With so many people on edge these days, there’s a lot of anger, incivility and just plain rudeness going on in the world.
zYou can protect yourself from negative emotions by self-distancing.
Try to step out of the moment and watch the scene unfold as if you’re the actor in a movie.
This allows you to be more objective and less emotionally involved.
Self-distancing helps you to simply see without assigning meaning to your experiences. You’ll suffer less.
Let me illustrate with a story …
Zen master Hakun was praised by his neighbors as one living a pure life.
A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him.
Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child.
This made her parents very angry.
She would not confess who the man was, but after much harassment she named the man, Hakun.
In great anger the parent went to the master.
“Is that so?” was all he would say.
After the child was born it was brought to Hakun.
By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him.
He took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbors and provided everything the child needed.
A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer.
She told her parents the truth.
She revealed that the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fish market.
The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakun to ask forgiveness, to apologize at length and to get the child back.
Hakun was willing.
In yielding the child, all he said was: “Is that so?”
Our Problems Don’t Exist Outside of Us
There is no inherent meaning in anything.
You, with your mind, assign meaning to whatever you choose to find meaningful.
You may find meaning in sporting events, while others may find meaning in music or nature.
The meaning you attribute to your situations, events and relationships are often the biggest cause of your unhappiness and emotional unrest.
For simplicity, let’s call situations, events, occurrences, circumstances, activities, perceptions and relationships: “Experiences.”
These experiences are what is happening in your life and have no inherent meaning in and of themselves.
Everything is a Construction of Mind
What happens in reality and the meaning you give those experiences exist only in your own mind.
It is your mind that thinks stressful thoughts. Most often, it’s your reaction to those thoughts that create negative feelings.
The stress you feel has everything to do with the meaning you decide to give to your experiences.
Whenever you’re able to separate the meaning you give to your experiences, your negative feelings disappear!
Self Distancing Mindset Tool
Here is a simple 3 step self-distancing mindset tool that will completely transform the way you experience your reality.
Practice self-distancing for 10 days, be more objective and less emotionally involved.
Everything that is happening in your life, events, occurrences, situations, circumstances and relationships have no inherent meaning in and of themselves.
Step 1. Notice Negative Feelings
Be extremely aware every time you notice a negative feeling, like “I’m upset, angry, hurt, dissatisfied, frustrated, scared, disappointed and so on.” Label the feeling accurately in your mind or jot it down.
Step 2. Check Meaning
Ask yourself: “What meaning did I give this experience or relationship” that made me feel this negative emotion?
Step 3. Separate Meaning From Experience
Try and see the situation or circumstance separately from the meaning you gave it.
When you separate meaning from experience the meaning you gave the experience will weaken and eventually disappear.
PRESTO! Meaningless experiences can’t produce negative feelings.
I’m not asking you not to feel. Feelings are part of the human experience.
You can certainly decide what meaning you choose to give to any experience at any time.
I certainly encourage you to savor in the deliciousness and fulfillment of satisfaction and joy that give our lives so much meaning and purpose.
I hope you find this tool useful to help you practice self-distancing so that you can be more objective and less emotionally-involved moving forward.