Understanding Others by understanding the Self

From our e-book “We are Here to Celebrate”

The washing machine has broken down and this frustrated Anne. The more she tried to get the machine to work, the more frustrated she felt. She started to see herself doing the laundry with her hands and her mood deteriorated. She started to find fault with Tim, her husband. Tim listened to her with compassion because he understood how negative emotions work. He knows that when negative emotions catch someone unaware, the person will most often react to them. He saw that the imagined future suffering of doing the laundry manually has triggered the feeling of frustration in Anne. He did not want to add to the frustration. Anger cannot be sustained when it is one sided. In a short while, Anne calmed down and both of them started to discuss how to solve the problem.

When we are able to see how quickly we can be overwhelmed by negative thoughts and emotions, it is easier for us to understand others when they are bombarded by these negative elements. With understanding, we are less likely to be influenced by the negative emotions of others and this enables us to deal with the situation more effectively; with love and compassion.

Understanding the workings of the ego, the Self, provides us with the wisdom to help others. When we listen to their problems, we are able to identify the beliefs, conditioning or self image that is the underlying problem. I will give you an example. Rick is frustrated because his daughter is not at the top of the class. He keeps questioning how his daughter is going to Harvard if she keeps this up. You then see that he has a mental image of his daughter in Harvard fixed in his mind. He holds a narrow belief that his daughter will only be happy if she graduates from Harvard. We cannot change the daughter’s result but we can help Rick by challenging that belief, in a compassionate way.

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When we listen to the problems of others, it is important that we maintain our awareness and listen without being emotionally affected. Breathe and listen. If we are able to stay aware and unbiased, we are more able to see the solutions to their problems. If they are too focused on past hurts, compassionately bring them back to the present by discussing the various choices they can make. Help them to think rationally rather than emotionally. This is the best gift that we can give to our friends.

When a friend is strongly influenced by a negative emotion, it is no use to give them any advice on spiritual matters at that point. The best thing to do is to maintain awareness on our breath and listen to them intently in order to understand the thoughts and beliefs that are blinding them just like how we would observe our own thoughts and beliefs. We
maintain a calm state of mind and listen with empathy; without being emotionally affected ourselves. Our inner-peace will benefit our friends and help them to calm down. At that point, we discuss with them about their thoughts and beliefs and if appropriate, share with them the appropriate practices that can benefit them. We can also highlight alternative views and solutions to the issue so that they can look at the problem more objectively.


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