Life Happens to Us?
Sarah woke up one morning and noticed that she felt a little “off”. She couldn’t describe it, but she was already angry at the world and it wasn’t even 8 o’clock. Enveloped in her funk, she got ready for work, skipped breakfast and climbed into the car. She decided to hit the drive-thru at a famous coffee place on the way to work.
She crossed her fingers hoping it wasn’t too busy that day.
Aha, luck was on her side. There was only one car in line. She thought to herself, “This is going to be quick. I can grab a coffee and still make it to work before 8am”. She ordered a large organic soy latte with one raw sugar and pulled up behind the car in front of her. She noticed that they paid and received their items, but the car was just sitting there. She waited as the clock kept ticking – losing valuable seconds as her plan for a quick stop went to hell in a hand basket before her eyes.
“What are they doing?” she wondered to herself. Her stress started to build. She didn’t want to be late for work. After a few minutes, she decided that the car in front of her had taken enough of her time so she honked the horn. She got a not-so-nice hand gesture back and continued to sit. She honked again and received a verbal response that started with “F”. The stress kept building. Finally the car drove off and Sarah pulled up to the window.
Sarah felt like she was home free until the employee at the window informed her that the order wasn’t ready. What! How could it not be ready? “They had all that time to prepare a simple latte while the jerk in front of me screwed around”, she thought. She waited for what seemed like an eternity for someone to come to the window again. She searched the store for someone to make eye contact with, but no one was in her view. She waited a little longer and looked at the window again. Nope, no latte yet. The clock was still ticking. Her stress continued to develop. “Why did I take the chance and stop here?” she thought to herself. Finally the drive-thru window swung open and she was presented with a small.hot tea. “WHAT?” she barked at the associate, “This isn’t what I ordered!” A profuse apology and a quick fix got the order corrected, but Sarah was beside herself with stress and left the drive-thru with tires screeching. As she glanced at the clock on the dash, she knew she was going to be late. When Sarah hastily walked in the door at work she was greeted by her closest colleague, “Good morning!”
She snapped back, “No, it isn’t!” and walked away.
Sound familiar? Perhaps you have awakened in the morning, felt as though a cloud was hanging over your head and had a day that just went downhill from there.
One thing didn’t go your way and it all just snowballed, like dominoes toppling.
Maybe it felt like you had no control over it all, as if you were an innocent bystander in the game of life, getting the crap beat out of you at every turn .¨ or at least it seemed that way.
Thankfully, however, things are not always as they seem.
Stress Creates Illusions
When we are having a challenging day, we tend to get stressed and we step into what I call “Threat Mode”. We easily become aggressive towards others and ourselves. That tends to make us overreact to situations that we wouldn’t otherwise think twice about. Being aggressive when we are stressed seems normal, but it’s not .¨ it’s just being aggressive. It’s a fake kind of power that is set in motion as we try to overcome the illusions that stress creates for us. These illusions are that life is happening to us and it is someone else’s fault.
When we blame others for our challenges, we are trying to give away our responsibility for our own lives. This is a tactic that was taught to us when we were growing up, but it is not helpful to us. The fact is no one else is responsible for us. We can never give away our responsibilities for our own life and what happens in it no matter what the situation. The reality is that events happen. We choose how we are going to view and ultimately experience the event.
There are other illusions that accompany stress and one of those is feeling powerful when we are aggressive. However, when we are aggressive we are not powerful, we are powerless. If we were truly powerful, we wouldn’t need to yell at, demean or harm others in any way. Roy and Judy Eidelson have developed the following five categories they believe explain acts of conflict and aggression. (http://www.eidelsonconsulting.com/papers/di.pdf)
- Superiority .¨ The belief that one is superior to another.
- Injustice .¨ The belief that one has a legitimate reason to be aggressive against another.
- Vulnerability – The belief that one is one could be aggressively annihilated at the hands of another.
- Distrust .¨ The belief that another will not honor their promises or commitments.
- Hopelessness .¨ The belief that one cannot improve their condition.
