Turning Our Negative Reactions into Personal Growth

Turning Our Negative Reactions into Personal Growth
When Getting Your Buttons Pushed Can be Put to Good Use

When people annoy us, upset us or generally get a strong negative reaction out of us, we’ve got two basic choices: stew on it, or get over it and let it go. Or so we think… maybe there’s a third choice. Whether we react hastily or manage to respond from a more centred place, the fact is that they hit a nerve; not unlike when someone gives us a massage and touches something that is sore that we didn’t know was even there. Maybe we can use whatever it was that ‘pushed our buttons’ to show us things that may need to be healed within ourselves.

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. – Carl Jung

This is a great quote from Jung that conveys a truth to us, but it only really touches the surface. In order to find a deeper understanding, it requires us to ask a deeper question: “What if the thing that is irritating me about another is something that exists within me, that I don’t like about myself”. This idea was also suggested by Jung when he said ‘Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens’; as well as RW Emerson’s famous quote: “When you point your finger at another, three of your fingers are pointing back at yourself.” In fact, many have echoed this sentiment throughout the years.

Alt text here“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as WE are.” ~ Anais Nin. Image: Marten Newhall

What is Our Reactiveness Pointing Us toward?

Practically all of us have had experiences when, as children, adults berated us (or worse) for certain behaviours. When this happens to us as children it can lead to us mimicking the model shown to us by the adults around us and not accepting, but rejecting those aspects within ourselves. We learn that if the behaviour that was berated occurs we should also dislike it, as our role model did; in this way, we learn to separate off parts of ourselves. There is now a division within us: over here are all the things I like and over there are the things I don’t like about who I am. These kinds of judgment can come not only from our parents, but our community, the media and society.

By no means am I suggesting that we should blindly accept all of our discordant behaviour that causes problems for ourselves and others and not try to improve ourselves. There is certainly a place for learning how to modify our own behaviour, however, it seems that problems arise when this leads us to the conclusion that certain parts of ourselves are unlovable. Unfortunately, this means aspects of our selves can then be left unaccepted and unloved; the very opposite to what could well be the roots of all healing – self-love and self-acceptance.

Whatever you do, you do to yourself. To judge others only compounds your own faults. – Buddha

If we’re wanting to live into our highest potential it involves making ourselves whole by paradoxically finding the things that we need to heal and at the same time accepting ourselves exactly as we are. Both at the same time even though they seem to contradict. Such a paradox often makes us feel uncomfortable, however, we only ever consider ideas that feel comfortable can we really be surprised when we end up repeating the same negative patterns over and over? We may need to look inwards and see our faults and despite it feeling counter-intuitive, heal those flaws – not by attacking them and trying to rip them out by the roots, but by loving and accepting those parts of ourselves we have been taught to reject.

Noticing a single shortcoming in ourselves is far more useful than seeing a thousand in someone else. When it is our own we can correct it. – The Dalai Lama

Alt text here“The highest form of human intelligence is to observe yourself without judgement.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti. Image: Darias Bashar

How being Triggered Can Lead Us Directly to Our Hidden Wounds

A key for many may be found through learning to find all of these little micro-fragments of ourselves that we haven’t learned to accept and love, and shining the healing light of awareness-without-judgment on them. The problem is that these aspects can be buried, hard to find, hidden in the realm of our unconscious – in the realm of our shadow.

This is why noticing when we’ve become triggered by another can be an amazing gift. If in that moment, we can learn to look inwards and see if there are any parts of ourselves that are similar to the behaviour we have an urge to attack or push away, we can allow the annoyance to lead us directly to parts of ourselves that need the healing of self-love and self-acceptance.

There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything [that] exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself. – Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings

As we go through a process of looking inwards and being directly guided to these parts that are un-accepted, and we learn to simply sit with those parts of ourselves and become comfortable with them as being a part of us, we become more comfortable with who we are as a whole. Not only that, but we also release the root cause for our reaction to others and become more accepting of those around us.

