How to win the battle against yourself (and everyone you know)
I’ve been reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now again. It was much needed but it also sent me off right onto an emotional roller coaster. I think it’s the ego feeling threatened and trying to trick you into feeding it. And it’s also the ego that’s telling you „No, no, this time you’ll be fine. No need to worry about any drama because you’re self-aware now.“ Well, guilty as charged – I walked right into that one.
Although there is tons of wisdom in The Power of Now, and much quote-worthy material, there was one paragraph that spoke to me especially when reading it this past weekend. Its content was this:
When there’s an inner conflict between your thoughts and your feelings, it’s your thoughts that are the (relative) lie, and your feelings that are true – also relatively speaking. True in the sense that they are the body’s reaction to a situation, telling you how you really feel about something at a given moment.
Naturally, I read that paragraph after I let myself get into that major argument with my fiancé. It was as if I’d followed the instructions for How To Be Unaware And Completely Identified With The Ego to the letter.
Afterwards I could backtrace the detonation of the emotional firecracker to this: we were having a conversation, and Peter questioned something that we in my mind already had agreed on. That happens. A lot. Unfortunately, the next thing also happens. Everytime Peter is having second thoughts about something that is already set in stone in my mind. What does happen is, that I freak out, and if I’m being completely honest, the feeling that surfaces is this:
This man is ruining my life with his constant doubt. All he sees is obstacles, and if I let him say no to everything, it will literally be ball and chain when (if?!) we do get married. I’ll be the prisoner of his fears, not his partner. I can’t allow him to do that to me!
But the whole thing would just be too easy if I allowed that feeling to exist, right? So what do I do? Right. I let my mind speak its, well, mind. And that line of thinking goes something like this:
You know that that is not true. That is only your view of Peter, which is tainted by your own fears. Your lack of faith in the fact that no one else can control your fate but yourself. It’s stupid to believe that he could have that kind of power. Feeling this way is unfair to him.
And you know what? My mind is 100% right. That’s where this whole thing gets messy though. For what am I supposed to do with that? I choose, as I more often than not do, to agree with my logic (since it is true), which effectively means that I forbid myself to feel the way I do. The outcome this Sunday was me standing in the kitchen, alternating between yelling at Peter and crying into the waffle batter. Because, you know, it was Sunday and I like fancy breakfast on the weekend, so the part of me that had decided to not feel what I was feeling decided it was a good idea just to go ahead and do that waffle breakfast.
But (as I would read later): when your own thoughts and feelings are in conflict with each other, the thought is the lie, and the feeling is the truth. So, no matter how logical my thinking was, no matter how right and „above“ the childishness of my fear it was – my feeling did not care.
When things where at their worst then and there, I suddenly saw myself in the situation, and saw that it was exactly the kind of drama I didn’t want anymore, and that I even had thought I wasn’t capable anymore because, you know, I knew. I thought „How the hell do I get out of this?“ I got two answers. My ego said this:
You have to win this thing. The only way to end this is to make Peter acknowledge that you are right. Then, and only then are you done with this. You cannot back down now that you’ve gone this far.
That is pretty much me in a nutshell in any kind of argument or even discussion or debate. That’s one of the reasons I don’t enjoy arguments or discussions or debates. I find it exhausting to feel like I have to be right, yet I inevitably get this feeling when I’m in a discussion/debate/argument. It’s like you tell yourself, „ok I’m playing this game but I can only let myself play it if I remember the whole time that it’s a game“. Of course, once you start you want to win, and then you’re already in the game.
I have fallen for this trap many times. I have seen the destructive outcome. Every time. There is no „win“ because that is not really what this is about. Because it’s not me against Peter (or him against me). Sure, you can destroy someone with hurtful words. But that doesn’t mean you win. Maybe it was having consciously thought about this, having observed myself, having read about it, maybe it was something completely different. Whatever it was, something opened me to the truth this time, when I was standing there, crying, and wanting to get out of this, and feeling my ego’s craving to win this argument at any cost. The truth was – is – this:
There is a way out. It is there at any moment for you. You can leave this situation by acknowldging that that is what it is: your situation. This is not you. There is nothing that says you cannot admit to Peter, and more importantly: to yourself, that you’ve just now realized that. You don’t need to follow through on this argument. And you’re right, it could last forever. Because it’s not about what Peter said or did. It’s about you feeling threatened by something he said, and resenting that feeling. And that won’t go away, it wouldn’t even if you did make Peter admit everything was his fault.