It is easy to see that aggression used in this manner is destructive at the very least and is based in fear. There is no real justification for being aggressive toward ourselves or others unless we are being attacked by more than just thoughts. And for most of us, our thoughts are the only things that do attack us. In the end, all that is really going on is that we feel powerless against events that happen to us. As we feel powerless, we perceive the event as negative or contradictory to us and this creates more stress. We react with more aggression. Can you see how this easily escalates into destruction?
Are we powerless? Not in the least. It’s just our training for life that we received that makes us feel that way, but there is no truth in it. The good news is we don’t have to keep looking at life through these filters of misperception and illusion. We have the power to create an easier life for ourselves that is more peaceful.
More Peace Brings More Power
When we think of power, we have been taught to think of it in the context of uncompromising, forceful, hard-lined and often destructive aggression. See the noun and verb forms of the word “define” below:
might – force – strength – potency – authority – energy
actuate – operate
When you combine the noun and verb form of the word define, it would seem as though being powerful means being strong, forceful, having authority and doing something. That sounds like a lot of work. But is this true power? No. This is only what we have been taught. True power comes not in the form of aggression, but in the form of peace. There are numerous examples throughout history of people who were powerful through peaceful means.
The Dalai Lama
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Bishop Desmond Tutu
It is easy to think of these people as being special or doing things we could never do. We put them on a pedestal or make excuses that they are one in a million. We don’t see ourselves as being equal to them or meant for that level of greatness using peace as our tool. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Each one of us can move mountains with peace. It doesn’t matter if it is on a small scale or on a large scale. All that matters is that we are each doing our part moving mountains in our corner of the planet. This is true power.
How You Can Become Peacefully Powerful Today
Let’s face it; feeling like victims of life isn’t doing us any favors. We feel beaten down, sick and tired. We don’t feel we have the power to change anything, let alone something as big as our perception of our lives. And being peaceful is for sissies .¨ or so we think. Just what does being peaceful mean and how can we feel more powerful with it?
Being peaceful is being tranquil, calm, free from disturbance and not engaged in war or violence. Thinking back to the story above of Sarah’s day, we can see that there were elements of violence and a small scale war going on between Sarah, life and the other players who were involved. We have established that all of this is an illusion of power. So, it is easy to see that in order to be peaceful, we have to practice being more tranquil and less engaged in violence against ourselves and others. It may not seem that what we are doing when we overreact to others or demean them for our benefit that we are being violent, but we are. It is time to stop the violence. All we need to do is to become aware of this pattern and then choose a different way of being .¨ a more peaceful way.
How can we feel more powerful by being peaceful? The power is manifested in the outcomes of being peaceful. As you become more peaceful, you will notice the positive, healthy and uniting force that comes with peace. Your actions of peace evoke those actions in others, too. This creates a wave of peace that continues around the globe in ways the human mind cannot imagine. If you watch with an open mind and no expectations, you will be amazed at the power of peace that is revealed to you.
Another thing you can do to get a feel for the power that is found in peace is to read about the people in the list above and see how peace shifted humans in magnificent ways. Find out just how each one of them chose peace over violence or aggression even in the most stressful situations. Although we are not trained to think so, it is possible to feel stressed and not take it out on yourself or others. It just takes a little practice. Here are some suggestions of things you can do to feel more powerful using peace as your means to get there:
Reduce your stress by not judging anything as good or bad (this takes practice, but is worth it!)
Stop taking things personally .¨ nothing is except to the originator
Take deep breaths throughout the day to help you relax
Exercise .¨ this is a great stress reliever
Realize others are struggling, too, and need your compassion and understanding
In the end, we can see that many who have come before us used peace as a way to be powerful. If they can do it, so can we! One by one, we can each treat others with kindness, patience and dignity and then turn right around and treat ourselves the same.
Want some motivation to practice peace? Remember that we are all One, we are all the same. We can improve our lives, the lives of others and the entire planet by being more powerful using peace as the means to get there. Why not start today?