It is neither necessary, nor possible to change others. But if you can change yourself you will find that no other change is needed. To change the picture you merely change the film, you do not attack the cinema screen! – Sri Nisargadata Maharaj

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3 years ago

I think I do understand what the good and the bad karma is.and I’m willing to let go of the past and move on with my life cause I was always looking back to all the things that happen in my past life
I want to start a new life and be able to move on to do good to others as I would expect them to do the same to me.so I think I will be ohk cause I’m getting somewhere now
Thanks guys

Jonathan Davis
6 years ago

‘If you suffer, it is because of you. If you feel blissful, it is because of you. Nobody else is responsible, only you and you alone. You are your hell and your heaven too.’ – Osho

Jonathan Davis
6 years ago

“Anything which is troubling you, anything which is irritating you, that is your teacher.”
– Ajahn Chah

Jonathan Davis
7 years ago

Here’s another dimension, a practice that could be done in parallel with what i’m encouraging in the article:

If you are willing to look at another’s behaviour as a reflection of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time cease to react at all. – Yogi Bhajan

Erin Hernandez
7 years ago

Hi there Jonathan. I love this article and it’s a great way to encourage self growth. There are several typos or extra words throughout the article. I want to share this on my business Facebook page, and will. It may be a good idea to have some fresh eyes take a quick look to do some correcting!! The content is great 🙂

Jonathan Davis
7 years ago

He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with the universe. – Marcus Aurilius

Jonathan Davis
7 years ago

All judgment reveals itself to be self-judgment in the end and when this is understood a larger comprehension of the nature of life takes its place. ~ David R. Hawkins

Jonathan Davis
7 years ago

Nobody is so enlightened that they don’t need to work on themselves. – Terrence McKenna

Jonathan Davis
7 years ago

The more something upsets you, the more it is meant for you. When it no longer upsets you, it is no longer needed, because the lesson is complete. – Bryant McGill

Jonathan Davis
7 years ago

It is easy for the doctor to show understanding in this respect, you will say. But people forget that even doctors have moral scruples, and that certain patients* confessions are hard even for a doctor to swallow. Yet the patient does not feel himself accepted unless the very worst in him is accepted too. No one can bring this about by mere words; it comes only through reflection and through the doctor’s attitude towards himself and his own dark side. If the doctor wants to guide another, or even accompany him a step of the way, he must feel with that person’s psyche. He never feels it when he passes judgment. Whether he puts his judgments into words, or keeps them to himself, makes not the slightest difference. To take the opposite position, and to agree with the patient offhand, is also of no use, but estranges him as much as condemnation. Feeling comes only through unprejudiced objectivity. This sounds almost like a scientific precept, and it could be confused with a purely intellectual, abstract attitude of mind. But what I mean is something quite different. It is a human quality a kind of deep respect for the facts, for the man who suffers from them, and for the riddle of such a man’s life. The truly religious person has this attitude. He knows that God has brought all sorts of strange and inconceivable things to pass and seeks in the most curious ways to enter a man’s heart. He therefore senses in everything the unseen presence of the divine will. This is what I mean by “unprejudiced objectivity.” It is a moral achievement on the part of the doctor, who ought not to let himself be repelled by sickness and corruption. We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses. I am the oppressor of the person I condemn, not his friend and fellow-sufferer. I do not in the least mean to say that we must never pass judgment when we desire to help and improve. But if the doctor wishes to help a human being he must be able to accept him as he is. And he can do this in reality only when he has already seen and accepted himself as he is. – Carl Jung

Jonathan Davis
7 years ago

It’s not what happens but how you react to it that matters – Epictetus

Jonathan Davis
7 years ago

Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise so I am changing myself. – Rumi

Jonathan Davis
7 years ago

Shared by someone in the comments on facebook.

How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours. – Wayne Dyer

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