Picture this…you arrive home with your carryout order. You’ve been looking forward to a relaxing evening after a busy day and to the delicious food you’ve been wanting. You settle in at your table, put on some music you enjoy, and you’re prepared to greet the evening. One by one you take the food out of the bag, set it on the table, open the containers, and put a straw in your soda cup. Good to go! Then you notice they forgot your favorite condiments that seem to make the entire meal worthwhile. How do you respond? Do you blame and judge, feel angry, slighted? Do you imagine what you’ll say – in a not very nice way – to the workers back at the restaurant?
Or how about this…your supervisor sends you an email that s/he would like to schedule a meeting with you at the end of next week when she gets back from her vacation. You have no idea what she wants to talk to you about, but for the rest of this week and through the following week you start thinking about the mistake you made on a project last month, maybe you will get fired over it. You think that you haven’t been there long enough to build enough experience for the next job search, how will you pay your rent and bills, and on and on and on.
In the first example, you go back to the restaurant and just as you’re ready to give them a piece of your mind you see that the person who served you is about to leave. As you lambaste her, she apologizes and tells you this is her first day. You also notice that she has a physical disability. You start to feel compassion and realize that not having your favorite sauce doesn’t compare to her situation and to making her feel awful.
In the second example, when you do meet with your supervisor she tells you how happy she is with your work ethic and attitude. She puts you on an important project that you’ve been wanting and for more pay.
Judgment, a sense of victimization, distorted thinking, being reactive. These are just a few states of mind that actually create our own suffering. It helps to learn to notice how you’re feeling and thinking. Stop, slow down. This isn’t about blaming yourself by the way! It is about learning to notice how you might be contributing to your suffering.
Even knowing that we created some of our own suffering can be met with either discouragement or empowerment. What will you choose?