The other day at work my (consistently unreliable, unprofessional, untrustworthy, immature--oh yeah, lots of love there) coworker did something and acted towards me in such a way that left me absolutely livid--adrenaline racing, flames on the side of my face, the whole shebang. (All safely contained under a veneer of cool, calm professionalism, of course, unlike some people.) Mind you, my reaction was completely justified. "You are completely entitled to be annoyed," my boss told me. Which, yes, I was. But after it was all over and done and the rage monster safely back in his cave, I was still thinking about it. I remained irked; the annoyance still rankled inside me. On the one hand, I knew I was perfectly justified in feeling that way. But on the other hand, I knew that I didn't have to feel that way, or at least that I didn't have to continue feeling that way. While I can't control other people's behavior, how I react to their behavior is completely up to me. This is a pretty revolutionary shift in thinking for me, and something that I've slowly been coming around to over the last few years. If you had told me ten years ago, or even five years ago, that feelings were something you could control, I probably would have laughed in your face, or started speaking to you in robotic voice, "Robots no feel feelings, beep beep boop." And maybe you would have gotten mad, because you were trying to tell me something real and serious and true and I mocked you for it, or maybe you would have shrugged it off, because you would have known, being a sane, rational human being, that how you react to someone else's idiotic behavior is, of course, completely under your control.
This has been a difficult concept for me to internalize, going as I am on a three decades old belief that your feelings are your feelings and there is nothing you can do about it. If I am mad I am mad, if I am hurt I am hurt, if I am heartbroken I am heartbroken, and all I can do is hope that eventually, with enough time, these feelings, or at least the intensity of the emotions, will dissipate a bit. And sometimes, it takes a really long time. I have long suspected, without actually being able to prove it (I can't exactly take a survey), that I might feel things more deeply than other people, and take longer to get over things. But if I did, I told myself that it was just part of my makeup, like how I was also taller than some people, and better at languages than some people and worse at math and sports. I thought it was luck of the draw. I knew I could control my behavior, but my emotions were a free for all.
It was reading about Buddhism that really turned me around. Or at least opened me up to the possibility that there is an alternative to being ruled by your emotions. I became open to the fact that, at the very least, it was possible for other people (i.e. Buddhist monks), though I remained unconvinced that it was a reachable goal for me, personally. The process of non-attachment, even for brief periods of time, seemed too hard, too monumental. It still does. But even the fact that the possibility of it exists makes everything feel different than before.
And I tried yesterday, really I did. Whenever I felt the annoyance rise back up inside me I thought, "Just let it go." But I couldn't. A few seconds, or a few minutes later, and there it was again. -Knock knock. -Who's there? -Your anger. -Go away. -Ok...[ten seconds later] Knock knock. -Go away! -No! Knock knock! -Gah! -No, not gah...guess again! It was like having an internal dialogue with the world's most annoying three-year-old.
Later that day at yoga, the teacher asked us to evaluate if we were still carrying anything from our day, and hey, guess what, I was. I know because I was thinking about the work episode at the exact second that she said that. She suggested that if we were still carrying something in our heads, to just let it go, "poof." This resonated eerily with something my therapist has said; that in talking about things that bother you (in a therapeutic setting in which you are charged by the hour, of course), sometimes those things will just disappear...poof. She accompanied this with a hand gesture indicating, perhaps, a wisp of smoke, or a bird flying away. Let's just say that thus far I remain deeply skeptical of the "poof."
Home from yoga and still--still!--annoyed, I contemplated my inability to let things go, decided I was an abject failure as a human being, and started my period. Oh. So I cut myself some slack, ate a bunch of chocolate biscotti, and actually started feeling a lot better about things.
How do you deal with anger/annoyance/negative emotions? Are you able to just let them go--poof? Or do you struggle with them like me? How do you get past them?