Having a Meditation Practice will Reduce your Emotional Reactions
Have you noticed how touchy some people are? Sometimes no matter we say or don’t say, the person we are with gets upset no matter what. Or what if you’re that person, the one who gets anxious, angry, worried or shut down whenever something unexpected happens?
This is a symptom of someone who feels things deeply (which is positive) but doesn’t have a process to manage their emotional reactions in real time (can lead to breakdowns in relationships). Our emotional reactions can cause major problems.
Emotions will be easier to deal with when you think of them as reactions to external stimuli. What I mean is that something outside of us happens (our partner says something jarring, we lose out job, we get dumped, our child doesn’t follow our directions, someone snakes in front of you to grab your parking spot…) and we have a feeling about it. That is normal.
Where people get into trouble is when they don’t objectively examine their emotional reactions and act in the heat of the moment. We are mostly addressing anger and fear in this sense.
Meditation is a practice that gives you an objective perspective on your inner world. Let’s say for example you are out with your boyfriend and he seems to be spending a lot of time talking to another girl. As you notice it, you can feel yourself getting jealous, frustrated and angry. You don’t WANT to be a nagging neurotic girlfriend but you don’t feel good watching them interact. He seems to be rather flirtatious with her!
How can meditation help? Well, in the precise moment that this is happening, it will be hard to slip into meditation. But if you have a regular practice, you will be able to notice what is going on and avoid doing something dramatic like throwing a drink in someone’s face, or making a scene by yelling in public or even imitating your own little flirtation to even the score. These are all reactions that don’t help the situation at all.
Meditation helps you strengthen your awareness of your feelings. The first step is always to identify your feeling as opposed to trying to read the situation. If you skip over the feeling and try to assess what is happening, you are likely to misread the situation.
In our example, it might be that the other girl is flirting and your boyfriend is just being polite. Or he might be flirting in a way that crosses a line. Or maybe both people have partners and no one is crossing the line but they are having a good conversation.
First things first, tune into your feelings and identify them. Why is this important? Because if you are angry and jealous, I guarantee you won’t be able to objectively see the situation accurately. Then if you act on your emotion, you will push people away. It is possible to note that you are angry but then, because you have developed greater self awareness through meditation, still view what is happening objectively. You can actually tune into the energy of their interaction.
If it turns out that the girl is trying to flirt with your boyfriend but he is keeping a good boundary, it wouldn’t be fair to take things out on him. You could see that he is trustworthy and let it go. If however he is being inappropriate in the interaction, your feelings help you now how it bothers you. Then you can calm yourself down and decide how to handle it maturely.
Mature handling of emotional reactions and difficult situations improve as you meditate because you develop peaceful ways to manage your inner life first. Then the outer life follows suit.
If your boyfriend was flirting, you could pull him aside and tell him that you feel angry because he appears to be flirting. If he denies it, that’s hard. Assuming you have read the energy correctly, if he is unwilling to own what he’s doing, your best bet is to take some distance. It might be that he will acknowledge it later on or maybe not. But you can’t live peacefully expecting everyone will take responsibility for their actions. A lot of the time, they can’t see what they are doing.
Peace comes when you identify your feeling, validate the feeling as real, calm yourself down and then examine what is going on. Certainly finding your boyfriend flirting in front of your face is not easy. But your task isn;t to control the whole world. Your task is to manage your emotions. This will bring you to a calmer place and from there you can see what is true and what isn’t.