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Overcoming our Reactions to Stress

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by Roland Trujillo

   Our problems in life begin when we become angry, resentful, and upset.  When we are angry--emotion clouds reason and we say or do the wrong things.

   Next we become upset at our upset, angry at our anger, and resentful at our resentment! All this does is add another layer of wrong reaction.  And when we are resentful, we are even more cut off from reason and calmness.

   Soon we find ourselves lost in the imagination and there we become even less in control of our actions. We react to our tricky imagination and then do or say something foolish, only to scurry back into the imagination to hide from another round of upset and failing.

   Once we become emotionally out of control, we start to experience more and more physical symptoms, such as tension headaches or upset stomach. We might try to change jobs or take pills, but because of conditioning, we find ourselves becoming more and more upset all the time and then suppressing symptoms. We push them under the carpet and try to distract ourselves with nice thoughts (but we are still reacting underneath and continuing to deteriorate physically).

   We might also try ďworking on ourselves.Ē Buddhists, New Age, Jewish and Christians who want to improve themselves all begin with self examination, but end up struggling with negativity, selfishness,  and hostility. The problem is that trying to deal with our fallen nature in this way only adds another level or struggle, tension, frustration, and denial.

   We canít change our own nature. We can only pretend we are nice, hide from the world, try to blank negative thoughts, or suppress symptoms.

   Itís just another trap. If there is a devil (and I think there is), he will be glad to play the game with us: encouraging us to struggle with negative thoughts and emotions. He knows that we will eventually either give up and abandon ourselves to feelings or walk around deceiving ourselves that we have changed ourselves.

    The reason these self-help and positive thinking projects donít work is because they are another egotistical effort to make ourselves good. In other words they stimulate pride. And pride is our downfall.   

  The real answer is to stop reacting emotionally and resentfully. Many of us would like to, but we donít know how to. We think, for example, that we should be nice to people by trying to be nice (which produces more tension), or by becoming a people pleaser to avoid being upset. But this only tempts others to take advantage. We think we must try to not be upset, but trying is an act of will that only adds more tension, repression, and guaranteed frustration when we become upset again.

   Actually the first step to being a better person is learning the discipline of not becoming upset in the first place.

   If you do not become upset in the first place, you wonít have to repress emotion or try to make up for guilt in the second place. You will be free to be calm and reasonable.

   If you donít become upset in the first place, you wonít have to go overboard in being nice to people to make up for the guilt.

    If you donít become upset in the first place, you wonít have to reach for pleasures and material things to make up for what you lost when you became resentful or angry.

   Many of us also recognize that another step toward being a better person is to be more forgiving. This is true. Unfortunately, once again we tend to think that being forgiving means being nice to everyone. We can be run ragged by doing for everyone else. Or we think being nice is pushing down our true (angry) feelings.  

   The true way to be more forgiving is to not judge or resent in the first place. Learn to overlook. This does not mean pretending not to see error or wrong. It means seeing the errorójust donít hate the person for it.

  And for those you already have resentedósimply see that your resentment is wrong because it is hate and judgment. Watch for the next opportunity to drop the resentment you already have. Watch for it, and let it go.  The accumulated physical symptoms will be manageable once you have gotten past the resentment.

    Learn the simplicity of meditating properly, and you will be free to be the self you were always meant to be. Meditating teaches you to be the observer of your own wrong reactions from a calm perspective. Meditating properly teaches how to nip reactions in the bud before they have time to grow, take root, and spread.

   The other reason why proper meditation is so critically important is because it teaches you how to deal with the symptoms of prior falls. Many of us, because of suffering, begin to soften and have a more forgiving attitude. Being mellower permits us to somewhat deal with new occasions where previously we would have become angry or resentful. But we keep getting tripped up by surfacing buried emotions from prior upsets.  

   Proper meditation teaches you how to stand back from emotional thoughts and feelings due to past failing. Proper meditation teaches you how to stand back and observe your own wrong reactions without over-reacting to them. In essence, it teaches you how to be more forgiving with yourself.

   It is critically important that any new desire to be more forgiving to others also include the technique of dealing with what has already gone wrong within us, otherwise we flounder and become discouraged because we donít know how to deal with what we see about ourselves.

   For the person with a sincere desire to know the truth, the proper meditation is a God-sent help.