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Thread: Withstanding life's blows

  1. #1

    Withstanding life's blows

    Hi, all. Going through a bit of a rough patch in the ol' personal life. We e-mailed my wife's ex to figure out the summer schedule for my stepdaughter. The ex's fiancee answered, and unleashed a torrent of accusations (we're terrible parents, we don't know what's going on in her school even though we volunteer there regularly, we're the cause of all the child's problems) and name-calling (white trash, big mamma, oblivious).

    The mechanics are taken care of; in our replies, we've stuck to discussing the summer schedule neutrally, and done our best to reassure her that yes, we are in fact extremely involved in our girl's education. So "how to reply" isn't quite my question.

    My question is: how do I deal with the aftermath? I mean, of course I felt angry, but even after that subsided, I could still feel the adrenalin coursing through my veins like poison. Even after coming around to think that these attacks must have come from some place of pain, and that being angry with someone in such pain helps neither them nor me, I still feel sick and sore just from having been through that whole little roller coaster ride. And my heart pounds whenever I check e-mail for any completely unrelated reason (only a couple of times a day), even though the discussion is long since over.

    I'm not looking for "Awww, poor you; how mean she must be!" types of replies. There are two sides to every story.

    What I'm wondering is: do I just wait it out? Observe the soreness, both physical and emotional, as they happen, and believe with as much detachment as I can muster that they will one day dissipate the way our bodies shake off a cold? Do something specific?

    Just typing this is helping a little. Anyway, thanks in advance for your wisdom.

  2. #2

    Re: Withstanding life's blows

    Sorry no answers for you here but a big, 'I know what you must be going through' and wish you well.

    I have had a total nightmare with my x in relation to organising things with my daughter. I don't even have email contact now, but my daughter is older now and I don't need to invlive her mum. It is my one major trigger of anger and something I still need to sit with.

    Hope things can settle in you.

    Kev

  3. #3

    Re: Withstanding life's blows

    Quote Originally Posted by donkey
    What I'm wondering is: do I just wait it out? Observe the soreness, both physical and emotional, as they happen, and believe with as much detachment as I can muster that they will one day dissipate the way our bodies shake off a cold? Do something specific?
    What helps me is setting aside some time to do things that, for lack of a better term, recharge me, for a period of time that is completely mine. For me, that means spending a few hours walking in the woods; canoing down a nearby river on a weekend afternoon; shutting myself up and listening to some of my favorite music without any interruptions; sitting and talking to a close friend about what's bothering me, or just catching up. Whatever you like to do that makes you calm and leaves you feeling more energized, and in a time that's set aside for YOU.

    I suspect this works for me because it tells my brain, as an experience, that things are actually OK and that despite the stress or trauma reaction, I can still be happy.

    Also, this is sort of cheesy, but it might help: when you're going to check your email and you notice your heart pounding, just take a moment to breathe deeply, and tell yourself (saying it out loud might make it more effective) "You're OK, there's nothing to be afraid of, everything is going to be fine." That might provide some immediate relief. If it works for you and you keep doing it for a few weeks, you'll notice that you're gradually less and less stressed each time you start to check your email, and eventually it'll just be normal.

    --Charles

  4. #4

    Re: Withstanding life's blows

    My question is: how do I deal with the aftermath? I mean, of course I felt angry, but even after that subsided, I could still feel the adrenalin coursing through my veins like poison. Even after coming around to think that these attacks must have come from some place of pain, and that being angry with someone in such pain helps neither them nor me, I still feel sick and sore just from having been through that whole little roller coaster ride. And my heart pounds whenever I check e-mail for any completely unrelated reason (only a couple of times a day), even though the discussion is long since over.

    ...What I'm wondering is: do I just wait it out? Observe the soreness, both physical and emotional, as they happen, and believe with as much detachment as I can muster that they will one day dissipate the way our bodies shake off a cold? Do something specific?
    Sounds very very familiar.

    Yes. To an extent wait it out and perhaps pay attention to something else (like a sound, or the feel of your shirt on your arms and back, the feeling of the breath etc.). If your practice hasn't matured yet it can be tough letting go and observing. Yet noticing is an important part of practice. Notice and pay attention to what's going on around you. Just stop and do something else. Put the phone down and go wash your face or do the laundry.

