We are a product of our social, environmental, and cultural conditioning. We have been practicing to be “the way we are right now” for many years. The outcome of such conditioning is ingrained deep into your subconscious mind.
Whatever actions you take in life are decided by the pool of knowledge you have acquired over the years through this conditioning.
As a result, your mind loses the ability to think for itself. You unconsciously expose your trigger points, which anybody can take advantage of. You act out of impulse and become a puppet in other people’s hands, and you start acting (or rather reacting) according to their will.
Your ability to logically analyze a situation is overshadowed by the conditioned mind that creates a filter of biases before absorbing a piece of information.
It is what the Buddha refers to as the unconscious mind. The unconscious mind always chooses to react in haste rather than responding diligently to an external situation.
Let me tell you about a personal incident. A few years back, when I was working in my corporate job, I encountered a situation where I had to troubleshoot a problem one of my colleagues faced with her software.
My situation was that I had just joined a couple of months back and didn’t really know the troubleshooting process so well. Nevertheless, I told her that I would look for a solution to the problem she was facing.
I spent that entire night and the next two days trying to figure out the problem but could not do so. The next morning, I told her that I need a day or two more to figure out what was wrong.
Though I was very polite in my words, something triggered in her, and she immediately went into a fit of rage. She started attacking me personally.
She accused me of being lazy and incompetent. She said that she would report my incompetence to the seniors in the company. She became so infuriated that she lost all control, and all eyes in that room were on her.
After the drama was over, I actually felt bad for her. I wondered what made her behave in that horrible manner. Was it me? I don’t think so. We had met only a couple of days before, and she seemed nice and friendly.
So what is it that triggered her?
Why Do We Behave Aggressively?
We are living in times full of uncertainties. Have you ever taken a moment to consider why it is so? With all the technological advancement, everything happening at the click of a button, life should be more certain and, in fact, more predictable.
Yet it is not so. We have no clue what is going to happen in the next moment.
You get up in the morning after a good night’s sleep, get ready, and leave for work. You are all charged up and excited about the day ahead, and the next thing you realize is that you are stuck in an awful traffic jam.
While still stuck in the traffic jam, you get a phone call from our boss saying that there is an emergency meeting and you have to be in the office in the next 10 minutes.
On top of that, your clients constantly message and complain about a product they purchased from your company. You are struggling miserably to drive your way out of that horrible traffic and replying to your client’s queries simultaneously. It’s all chaotic.
And finally, when you reach office, the parking lot is full.
Now just imagine your state of mind would be for the rest of the day if you were really in such a situation.
But think for a moment. If you had a superpower and somehow you were not bothered by the incidents above. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
We get so caught up with external events that we lose all sense of what we’re feeling inside. We feel happy when things go according to our plan, when the weather is nice and sunny, less traffic on roads, less amount of ToDos, etc.
But we get upset and irritated when the opposite happens. When we fail to meet goals and deadlines, when people are rude, when a family member falls sick, when the car brown down in the middle of the road, and so on and so forth.
We start labeling events as we encounter them in our daily life. Traffic jam – bad, an emergency call from work – bad, didn’t get raise – bad, going on a vacation – good, sunny weather – good.
Over time we train our minds to categorize these experiences. These types of psychological formations affect the quality of our life. We regulate our mood based on the events that resemble these formations.
If you encounter an event that your mind characterizes as bad or unpleasant, you will likely feel irritated or angry. In such a state, you are likely to vent your anger on anyone who provokes you even in the slightest.
Mindfulness – The Key to Maintaining Calm Under Difficult Situations
Mindfulness is a practice that teaches us to be in the present moment and be aware of the contents of our mind without creating a reaction or judgment. The act of simply being present and witnessing the afflicting thoughts and feelings, without judgment, brings a sense of calm and relief.
The idea is to direct your awareness to that which is creating unpleasantness. The moment you are aware, it disappears, or becomes powerless.
With consistent mindfulness practice, we reach a stage where these afflicting thoughts and emotions stop bothering us, and we become calmer both on the inside and outside.
Mindfulness can be practiced anytime and anyplace. You can practice it while walking, driving, eating food, and almost in all actions. All you have to do is to be aware of your breathing.
With each breath, we become more and more aware, and as a result, we can hold ourselves better even under difficult situations. We maintain our inner calm and strength and don’t allow anyone to control or manipulate.
If I had snapped back at my colleague with hateful comments, I would escalate the situation. I chose to respond calmly instead of reacting impulsively to that situation. I didn’t allow her negativity to create emotional turmoil within me.
Mindfulness takes some time to develop. Don’t expect short term results. Consistency is the key. Mindfulness is not merely a technique; it’s more a way of life.
Just as we do physical exercise to keep our body fit, mindfulness is the exercise of the mind.
Meditation is a great exercise that helps with mindfulness. It’s easy to do and can be practiced anytime. Starting with just five to ten minutes daily, you can achieve great results in a few months.
It’s not the external circumstances that dictate the way we feel inside. When we truly understand ourselves, we become emotionally resilient.
It’s our overemphasis on thinking and labeling our thoughts that create misery in the first place. It’s our inability to accept the world as it is. If we are mindful of our behavior, we’ll be happy no matter how bad is the outside situation.