If you’re a human being with a pulse, the chances are pretty good that you’ve been overwhelmed by sadness, anger, or anxiety at some point. And while it’s not possible to just avoid negative emotions, there’s a lot you can do proactively to reduce your chances of being overwhelmed by them.
I wrote before about understanding the nature of suffering, and so I thought the logical progression would be then to talk about its complement, the thing we do want – happiness. If we accept that suffering is made of resistance, it holds that happiness is the lack of resistance. If you look closely, you’ll see how true this is.
Despite what you may have heard, mindfulness is not a particularly “spiritual” practice. You’re simply noticing what’s going on around and inside you in the present moment without judging it. Instead of the usual human experience of being blindfolded by a constant stream of judgments, worries, regrets, emotions, and conditioned responses, once you become mindful, you start to actually see and participate in the world around you.
Most people I meet seem to think that practicing acceptance will make you either a guilty bystander who colludes with injustice, or a slack-jawed couch potato with drool running down your chin. When I use the word “acceptance” in session, my clients look at me with wide-eyed terror as if I were suggesting they just roll over and die. Clearly, I have some explaining to do.
Like the proverbial frog on the stove, most people don’t realize they’re in a toxic relationship until things have gotten very, very bad. Unlike in a healthy relationship, where conflict gets resolved through open communication, conflict in a toxic relationship triggers destructive, child-like patterns of aggression and passivity, which tend to get worse over time.