So I did that. The relief of exiting the drama came instantly, and that to me is the beauty and the truth of The Power of Now: no matter where we are in life, how deep we’ve gone into the narrative that our ego/ our intellect has fabricated to persuade us to do their bidding – it is never too late or too complicated to leave. There is no repercussion for admitting that we’ve made mistakes, even huge ones. We are allowed to and capable of freeing ourselves if we want to.
Later, I asked Peter what he thought I should have done. How I should handle a situation like this (and trust me, there will be more), so that things don’t go so wrong from the get go. His suggestion:
Say how you feel. Honestly.
He was right. As soon as we realize that we’ve gotten lost in the story, identified with a thought or a feeling, we are shining a light on them, seeing them and exposing them for what they are. And we realize that they are not us. By admitting to ourselves how we do feel, and maybe even confiding in someone we trust, we are accepting the truth of what is at that moment. It is the only alternative, if we don’t want to fight a battle we can’t win: us against ourselves. It is love.
Food fight | She’s lost control again …
I really should have written this one on Thursday, when „everything“ happened but it got late, and I had to get up early on Friday (yesterday was my first day without a post – thanks, real world with money and work and stuff). As I feared, I really don’t feel like writing about it anymore right now but I am trying to get into it. Ironically, this post might not even be relevant or interesting for anyone besides me – then again, who’s the person caring the most about a blog anyway if not the writer, right?
As you probably can guess by now, this is going to be „one of those“ posts – no pix, just me ranting. Even though dinner on Thursday would have been perfect for pix: tex-mex à la Junkfood – for real, everything homemade, soup to nuts (or rather: salsa to wraps), with like a gazillion sauces, and everything really colorful. Real photogenic food in other words. But as I said: this post isn’t going to be that kind.
I guess the reason why I feel I need to share this is because as much as I like DIYs, recipes, and that kind of stuff, and as much as I like to write and post about that stuff, that’s not all that’s going on, and it’s not all I care about. I wrote about this before, and I know that I don’t HAVE to share everything here but somehow it’s important to me to not only show what I consider my good side. I actually see that as a theme or a red thread in my life – my inability to be someone other than me, to conceal and „unspeak“ things that some might say I should. As I wrote in that other post, I have come to the conclusion that I am not here to learn to get better at hiding my true self, but to „own it“ instead, to show it, and experience that any negative reactions aren’t as damaging as I might fear. On the other hand, the best case scenario would be that being honest about my „dark passenger“ (well, ok, it’s not that bad, I didn’t kill anyone, I am just exaggerating for dramatic effect) might lead others to the realization that has been so important for me: that it’s ok to be who we are, that we don’t need to hide, that there is enough room for all of us to unfold and grow to the fullest.
So, enough with the pre-ranting. What I actually want to say about Thursday is this:
While preparing dinner, I completely snapped. At Peter. Several times. Over the smallest things. Now by snapped, I don’t mean threw things at him – but I did throw stuff.
I am a complete control freak, I know that. I take it hard when things don’t go the way I had planned them. I keep going in circles with that one. I frequently come to the realization that I cannot possibly control all the factors that play a role in the plans I am making, so change of plans does not mean I failed. For that is how I experience it: as failure. It is my duty to control every aspect of my life, and if you happen to be my boyfriend, well, then that means you’re an aspect of my life I need to control, especially if you live with me. You have to do things my way (because only my way of doing things is right, obviously). Sorry but that’s just how it is.
Like I said, every once in a while I come to the realization that that’s NOT how it is, that I don’t control everything – and that I don’t have to. There is a force out there (I think of it as love or the universe, you might call it God or something else) that takes care of me – if I let it. When I look back at my life, the most amazing things that happened to me did not happen because I planned them or made them happen. They just happened to me, where brought to me, so to say. Sure, I applied for my exchange years, but it wasn’t up to me to decide whether I’d get into the program or where I’d end up. I met Peter right after I decided there was no point in looking for a serious relationship while you’re abroad and you know you’re going back eight months later. The list goes on.
