Biting Your Nose to Spite Your Face

Yesterday we had an unexpected situation at work which I knew may mean I’d have to stay a little late. I was immediately furious. Running through my head all the reasons that this was unfair and blaming different people. I even noticed myself resolving to be unpleasant and visibly pissed for the remainder of the day.

This is a reoccurring phenomenon in my life that I can trace back all the way into my childhood. Things don’t go exactly as I’ve planned so I decide to be upset and feel sorry for myself/get angry with others. Luckily my yoga practice and mindfulness exercises have given me the ability (sometimes) to take a step back in those situations and look at myself.

Why was I even so upset? I didn’t have any plans last night. It didn’t really matter if I was a little late getting home. And if I genuinely was unable to stay, my coworkers would have happily covered for me. Besides, as a social worker, I would be staying late to help someone who is vulnerable and in need. Would getting angry and holding onto that anger as long as possible make anything better?

My rigid sense of fairness and justice even when it comes to small things shouts out: You have a right to be angry! It’s the principle of the matter! You can’t allow it! And maybe it’s right to some extent. I do have the right to be angry. My coworker can be a tad overzealous and inconsiderate from time to time, but his heart is in the right place, and no real harm was done after all. Even if I have the right to be angry, that doesn’t mean I have to be. I can choose to be flexible and allow for things to not go as planned every now and then.

Rather than wasting those moments trying to spite everyone around me with a salty attitude to accentuate my displeasure (as a child might), I can let it go. I can be grateful for these moments. Because they are a chance for me to learn and grow as a person. They are a chance for me to rise to meet a personal challenge within myself, a chance to practice surrender.

I know that this won’t be the last time I have a day like this. It’s not like I haven’t realized all of this before. Yet that never seems to stop my automatic reaction that I have unwittingly carved into my neural pathways. That spark of anger ignites so quickly. It swallows my better judgement, and it is so hard to snuff out as reflexive thoughts feed the flames in a frenzy. My higher self can’t help but become lost in all the smoke.

However, my hope is that the more chances I have to practice and the more often I use those chances for self reflection, the easier it will become to choose surrender. The easier it will become to tame that self-righteous, indignant flame within me. I’ve got to give myself credit for making it to where I am now though. Before I never would have even considered that I had any other option than to become angry. I felt that was the only logical response. I felt forced into not only a less than ideal situation, but an unpleasant emotional space as well.

I see now that this is how we create our own suffering. My discomfort can be immediately halved. I may not be able to control the world around me. Unexpected things will keep happening to me. But I get to choose how I respond to those things. And that makes me feel free.

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