    We have to laugh sometimes :lol: There is nothing that anyone can say that can really effect you.

    Just pay attention and don't attach anything to this person your talking to. Even if they are putting you down, calling you irresponsible. Is that the truth? No? Then nothing to worry about. Just listen and take note.

    We invest so much in ego.
    G,W

  5. #5
    Senior Member Martin's Avatar
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    Re: Withstanding life's blows

    Yes, I've been through similar too. It's horrid. No advice, I'm afraid, save perhaps that your reaction is natural and ok.

    Gassho

    Martin

  6. #6

    Re: Withstanding life's blows

    Thanks, everyone, for your kind replies. The following bits were especially helpful.

    From Charles:
    What helps me is setting aside some time to do things that, for lack of a better term, recharge me
    This is a fantastic idea. In the aftermath of the 2004 elections, a lot of folks around here got off their butts and volunteered for whatever causes were important to them; a way of turning frustration into useful action.

    when you're going to check your email and you notice your heart pounding, just take a moment to breathe deeply, and tell yourself... "You're OK, there's nothing to be afraid of, everything is going to be fine."
    I actually tried this the other day, and it works pretty well. Felt a little silly, but silly is better than stressed, yes?

    From Will:
    There is nothing that anyone can say that can really effect you.
    This statement landed like a gentle two-by-four. You're right. Intellectually, I know that defending attacks on this goofy, insubstantial identity is unnecessary. That knowledge is not completely "in the marrow," though, which is why the initial sting from the slap lasted so long. One day, I'd like to be able to perceive these kinds of slaps with more observation and less reaction.

    Practice, eh?

    One more thing that helped a little was that our girl's teachers said some very positive things today about our participation in her education.

    Anyway, thanks again to everyone.

  7. #7
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Withstanding life's blows

    There's a Tibetan teaching that we should be grateful for every obstacle or hardship that we encounter because these are the best teachers. How I deal with similar annoyances is to try to take the equanimity and insight I've developed on the cushion, and an open and curious state of mind, to examine my reactions. To use Pema Chodron's terminology, I look for "the hook" on which I'm getting caught.

    Usually, as Buddha taught, it has something to do with ego. My sense of "me" doesn't like it when someone says nasty things about me. And if you're on the path of liberation from ego, what a wonderful opportunity when something brings your ego out and ragin' like an angry bull. If you're in a really advanced state of mind you could thank this woman for being a bodhisattva who is kindly taking the time to teach you patience and test your practice. You could see her as an advanced teacher testing out what still gets your goat and thank her for her teaching.

    But of course when you try to fake patience, equanimity, or compassion, you just get yourself more agitated and miserable. The first step for me is always being honest with myself. Once there's honesty, then humor can come in. You can laugh at your ego and you can laugh at the ego of the angry person trying to push your buttons. And when you've dealt with your own stuff you will then find it much easier to look upon your antagonist with compassion.

  8. #8

    Re: Withstanding life's blows

    Lots of good advice & the only thing I would add is time. I know it is a cliche but the passing of time is a great healer, it does give you some perspective. It is just now at this moment, a painful, place to be.

    Kind regards

    Jools

  9. #9

    Re: Withstanding life's blows

    Hi, Stephanie.

    Usually, as Buddha taught, it has something to do with ego. My sense of "me" doesn't like it when someone says nasty things about me.
    There's a related phenomenon to this, too. It can be tempting to think, "Well, the insults against me don't matter. But the ones against my wife and children? How dare she! How noble of me to get upset on someone else's behalf!" It's a subtle trap.

    you could thank this woman for being a bodhisattva who is kindly taking the time to teach you patience and test your practice.
    This works so much better than the "I'll pray for you" approach taken by some when they see behavior that bothers them. The latter seems to say, "I'm better than you; I'll teach you." The former is closer to, "Thank you for teaching me."

    And you're right; you can't fake equanimity. But to some extent, the clothes make the man. There are times when one can strive to act in a calm and caring manner, and find that this actually helps the boiling feelings to settle.