So when I have these epiphanies (yes, plural, I keep having them because I keep forgetting) I walk around for while relieved from the burden of having to control everything. I don’t feel the need to complain about anything, even when I notice things that do bother me. I don’t care what anyone does, i don’t feel the need that I constantly need to run around like a headless chicken, restless, trying to find ways to occupy myself in order to avoid silence.
And then I forget. Again. And again. On Thursday, for some reason control was important. I think the reason was general anxiety about the uncertainty of my/our future – also a recurring theme: I try to have faith that it’ll be great and it’ll all work out even if I don’t see how right now, and then I go back to driving myself crazy over not knowing. Control/Feeling in control always matters the most when I feel like everything I try to grab is running through my hands like water, and when I forget that I don’t have to be in control, that that doesn’t mean everything is going to hell.
I don’t like when food is being wasted – I have a hard time even leaving leftovers for (irrational, duh) fear of the food rotting before it gets eaten. No matter whether I am actually hungry or whether I like the food. I’ve told myself a thousand times that no one is saved from starvation by me not throwing out food but making myself sick instead. Obviously this irrational fear has a deeper root. Maybe from another life, but also very likely from how I experienced my childhood: that we bought a bunch of groceries, while the fridge was full, so half of what was in there really was molding.
So, when Peter threw away the avocados that I had bought for the guacamole because they were hard as rocks and unusable, I threw a fit. I screamed at him, why we couldn’t at least try to keep them a few days and see if they’d ripen (they were already cut open), and then I tossed a pot with some milk in it into the sink (also a leftover from Peter which had aroused my irritation earlier), and dramatically told him to go ahead and throw away everything. The best part is: I can’t even eat avocados, they give me stomach aches.
I calmed down and apologized. I always regret my outbursts afterward (I sincerely do), which does not mean I can’t have another one just a couple of minutes later.
I could already guess that it would piss me off when Peter would end up talking more to his friend whom we’d invited over than helping me. Even though it had been me who wanted to do this tex-mex shindig from scratch in the first place, and even though it had been me who wanted to do so many different things (the tortilla bread, the beef, two different salsas, a bacon-bean sauce, … you get the picture). I tried not to be too naggy. Then Peter made Mojitos (also on my demand, I had been able to get some fresh mint at the store), and did it – as he usually does – by only paying half attention to the recipe I had to remind him to look up several times, and shooting from the hip. There was about a deciliter (ca. half a cup) of rum with a few drops of lime, and some sugar in each glas, no ice, no mint, and instead of laughing, as I later wished I had done, I just got so mad. Again.
Now you might want to jump in and say that this time I really had a point. When you want a mojito, you’re expecting something specific – and it is NOT a bottle of rum with a drop of lime and a grain of sugar. However, I think the point is something else here: I am convinced that, as much as Peter may have made an honest mistake (I know he did), this did not „just happen“. I believe that this happened to me because it was what I needed. When I am trying to gain control by force over things I cannot control, things need to happen to me that remind me of that. In my view, that’s how it works in general (I know that that’s not a popular view with everyone, at some point in my life I thought people who said stuff like this where ignorant). Therefore, I don’t believe either that it is coincidence that I am with someone who is particularly „uncontrollable“, who is spontaneous, gets lost in the moment, plays life by ear a lot of the times. It’s what I need. To learn.
My meltdowns then aren’t really about Peter, either (and he is wise, he knows, and doesn’t take them hard). This is what frustrates me: that even though I know this, I still keep taking it out on him in the situation. And although my apologies are earnest, I wish that I could just remember what I know to be true. Just a few moments earlier. Live and learn, right?
My (amazing, awesome, inspiring!) yoga teacher once said that the universe wants its own good, and we are part of the universe. I don’t like quotes very much but I find this thought worth hanging on to.
May we all feel like we’re taken care of and well protected. May we feel like we can let go of control where it isn’t ours.