Over the years, I have known many people who have had the ability to “push my buttons” and stir up strong emotional responses within me. Often the most challenging relationships have been in my daily interactions with family, housemates or work colleagues. However, although there have been people in my life with strong negative characteristics, those individuals have often been the very people I feel I needed to encounter, in order to expose my own negative behaviors and reactions.
Unfortunately, when I’ve felt that the behavior of others has been particularly unacceptable, I have often allowed negative feelings to develop towards them, particularly over an extended period of time. When others have appeared to be clearly in the wrong, it has been challenging to put aside my own justifications for negativity and to wipe clean the hidden score chart of past misdemeanors, which I have subconsciously recorded over time.
Yet by holding onto past grievances, I have seen how I have allowed myself to be controlled by subconscious drives and have fallen into similar psychological traps to the people I have criticized. It has taken a long time to break the chains of these grievances in some cases, and although I strived to overcome them and reached a certain understanding of the harm that negativity can inflict, the same automatic reactions have often continued to be stirred up within me in response to other people’s behavior.
However, by persisting in applying a technique taught by Belsebuub to remove negative inner states, I have been able to improve my interactions, both with casual acquaintances and with those close to me. It may sound obvious, but I found that reducing my own negativity has served to diffuse the initial sparks that can so often ignite disagreements and resentments.
Dealing with negativity in the workplace
The workplace has often provided valuable opportunities for self-knowledge, as it has enabled me to meet people with a range of characteristics and personalities, many of whom I wouldn’t have otherwise encountered in my home life. I’ve worked in various locations and settings over the years and some particular incidents stand out, as they tested my ability to reduce my own reactions to negative behaviors and situations.
Belsebuub gives some very useful tips on the subject of overcoming negativity in the following video:
Responding when people are negative towards you
On one occasion, I was working on a mental health ward and there was an unexpected misunderstanding with one of the patients over a simple matter. As a result, I received a barrage of verbal abuse, which included every kind of swear word imaginable. The animosity lasted for a few days and made it very unpleasant to be in the company of this particular patient.
I tried my best to not get drawn into reactions and to stay as clear as I could inside, but this proved difficult at times, as the onslaught of insults brought up various emotions within me. These included feeling down at having someone express such a strong dislike towards me, anxiety about making the situation worse, and guilt about whether I had allowed the situation to get out of hand by not being competent enough to deal with it in a better manner.
However, I persisted in my attempts to counter these emotional responses by using the technique I mentioned. Then eventually, my efforts to overcome the negative reactions that were being stirred up inside me seemed to pay off and the next time I saw the patient involved in the conflict, it was suddenly resolved, when she called me over and immediately apologized for her behavior, after which I shook her hand.
Responding to violent undertones
Another time, I worked with a different lady who had manic episodes. I was preparing dinner for her and she came into the kitchen and asked me to open a bottle of liquid. I said that was fine, but that I’d just finish a task I was in the middle of doing. The lady became impatient and threw the bottle at me while I had my back turned, which fortunately just missed.
I felt a little startled, as the lady had not appeared particularly agitated earlier, but I knew that I could inflame the situation if I reacted negatively, so I applied the technique to reduce negative inner states and calmly asked her why she did it. She replied angrily and swore at me, so I calmly said that I didn’t think it was acceptable to throw the bottle at me. I continued to apply the technique to remove lower emotions, opened the bottle and then carried on with the task I’d been doing. The lady went off but then came back and apologized, explaining that she was concerned about another matter, which I was then able to reassure her about.
Learning from an angry outburst
More recently, I had a job helping a lady in her home, who had signs of dementia, which could sometimes impair her judgement and her ability to regulate her emotions. There had been a misunderstanding between us that led her to a strong outburst of anger and I was trying my best to not get drawn into the strong counter responses of anxiety, which I could feel building up within me.
After a week or so, I went to visit her again and had some apprehension as I waited outside the door, applying the technique to ask for the removal of these emotions. The door flew open with a strong force and although not much was said, the atmosphere was tense. In fact, it reminded me of the classic saying “you could cut the air with a knife”.
I tried to be polite and attentive and had in mind that we could maybe discuss the situation to clear the air. It seemed that it wasn’t the right time to touch upon this sensitive issue though, so I just focused on keeping myself clear and calm and praying for the removal of any negative responses that arose within me, so as not to worsen the situation, or provoke another outburst. Eventually, towards the end of the shift, the mood started to lighten and the lady even offered me a treat to take home. I was glad the atmosphere had calmed down, as it was obviously much more comfortable for both of us, but I was also glad that I’d been able to keep a check on some of the responses within myself that could have allowed the situation to flare up again.
Before finding Belsebuub’s work and applying the techniques he suggests, I can recall many instances of living with family members or housemates, in which I was jointly responsible for creating a negative environment. At one time, a series of ongoing disagreements with a family member resulted in a situation where we barely spoke for a while, despite living in the same house. Although we weren’t actively engaging in arguments or quarrels, the effects of our negative attitude permeated the environment and made it unpleasant for all parties to live in. However, by working to reduce my own negativity, I have been able to develop more positive interactions in this and other relationships.
By practicing techniques from Belsebuub’s work, I feel I have gained more awareness of the effect we can have on our environment and upon the lives of others. This has given me a greater understanding of the need to monitor my own emotional responses to situations and to remove the negativity within myself. As a result of reducing my own negativity, I have noticed an increase in my understanding towards others, as clearing the cloud of negative perception has enabled me to see others in a more objective light.
I have sometimes found it frustrating when interacting with people who have strongly ingrained behaviors or opinions, particularly when these behaviors or opinions prevent those individuals from seeing other people’s perspectives, or from acting correctly. However, the reverse side of this is my own need to understand the forces that drive people to act in certain ways. For example, I realized that some of the seemingly irritating habits I have observed in others may have developed through their attempts to counter anxiety through repetition and routine, or to escape depression and low feelings by seeking pleasure.
I have sometimes wished that others would change and develop a better sense of empathy, in order to accommodate my own needs and preferences. But although this would have made life easier for me, I would have missed the opportunities to observe and reduce my own negative reactions that have arisen during difficult situations.
Here is another related video from Belsebuub on the effects of inner change:
How our inner change improves the lives of those around us
I understand that I can’t always stop negative behavior in others, but I’m glad that I can at least work to reduce my own negative reactions and prevent negativity from escalating. Having this understanding of the need to fight against my own negativity has made the goal of achieving self-knowledge in the various situations of everyday life more attainable, as it has enabled me to be more watchful of my own inner states, and to be ready to apply the technique to reduce these states from moment to moment.