When things get stressful in relationships, it is not uncommon for there to be and outburst of anger. One or the other person gets angry and exhibits behavior that can border on violent or manifest in other ways, such as: coldness, raising our voice, ignoring, and arguing.
It is so easy to get entangled and take part in the situation. All it takes is one person to express it and then things can easily escalate out of control resulting in a situation lasting longer than it should and both people feeling miserable.
In order to prevent an unpleasant and stressful situation, it is imperative that we be able to look beyond the anger into the other person and realize that anger is not a natural state of being. Almost always, where there arises conflict there is an absence of love, and there is an abundance of fear.
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As adults, we need the ability to step back when we are experiencing an angry outburst from someone and observe the person and the situation. This is very difficult because many of us have a need to “win.” This façade of triumph over another and the need to be “right” can prolong any unpleasant situation. This is why it is imperative to train yourself to not add fuel to the fire by participation and diffuse it with observation. This is not easy and it takes practice.
When an argument with your mate or friend has ensued and you in a heated discussion and no end seems near, this is the perfect time to choose look at the situation in a new way-something we call a perceptual shift.
As you notice faces becoming red, voices rising, and you feel your stress level elevating, you need to shift your perception from you being a victim to focusing on the other person as being frightened-and full of rear.
Once you are able to look beyond their behavior and focus on the fear that resided just below the surface of the turmoil, it may be easier to respond to the other person with kindness instead of anger and disapproval.
Often times, the other person will accuse you of trying to manipulate them as your tone softens, and they may question your sincerity. Do not let this deter your loving behavior. This is all the more reason to stick to your plan and to focus on extending love and express compassion. This process may take some time before the other begins to understand that you have an interest in eradicating the painful experience of the argument for both of you.
Often mistrustful people will react in a negative manner to the kindness and become suspicious of your intentions. People have a difficult time processing the fact that they actually have a choice between happiness and misery.
If this continues to happen, despite your efforts to stop the stress, you may need to evaluate whether or not this is an appropriate relationship for you. Both people need to respond in kind. Sometimes your efforts will show you the other’s person desire to remain in pain and cling to their suffering.
By seeing the fear, you can let go of your own fears in dealing with such a difficult situation. Seeing the other person differently allows you to create different feelings, which in turn bring different ways of behaving towards them, which in turn cumulatively begins to heal the other’s fears of further hurts. As your false perceptions heal, the other person also heals.
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If you view others as capable, you will deal with them differently and they will behave differently. People with angry outbursts and even violent behavior problems should be regarded as frightened and appealing for help and for love. With this perception, we are all less likely to participate in the battle that stands before us. Instead of feeling like the other person requires control and judgment, view them as needing your love and help.
Someone’s whole world can change as a result of how you perceive them and that is why perception is such a powerful force. How is it our perceptions of others and situations have such an influence on our experience of them? Projection makes perception. Quite simply, this means that the thoughts and beliefs inside of us are projected, coloring our perception of the outside world, its events, and our relationships in it. It is not what another person says or does, nor the events of life that make us happy or unhappy, but rather what we think about that person’s behavior or those events.
Just imagine: If the same event universally brought happiness, one could have a most successful industry of packaging and marketing it! Yet we know that when many people go through the same experience, each one’s interpretive perception is often quite different.
For example, two children raised in the same family can grow up with very different perceptions of their family life. One takes the mother’s guidance and nurturing as helpful and loving, thereby becoming open to learning from adults and authority figures. The second child takes her mother’s guidance as intrusiveness, thereby growing up to resent and question authority.
Physics of Perception
The new 21st century discoveries in physics also supports this notion by showing that there is no such thing as an objective reality that is separate and apart from us. The minute we have observed something, the physicists tell us, we influence it– and there is no place where this interaction with what we perceive as outside of us is truer than in our relationships.
As a result, we do not – cannot – see other people in our lives with absolute objectivity. Nor are they real apart from us, since we are constantly affecting our reality by what we believe, think, feel, say and do. Each aspect of our inner world tints the glasses through which we look at the people in our lives.
Let me give you an example: Liz, a graduate student, had a hurtful encounter with Sherri, in her class. After class Liz began to ask herself obsessively, “What is wrong with me that Sherri doesn’t like me?” A few hours later, however after much inner suffering, Liz overheard two classmates talking about how Sherri is bearing up so well given that her youthful husband had a premature heart attack and almost died. Sherri is in the midst of trying to keep up with school and take care of her three children while dealing with her fear.
With this information, Liz had compassion for Sherri instead of feeling rejected. When she shifted her interpretive perception of Sherri, her reality was now quite different. Nothing in the world had changed, particularly Sherri; only Liz’s interpretive perception changed, but that made an entirely different personal reality for her.
While Liz had the good fortune to hear some facts about Sherri, which changed her perspective, we shall see that it is possible for us to do even if we are not presented with personal details or inside information.
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If it is our perceptions that bring our pain and suffering, then how can we change them to move from a powerless position, in which we feel like a victim at the mercy of the people in our lives, to an empowered and happy one, in which we take responsibility for our thoughts and behaviors, and choose to extend love? How do we accomplish this task without having to wait for another person or the world to change?
A perceptual shift is choosing to see someone or a situation differently. It is seeing through the behavior presented to us that appears attacking, rejecting, or depriving. It is looking with an X-ray vision to see that the undesirable behavior is only a person who is not having access to their true self.
Since perception always includes interpretation–usually a judgment of some kind– then perception is not just a sensory experience, but includes thoughts as well and can therefore be changed!
An Exercise to Change your Perception
When a person is behaving toward us in a way we do not like, we can simply ask ourselves,
• Is it love coming from this person?”
• If not, there is only one other conclusion that is possible: This person is afraid and appealing for love.
Instead of viewing this person as an ogre, see them as a scared little boy or girl hiding behind a paper tiger and who desperately wants love. In fact, the more ferocious-sounding the tiger, the greater the fear and desperation for love.
The Rule of 2
I find the simplicity of only two emotions–fear or love– especially useful in moments of intense interaction, especially when there is not enough time to recall or get to know a painful history that might give rise to the other person’s behavior.
The perceptual shift we need to make is quite simple, though very profound:
1. When we see fear instead of attack, we are no longer afraid, and we are able to tap into our inherent capacity to love or be loving.
2. If we do not perceive attack, we don’t have to mount our defenses. We know that displaced anger was just an expression of fear, and there is no reason to get caught up in it.
3. We will know that when someone behaves in such bizarre ways, it only means that they do not know more effective ways of getting past their fear.
The choice we have moment to moment is between victimization or empowerment; pain or joy; hell or heaven; illusion or truth; the ego or our True Self.
In moments of crises, is a world filled with two categories of people:
• Those who are able to extend love
• Those appealing for love out of fear.
All of us vacillate between the two categories. Both, however, provide opportunities to get in touch instantly with empowering love. When we are in a state of loving, we are manifesting our True Self essence, which is love, our divine nature. When someone is extending love, we can be in touch with love just by opening our hearts to receiving it.
Perhaps even more important, if the other person is appealing for love out of his or her fear, you can also get in touch with love by extending love yourself to the other person who is crying out for it. The fringe benefit is that also ensures your happiness. You can never be bereft of love, for it is always there to give simply by deciding to do so, much like deciding to turn on a faucet connected to an eternal spring.
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