In case you haven't noticed, people are walking around with enormous amounts of pain.
Some people do a good job of hiding it. Others let it out in the most obvious of ways. But a lot of us cover it up without even knowing it.
We mask ourselves in our careers, hobbies, ambitions, relationships, and lifestyles. We're so deeply entrenched in our stories and external situations, that we're unaware of the pain until it becomes strong enough to break through.
In contrast to most of my articles where I talk about your own journey within, this discussion deals with your interaction with others. Specifically, how do we interact with others who are in pain?
Where I went wrong
All throughout my life (and still to this day, albeit to a lesser degree) when someone experienced pain around me - whether it was anger, sadness, or a brief moment of psychosis - I tended to meet them with a similar energy.
Sad about something? I'd get sad. Angry about something? Now I'm angry. Yelling at me? I might not yell back outwardly, but I'm screaming inside.
No matter what the pain looked like, I'd find myself delivering it back to them. Now I know why, and I'm here to tell you, it's not the most productive way to deal with a person who's in pain.
When you react to negativity with negativity, not only does it make you miserable inside, but it clouds every action thereafter that you put into the world. It takes away your ability to then help that person. It multiplies the pain. If you're wise, you realize that your response to their anger is coming from the same place - your deeply rooted pain.
It doesn't matter if it's a coworker, an intimate partner, or the cashier at the grocery store; anger never solves problems. It only makes matters worse - for you, for the other individual, and for everybody - because you're polluting the environment with that negative energy.
No amount of anger can fuel you to constructively solve a problem. It has to be done with compassion and love. Otherwise you're not solving the problem, you're just trying to change something in the outside world so that you no longer feel angry in your inside world.
In fact, so much of our behavior, unbeknownst to us, comes from the pain we store. I'm grateful to be waking up to this truth now and sharing it with you.
How to interact with someone who's in pain
When people get nasty towards you, take a moment to pause. Ask yourself where their bitterness is coming from. You'll realize that it's always coming from the same place - pain. That person is hurting, and they need your compassion.
It may not be obvious in the moment. If they're screaming at you, it's typically not your first reaction to be compassionate and understanding. If they're criticizing you beyond reasonable professionalism (that is, they're clearly using emotion rather than reason), then they're in pain.
Situations don't make us angry or sad. They trigger anger and sadness that's already stored inside of us. Realize that people are carrying this negative baggage around with them wherever they go, effectively making them a ticking time bomb. It's not personal. Know this. Be aware of this. Be compassionate.
Think about it the other way. The times that you've blown up on someone, did they really deserve it? Or were you just carrying around so much stored pain that they gave you an excuse to let it out?
Even if someone commits an act of injustice, getting angry is never the solution, because it will only create more pain for you, and then subsequently by way of your actions, for others.
With the karmic realities of life - that is, the cause and effect of the energy you put into the universe - your good intentions to pause and be compassionate with your fellow brother and sister will go a long way. But so will your stored reactive patterns, if you let them take over.
The next time it happens
The next time someone shows their pain, whether it be a loved one, a coworker, or someone you don't even care about:
2. Take a breath
3. Realize they're coming from a place of deep-rooted pain, stored under layers and layers of more pain.
5. Don't try to change anything
This last one is the most important. When all else fails, just be present with people. It can be so easy to get swept into the whirlwind of emotions, but we've already gone over why that's unproductive.
Witness the pain they carry. Have compassion. Know that their pain is not them. Likewise, your pain is not you. You are the one living with that pain, and you don't have to, at least not in the same way that you have been doing.
People are in pain, and they need your help. You can be that help by offering your undivided attention and presence of being. You don't need to do. You don't need to say. You just need to be.
Live with substance!
The next time someone expresses the pain they're carrying inside, just be with them rather than trying to change something about the situation. Don't just look at them; see them. See them with eyes of compassion, eyes of understanding, eyes that say, "I know what you're going through, because I am going through it too. I love you."