your latest romantic journey to Tuscany. Whatever it takes to switch focus, do it.
And you may typically have to do this “switching-subject-work” many times during the day, for your mind probably wants to revisit the suitcase scenario. So it will be a day of exercise to actively take control of the mind, and make it go where you want it to go.
Example 2: The ‘Buddy’
In another situation, a week later, you are also on a train. The train is almost full. As in the previous example, it’s a beautiful day.
You’re sitting on the train, and there’s an empty seat next to you. Suddenly, a short, blond teenager sits down. At first, he simply checks his messages on his iPhone, and writes some responses.
But then, after a few minutes, he makes a call to one of his buddies, where he, in a typical “gang” mentality, starts a very loud “hip” bantering with his close friend, as if he owned the whole train.
YOU: Can you please lower your voice? You’re not alone here, you know.
THE MAN: If you don’t like it, go to the quiet section at the end of the train.
So what do you do after that?
It may be tempting to continue talking to the teenager. But it is unlikely that you can do that without losing emotional control.
And just sitting quietly listening to that banter will irritate you even more. So what’s the alternative?
The only real alternative is to let the teenager continue his loud conversation on the phone. In other words, as in the first example, you must let the person quickly and easily off the hook (even if you know you’re right about the whole thing).
Just leave (within a few seconds) and take control of your mind. That’s the most important thing.
The most precious thing we have is our positivity. It’s a gem that we do not want to lose, at any cost. We must let our emotions guide us, so that we have a chance to proceed to even more positivity.
Therefore, we must program ourselves so that we quickly take action in circumstances that are not pleasing to us, so that we can maintain our emotional composure.
We must, in other words, train ourselves to be willing to swiftly let other people off the hook (even if they are “wrong”). That’s the way to a better, more positive life for us.