  10. #10
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Withstanding life's blows

    Quote Originally Posted by donkey
    There's a related phenomenon to this, too. It can be tempting to think, "Well, the insults against me don't matter. But the ones against my wife and children? How dare she! How noble of me to get upset on someone else's behalf!" It's a subtle trap.
    Yes, I think this one can be harder. You might feel that by not responding to ire with ire you're not protecting your loved ones. But of course stoking another person's ire who's in the position to say hurtful things to or about your loved ones really isn't going to improve the situation, right? The best I find I can do when I'm in that position is to do my best to give my loved ones the tools I have for dealing with these things.

    Sometimes we are called upon to defend another person, but we're not going to be able to make the quickest and clearest decisions about how best to do that if we're caught up in anger and/or other ego-reactions. So to me, cultivating equanimity comes first.

    you could thank this woman for being a bodhisattva who is kindly taking the time to teach you patience and test your practice.
    Quote Originally Posted by donkey
    This works so much better than the "I'll pray for you" approach taken by some when they see behavior that bothers them. The latter seems to say, "I'm better than you; I'll teach you." The former is closer to, "Thank you for teaching me."
    Right, but this can become magnanimous and absurd too. I've found the only way to make it work is to be able to maintain a sense of humor about it. "Damn, you're good, you really got me," etc. Or being able to laugh at seeing someone frothing at the end of their own tether (not the most bodhisattva-like behavior, admittedly). Of course the latter can become a power trip really quickly--something to watch out for. Either way, it always helps me to try to see or think of what's motivating or driving the other person's behavior. Honesty helps--sometimes it is because of something I'm doing that I should change. But often another person will come at you with stuff that has little to nothing to do with you whatsoever. When there's nothing to do to improve the situation, you can just hand the other person's ire back to them.

    Quote Originally Posted by donkey
    And you're right; you can't fake equanimity. But to some extent, the clothes make the man. There are times when one can strive to act in a calm and caring manner, and find that this actually helps the boiling feelings to settle.
    Well said. I agree. I've just become wary in my own experience of my tendency to kid myself about something and by failing to acknowledge my true feelings create some sort of weird repressed misery that usually leads to pretty stupid behavior later on.

  11. #11

    Re: Withstanding life's blows

    The collective Wisdom and Compassion of the Sangha, speaking in individual voices ... it is a wonderful thing.

    The only thing I would add is that this is all life ... if it is not an ex-spouse or a boss or someone else, if it is not this problem or that problem or some other problem ... it would not be life!

    It is no joy to think so at the time, but it is true. Up down up down goes the roller coaster, and our way is to see it for the ride it is. Yippee! We even drop all thought of "up down up down" as we go "up down up down". On real roller coasters, I used to get all tight in my stomach as if twisted up ... I hated it. Then, one day, I tried Zazen on a terrifying coaster and all the tension was gone ... Now, I even like roller coasters (once I get past the stomach twistings). :wink:

    So, I second all the words of advice offered above. I second particularly what Steph said ... see this person as teaching you some things about ego, attachment, your mental reaction to things.

    Gassho, Jundo

  12. #12

    Re: Withstanding life's blows

    i cant really say i know how it feels to argue over your daughter with an ex spouse since i have no children or exs. but i do know how it feels to lose ones temper. what i find to work best for me is not only trying to keep up and not slip (that would be best), sometimes we do slip and fall of the bike as Jundo so perfectly put it. I think we must also keep in mind that after we have already snapped and got angry and even if we reacted in an aggressive way, we should try to relax as best we can and ask for forgiveness. i personally believe that no matter who is right and who is wrong. even if the response was justified, as long as i act meanly to the other person, i am wrong. there for after we relax and calm down we should try to ask for their forgiveness. each time i have a fight in my home and it doesn't matter who started it. the fact i was part of it and fought made me wrong. we must not let our ego and our anger hold us back from humility and forgiveness.

    Gassho,
    Daniel.

  13. #13

    Re: Withstanding life's blows

    Jundo, I agree. Quite a community we've got ourselves here.

    HezB, yup, that's a plunger.

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