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bitter

Day 6 – I am Grateful for the Ability to Release All Bitterness, Resentment and Dissatisfaction and Emerge Resilient

I am grateful for the ability to release all bitterness, resentment, dissatisfaction, so that I may see the blessings I miss while taking part in the everyday busy-making of life.

Sometimes we are so focused on the things that are wrong in our lives that we barely notice the good things that we are right under out noses. It takes a chance encounter, a life changing experience, a thought provoking conversation before you open your eyes and look around you with a different lens. When you do look around with a fresh perspective, you realize the beauty you were searching so desperately for, the one that you have been taking for granted, has been with you all along. You were just too caught up in the drama, the bitterness of things that didn’t go our way.

Resentment and bitterness can cloud your vision. Bitterness is a vice that holds you in its grip long after the offending incident has passed. Here’s the interesting part. When bitterness festers into resentment, it pollutes your entire being. Often, it also pollutes your relationships, your aspirations, your environment.

[youtube height=”480″ width=”940″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4VbVNg7F3U[/youtube]

I once cared for a terminal cancer patient who had lost it all. I mean this in a literal sense. When he was diagnosed, he lost his job, his physical abilities, his beloved garden, even his wife who left him for a more physically able man. Yet, every time I saw him, he was polite, even kind, always trying to make others feel comfortable. When I asked him how he stays so positive, he replied with words that I will never forget.

[quote align=”center” color=”#4acb58″]“I have a few days left to live.  I refuse to let cancer win by spending those precious moments checking off the things that didn’t go right for me. Wherever my wife is, I hope she is happy. We don’t need two people suffering through this horrible illness.”[/quote]

His generosity of spirit brought tears to my eyes – but it was his utter lack of bitterness that left me stunned. This man who had been served the worst imaginable circumstances, was sending cosmic goodwill to the one person who should have been by his side but had deserted him in his worst time of need.

[message_box title=”AFFIRMATION” color=”beige”]I am grateful for the human ability to forgive and move on. I am grateful for the release of bitterness, for dissatisfaction , grudges, and resentment. Releasing pent up bitterness not only frees the other person from the shackles of your negative energy, it also ironically frees you , releases you and cleanses you from whatever pain you are holding in your heart. I solemnly resolve to release all bitterness from my mind. I choose to remember instead the liberating power of a joyful mind. Regardless of the awful things I’ve been through, the heartache that loved ones have inflicted upon me. Regardless of the countless personal dreams I’ve seen crash and burn, I promise myself that from this moment forward, I will release the failures – both mine and those of other people. Starting from this moment until my last breath, I resolve to choose freedom. Freedom from bitterness. Freedom from resentment. Freedom to focus on positive things that will drive me in the direction of my dreams instead. [/message_box]

So here’s the thing…

In order to turn your disappointments into learning opportunities,  you need to nurture a mindset of resilience. Resilient people bounce back from disappointments and failures, using these setbacks as rungs on the ladder to success. Resilient people:

Remain accountable.  They own up to their part in the problem. They make no excuses. They never play the victim card.

Remain optimistic.  In the best-selling book, Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain, author Elaine Fox talks about the fear-seeking brain and the pleasure seeking brain. Those that have a sunny disposition are optimistic, friendlier and also likely to get more of what they want out of life. This is based off of actual research. So remain optimistic – it might just make the difference between achieving our dreams – or not.

Have strong boundaries. Many people confuse being a people-pleaser with being compassionate. Resilient people create and exercise strong boundaries for themselves. When people walk all over them, they react by reinforcing their boundaries, clarifying what is acceptable to them, and what they will not stand for. They do not react with complying and then feeling bitter or resentful.

Avoid self-bashing.  As important as it is to not let people walk all over you, resilient people realize that it is also unacceptable to beat yourself down. Whatever mistakes you may have made in the past, forgive yourself.

Ask for help. Resilient people know when they are in need of help and seek it. They recognize the fact that if they do not tend to their issue, it will only get bigger and take more energy to resolve.

Learn from challenges. Resilient people don’t dread challenges. They relish them. Opportunities to learn, grow and to refine their methods in their quest for success. Challenges are just learning opportunities in the grand scheme of things.

Stop seeking control. Resilient people recognize that everything in life will not be under their control. They learn to be flexible and roll with the punches life throws at them. They learn to let go of the petty things and choose to focus instead on what matters to them.

Embrace change. Resilient people welcome change. They know that change, both good and bad presents opportunities for personal growth. They learn to accept change and even thrive in it.

This list was inspired from (but not exactly the same as) ’10 ways to be better, not bitter, through deep challenge’ by Kathy Caprino

Today’s Task

I want you to start noticing how you feel inside. Start noticing how incidents throughout your day make you feel either positive or negative. Grab a piece of paper, make three columns:

Column 1: Notice the events that trigger feelings towards the negative end of your emotional spectrum. Simply make a note of them without analyzing, making inferences or judgements

Column 2: Write down your reactions. Did you react with your gut? Did you think about it first? Do you believe that negative statement in your head or one someone else has said is true? Is your reaction external (verbal communication, physical action) or internal (introspection, anxiety, brooding)? How does your reaction impact your thoughts.

Column 3: Identify the underlying issues. Did the comment about your weight strike a nerve with you because of larger body image issues. Did your brother’s comment about getting a ‘real’ job make you feel inadequate? Rank each incident from 1 to 10. 1 being very important, 10 being  not so important. How important is this issue in your life. Which ones align with your goals? How much energy should you expend on it?

