There are some people who go through life without giving it a second thought and without reflecting on their existence. For them, it is okay to ignore all this mumbo-jumbo I just wrote. But for those who cannot sleep because their minds would not shut up. Read. Reflect. Give your opinion. Talk. Learn from others. Do not wait to make the same mistakes others made to learn the same lesson.
I just finished the first volume of Maya Angelou’s autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. Maya was a rape victim. And yet she grew out of the trauma like a butterfly emerging from a moth. How is that we finally learn to stop the harm done to us by others to ruin us any further. Is forgiveness the key? Or does forgetfulness work?
So almost a year ago, I read this book, The Subtle Art of not Giving a F***. I enjoyed it while I was reading it. The author did have some solid points. But it soon evaporated. All I remember is the F-word thrown around very casually. Anyhow, this is not a book review. This is a reflection on one of the ideas presented in the book.
The author says that you cannot blame someone else for the issues in your life forever. If someone did something bad to you, it was in their control. But your reaction to it is totally in your control. He gave an example of a bad breakup of his. Where his girlfriend dumped him, and he went through a depressive episode because of that. But after some reflection, he realized that the sappy behaviour and the mourning was all his doing. He put himself in that situation. He cannot blame her for his depression. He must take the responsibility for his behaviour.
I found that idea amazing at that time. I have been struggling with this concept my whole life. I always found it easier to pin it on others whenever their actions led to something bad happening to me. It did not always bring me peace. To finally have some closure, I decided to take responsibility and to blame myself only for the situations I was in.
Guess what? That did not work either. The struggle continued. And just tonight at 12:30 A.M., as I grab my laptop because I fail to fall asleep while my kitten abuses me for turning on the light, it hits me!
You can blame others for your problems if they are the reason behind your problems. You can keep believing in your heart that the messed up relationship or friendship was the reason behind your depression. You can blame your emotionally abusive parents or emotionally unavailable friends for the crappy things you feel. You must have done some stupid things because of the damage done by others, I know I have. But I also know it is not fair for you to take all the responsibility of the situations around you. They made mistakes. You made mistakes. No one is perfect, not even parents.
You can keep the knowledge of who did what to you in the fact section of your brain (or your journal, whatever floats your boat). To move past it, you need not give up that knowledge. All you must do is work hard, REALLY HARD, to make your peace with that knowledge. Accept it. Embrace it. The sky is blue. The sun rises from the east. The earth is elliptical. ABC did XYZ to you. You had a hard time dealing with the consequences of what they did. But what is done is done. You must move on from here forwards.
How can you minimize the damage? How can you make sure something like that never happens again? How can you avoid doing to others what was done to you? These are some of the questions that you need to ponder over. Instead of crying over what happened and what followed. By the way, it is always okay to cry. Never be afraid to shed tears over something that you feel like crying about, both girls and boys! Men and Women! But after the crying, take a pen and write down the steps to be taken to move on.
Man is a social animal. We can’t live without people. Whether they are introverts or extroverts, everybody needs somebody. But sometimes, without even realizing it we invite toxic people in our lives and let them poison everything. If the toxic person can be subtracted from your life, do it! No matter how hard it may seem. But sometimes, it is not possible to remove a toxic person from your life. What to do then?
I recently discovered that I have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder because of some childhood emotional trauma (No, it is not just caused by wars). For years, I have been suffering from nightmares, flashbacks and severe anxiety without realizing the root cause. The PTSD has led to numerous occasions where I messed up without even realizing the issue. Now, there were two ways I could have dealt with that discovery. I could have cried another year over the painful memory. Or I could have made a game plan. Something that happened in the past has influenced my every decision. Something that happened in the past has ruined many good nights. What do I do with this information? I do not have the option of confronting the person. And even if I did, it would not have helped. Because people causing trauma are not always ready to take the blame.
I did take my sweet time grieving. Not only did I eat junk food continuously for a week but also, I stayed at home and refused to go to work. During this mourning period, I also processed my emotions and took my time to understand the blame dynamics. I wrote about it. I talked about it. And in my brain, I made a section of acceptance of the fact that what has happened will not change. What can change though now is how I move forward with it.
Life is always going to suck. Sometimes it is your fault. Sometimes it is someone else’s fault. Sometimes it is no body’s fault. The problem at hand is that no one teaches us to deal with all the burden that is not our fault. Our emotional intelligence is next to nothing. We are expected to learn as we grow. But in this time and age, we should realize that learning with experience sometimes is not the best way of learning. Sometimes the damage done is irreversible. That is why we need to talk more and more about emotions, mental health and the importance of therapy in the form of reading, writing and talking to a professional.
Another thought that has often crossed my mind is of the part we play as villains in other people’s stories. I sit here in my bed thinking about all the bad stuff that has been done to me. And never, not even for once, thinking about the bad stuff that I might have done to people. Some of the stuff I am consciously aware of (I know I am a petty, vindictive person) and some of the stuff must have happened subconsciously. I might have ended up hurting somebody for good just because I was too caught in the moment or I was being too insensitive towards the other person’s feelings. Take my word on this, you always are a bad guy in someone’s story. What to do if you turn out to be the toxic person?
Well for starters, you figured this out! Good Job! Now what you must do is apologize for your behaviour and show a willingness towards change. Always keep this in mind, actions never go without consequences. Your dealings with every person leave an impact on them. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Whenever you find yourself in the wrong, accept it and make sure it never happens again.
As a health care provider, we are always told to treat patients the way you would want your sick loved ones to be treated. This analogy applies everywhere. If you are to be blamed for someone’s bad mood (or bad life!) take the blame open heartedly. And make amends.
In conclusion, in a world where we are in the state of a constant peril, by ourselves, other humans and the universe in general, only you by yourself can determine what works for you. It is never too late to recover. It is never too late to change your outlook on life. We must go through life because dying is not an option. Death will come when it comes. Why not make death worthwhile by living life the way it is supposed to be lived? Mindfully.