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The Benefits I Gained From Reducing Negativity and Developing Understanding

sunrise-michael
Experience Submitted by Michael

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.

Developing understanding

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.

depressed-man

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.

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10 comments
  • Thank you, Michael, for sharing these experiences with us.
    Close relationships bring out all that is inside of us sooner or later as Belsebuub said. That is why I feel we can sometimes develop a very strong negativity towards those near to us. For me, it seems this is an essential part of our spiritual development – although hard it brings the most benefits.

    I see how it is different for example when I deal with a family member who I don’t see so often and how I deal with those that I am with all the time. There seem to be some kind of an illusion that – I am OK now with this or that family member and even feel that we created a very strong bond between us but on the other hand if we were to spend a significant time together many psychological patterns would re-emerge.

    • Hi Tina,

      I can relate to what you mentioned about things being smoother when we are staying with family members as a visitor, compared to when we are living with them over a period of time. I think part of the reason may be that it’s common in many cultures to try and make visitors feel welcome, so if someone visits for just a brief time, there may be more of an effort on the part of the hosts to be accommodating. Likewise, the visitor is probably on their best behaviour to help the stay go smoothly. But once the “honeymoon period” is over, the reality of each person’s psychological baggage tends to become more noticeable.

      I guess it’s the same as when we go on holiday to a country – we get a somewhat superficial impression of what it’s really like to live there. But once we are living there over a longer period of time, the daily realities of life tend to interfere with our sense of peace.

      I agree that close relationships tend to be the ones in which every aspect of our character is revealed, including those characteristics we would normally try and avoid showing to others, particularly as the desire to impose our own will upon others can easily emerge when we live in the same environment for a long time.

      I think that it’s important to develop tolerance of other’s ways and opinions, in order to help close relationships go smoothly. But I also agree with your comment about how going through difficulties in relationships can be an essential part of our spiritual development, which can bring the most benefits to us, even though it can be one of the most unpleasant things to go through.

      By changing our reactions to those close to us, I think we also put ourselves in a much better position to deal with difficult situations to all kinds of people in the future.

  • I loved reading about all those situations you went through Michael. It shows me how powerful it is to work on ourselves quietly and not react, and instead respond calmly to a situation. I really struggle when I’m a conflict with someone, especially if I know I made a mistake because I go into self-blame which feels right somehow. But it doesn’t help the situation at all. And it’s hard to learn when I’m in that place of beating myself up. And I also realize that I will continue to make mistakes….and if I had known better I would have done better. All I can do is to learn and try to do better. Thank you for sharing Michael.

    • Yes Anne Linn, I’ve also seen how a guilty reaction doesn’t necessarily help the situation, as it can fuel the interplay of negative emotions between those involved. I’ve also fallen into this trap myself, where I’ve been involved in an incident, which I felt guilty about, but then my willingness to immediately accept full responsibility has actually clouded the issue, as it has taken the focus away from other factors that also allowed the problem to occur, or has allowed the individuals who were actually responsible to avoid blame, which could potentially lead to a similar situation in the future.

      Of course, it’s important to be able to recognise when we’ve made a mistake and then work to correct it. But it seems that an objective response is the best way to deal with it, so that we’re able to admit mistakes, but without beating ourselves up about it, which can sometimes just encourage bullies to latch onto a scapegoat.

      I think this article about dealing with intimidation in the workplace is a good example of how a more objective response to a crisis situation actually resulted in a better outcome for those involved:
      https://selfdiscoverylife.com/2017/04/10/when-i-learned-about-fear-and-intimidation-in-the-workplace/

  • Hi ‘bottle dodger’ Michael,

    Those situations do seem a very challenging, but the way you braved them is very good in my opinion, working strong to weaken the reactions within yourself and going through the situations in a much better way. Perhaps some of those situations you describe could’ve turned a lot nastier if you hadn’t gone through them with that control over yourself.

    “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 other in a more objective light.”

    Well said Michael, I can agree with that one.

    • Yes, fortunately the bottle was a plastic one, rather than glass. Also the fact that the lady wasn’t a particularly good shot worked in my favour! 🙂

      The last situation was probably the most difficult to experience, as the initial outburst went on for several hours and eventually required the involvement of outside authorities, in order to address it. It was a challenge to remain calm while the situation was at its most intense, but I also learnt a lot by going through the experience and was glad to see it resolved.

  • Those situations sound quite challenging Michael. Having this kind of strong negativity like anger or violence being directed towards you can be overwhelming so it’s great to hear how you were able to deal with it properly and perhaps in a way help the other people to get over their own negativity too.