 

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Squash the Negative Thoughts that Are Destroying Your Productivity

In a haze of exhaustion, anger, PMS and the stresses of child-rearing the other day, I completely lost it while trying to get this project done.

It started with my toddler refusing to have her omlette and demanding cookies for breakfast and quickly snowballed into a full-blown cascade of negativity.

Problem is, it had nothing to do with my toddler or breakfast or even child-rearing. There is this tape that keeps playing over and over in my head whenever I get upset. Its like a continuous refrain that crescendoes into self-doubt and tears. What am I doing half a world away from family and friends trying to raise a child when I can barely take care of myself? How long did I think I could keep up this charade of domestic bliss living in an extended family of eight? Yes , eight. What am I, with my professional degrees and independent rearing doing depending on my husband for everything like some 19th century stay-at-home wife?

I became so fixated on these “issues” that I started bawling right alongside my two year old. The project I was working on? Straight out the window.

Funny thing is, on the whole I am genuinely happy. I chose to live half a world away from family and friends and raise my child with my husband. I actually like living in a huge family, not the least because it gives me so much more support in raising my two year old but also because I am a better mom for it. And not to piss the feminists off, but I actually enjoy having a capable, strong and protective man take care of me emotionally and financially for this brief period in my life while I devote myself to the first few years of our child’s life. Contrary to popular belief (and to my own) I am blessed to have the kind of life that I do.

So why do these same old thoughts cycle through my head when I’m struggling to be productive – like some well-worn belt of a treadmill that goes nowhere? Because I think too much.

Although new mothers are often ones who over-think and mire themselves in a pattern of negative self-talk, I am pretty sure we aren’t the only ones with a penchant for brooding over an issue until everything explodes around us and we lose track of what it was that we are actually trying to accomplish.

Do you over think things too? What if you nipped these seeds of negativity in the bud? Negative thoughts often trigger a chain reaction with one dark thought roping in another and before you know it, you find yourself in the throes of anger, resentment and depression.  What if you could declutter your mind and streamline your thoughts?

Sometimes its better to just let experiences wash over you without analyzing, judging, inferring or processing at all. Experiences, after all, are the primary products of life, and you cannot completely avoid unwanted situations. What you can control, however, is whether or not you fuel these unproductive feelings with your thoughts. The way you think influences your productivity. Do you want to live a positive life or a negative one?

Just how do you clip your negative thoughts anyway?

I had this crazy clinical instructor in university. The kind that told you quirky stories that you thought went nowhere but you listened because they were interesting. Then BOOM! You realized that they applied to your life and your learning goals. Some of them weren’t just interesting anecdotes but practical, engaging learning tools.

This one time in my freshman year, I was close to tears dealing with a particularly difficult patient when she pulled me aside and told me about the acronym ‘STOP’. I listened politely until she went:

“You need to STOP”

“Slow down, you mean”

“No STOP, you think too much and get yourself worked up”

I looked at her trying to figure out if it was a random story or one with a moral. You never knew with her.

She went on to tell me about a concept that I have been coming back to over the years when I’m wrangling with a particularly challenging situation or emotional problem. Or when I’m looking to make a quick, impactful decision.

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Stop. The deciding factor in how most situations turn out for us is how we react to them. The S in the STOP acronym stands for disengaging from a situation before you react. Gut reactions are great in fight or flight situations but we no longer live in the caveman days of running away from the carnivorous beast that wants to devour us. We live in a social world and staying calm in an upsetting situation is a skill we can only master by stepping back before we react emotionally. Not only do rash decisions clip our productivity, they may also cause us to make mistakes that we may regret later. Some mistakes are much harder to undo and it is much more productive to just take a moment to step back and make a rational decision rather than try to patch up a crappy decision later.

Take a Breath. In fight or flight, the adrenaline seeping into your system makes you breathe rapid and shallow.  The oxygen in your brain drops as your brain shunts the blood to your limbs for fight or flight. Take a deep breath in. Smooth and slow. Take your time breathing it out it out. Breathing deeply tells your brain that you are not preparing to fight or flee.

Observe. Not all thinking leads to negativity. When you react instinctively, you are often focussing on how wrong or unwanted the instigating event or behaviour is. If you are in conflict with another person, observe how they are feeling, try to see what has caused them to behave I  a way that has upset you. A little empathy goes a long way in human interactions. If the conflict is self-imposed or internal like mine was, try to step back and look at the whole picture. Observe how your body feels when you are upset. Observe what events or thoughts may have triggered your response. Perhaps naming this emotion may help you understand and resolve the situation in a rational manner. At this stage, your observation is as objective and detached as you can possibly manage.

Proceed. This is where you step back into the situation at hand, preferably calmer, with a bigger picture in your mind. When I put my toddler situation into perspective, it wasn’t such a big deal after all. Just because my toddler asked for cookies at breakfast doesn’t mean I failed as a mother or as a human being. Rather than focussing on my overwhelming self-doubt, I ended up calming my baby down with crayons so I could carry on working on my project. Stepping back and putting the situation into context will help you be an effective problem-solver when you come back to resolve it.

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At first using STOP may feel awkward. Lets face it, that’s a lot of steps to go through in the split second between getting upset and thinking negatively. Avoiding a downward spiral of negative thoughts takes practice especially if you (like me) have been thinking negatively for a long time. Difficult thought it may be, learning this skill of putting things into perspective will do wonders for your productivity in a stressful situation.

Try the STOP strategy the next time you are upset – and let us know how it went for you. Leave a comment below!