    Just today a family member said something that I misunderstood and so it made an angry and defensive response rise up within me, and as a response to them I began my sentence with an upset note, but at the same time sensing that they were not feeling any negativity I cut it off and finished off what I was going to say with a more calm and neutral tone, avoiding a potential negative interaction that would have ended up hurting each of our feelings. This is to say that feeling how the other person is not negative at all can sometimes help me get rid of my own negativity easier, if I haven’t been watchful enough to do it out of my own initiative.

    This particular family member also doesn’t always hear what I say the first time, so at an unaware moment I may say something emotionally charged at them, they didn’t hear what I said, so I kind of have these few seconds to reconsider my approach like a second chance and can quickly reword what I was going to say and say it again with awareness instead of with emotion and avoid conflicts and hurt feelings. Although sometimes they can sense I was going to say something else first, but now I’m already on top of that emotion and if needed we can discuss it constructively instead of arguing about it.

    I know the trap of wanting someone to let go of their rigid views and see reality and stop being negative or avoiding things or whatever… But that’s me being negative, criticizing them and wanting them to change and pushing my views on them. I feel that coming from love and care instead would make a big difference and help to know how to respond to them.

    Similarly to what you wrote, through Belsebuub’s work I’ve been able to start decreasing my negative input in some family relationships and just being aware of the impact of my negativity on myself and others much more, and have the chance to be detached from it and get rid of it. It is actually really amazing, to get free from negativity and replace it with something higher. Thank you for writing this article Michael as it has inspired me to work more on changing inside.

    • That’s funny and interesting Laura about the family member whose slight hearing impairment gives you a chance to re-word your responses! It happened to me in the past a few times that I got a chance to re-word my responses like this and it can indeed be very useful.
      It also reminded me of something a friend once told me (not sure if its true), that Japanese soldiers had a rule to only respond to a provocation from a fellow soldier the next day. If they still felt offended, they could retaliate, but not immediately. Lots of conflicts were probably avoided in this way. 🙂

      • Thanks for your comments Laura and Lucia. Yes, it’s fortunate that your family members’ hearing impairments have actually bought you time to reconsider your response and phrase things in a more objective way! 🙂

        Unfortunately, I’ve seen the opposite occurring in myself, where having to continually repeat myself to a family member has led to irritation, which has been difficult to work against when I’ve been overly tired. This irritation has been increased by the family member’s refusal to admit that taking a hearing test could provide a solution to the problem. However, I recently saw another family member acting in a similar way to the same situation and could see that it was quite an unpleasant way of acting. I also haven’t liked it when people have become annoyed when I asked them to repeat or clarify something, so avoiding this behaviour in myself is definitely something to be mindful of.

        @Laura – Yes, I’ve found it difficult to put aside the wish to persuade others to change their rigid behaviours, particularly if their habits have caused me significant suffering as a result. I think what Belsebuub mentions in one of the videos above about understanding the limitations of others is quite useful though. Sometimes I wonder how others can be so inconsiderate, but I can see that it’s just due to a lack of understanding of themselves and others, so it doesn’t necessarily come from an intentional desire to cause difficulties or harm to others. In these cases, working on my own reactions has diffused some of the resentment that can build up due to these misunderstandings.

        I’ve also been in a few situations where the actions of others have caused me a lot of difficulties or suffering and my attempts to explain my perspective hasn’t had any impact on the situation. But in some cases, I feel that these people have actually highlighted the effects of my own past actions and how my own lack of understanding caused significant problems to others.

        @Lucia – Yes, whether or not the principle of the Japanese soldiers is correct, it’s still a good example of how taking a step back from the situation can lead to a better outcome, rather than wading straight into it in an emotionally charged way. It would be good if we could all learn to apply that rule consistently in our daily lives! 🙂

  • Michael,

    Thank you for this article. It was interesting and inspiring to read how you were able to overcome your negativity in those situations.

    I also appreciate your comment about how people’s negative behaviour can actually be developed to make up for some kind of anxiety or other suffering they may be trying to avoid or cope with. I think I need to be more mindful of this side and as Belsebuub put it in that video to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and know their psychological limitations and do your best to work intelligently.

    all the best, Michael!

About Belsebuub

belsebuub mark pritchard
Image © Mark Pritchard
Mark Pritchard (Belsebuub) is an author and spiritual teacher that has been writing about and demonstrating practical techniques for self-discovery for more than twenty-five years. Read more

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