Happiness and Joy do not emerge when there is too much conflict or disharmony in oneself. This is one good reason to first work on solving conflicts and disharmonies in our self. Of course though, this is not just a simply and easy thing to do. It requires a kind of introspective self-honesty and self-work. It also requires a love and care about our self, because no conflicts can really be solved without love and care, which is also true in regards to our own self-conflicts. From the soul comes love and unifying will, so establishing our soul-connection will be a extremely important.
Thus, self-unity and self-peace are intrarelated and essential to happiness and joy. Yet it is difficult to resolve self-conflict, in order to attain personal unity and peace. It is similar in the world; when there is minimal conflict and greater peace, there is more happiness. You would think that everyone would realize this related connection between happiness and conflict, and thus work towards peace.
We have conflicts in our beliefs and in our values; different ideas about what is true and right, here in our own mind. We have conflicts in our emotions; different emotions vying for supremacy; different loves and competing desires. Also, different aspects of our personal being can be in conflict; emotions competing with mind, body not cooperating with mind, and emotions stressing out the body, etc. So we need to build peace and unity, right here in our own being. This will bring happiness. Conflict does not bring happiness, but peace and unity bring happiness.
Also holding us back from happiness are worry and irritation; that is, being either worried about what will be or irritated about what is. Detachment and acceptance are solutions to worry and irritation, as well as a sense of optimistic hope.
Regret is another hindrance to happiness, regret about something done or not-done in the past. Regret tends to cause long-standing moods of disappointment, which sometimes even lead to depression. The solution to regret is simple, though not easy to accept. It is to realize that the past is over and it is impossible to change, so one might as well let it go and move on to present and future concerns.
Another hindrance to happiness is anger and hatred. Anger gone overboard turns into hatred, which then leads to violence in some way, even if this might just be verbal violence. Of course, anger also causes verbal abuse in what sometimes is a torrent of reactive steam being let loose. So anger and hatred can be quite harmful to others, and even to oneself. Obviously too, they kill happiness... in everyone involved. So if one wishes to be happy, then one has to somehow eliminate anger, hatred, regret, worry, and irritation. And we might as well add fear onto this list, because one cannot be happy if in fear.
But how to eliminate these? Not so easy, because they become patterns that repeat in us and seem to arise automatically at times without our rational control. So these negative emotions (certainly negative in relation to happiness) are not rationally intended, but are rather automatic reactive patterns lodged in our personality. Nonetheless, the path to transform these is to exercise our rational and intentional powers - to reasonable see that these are hindrances to our happiness and well-being, and to then make intentional conscious efforts to deflate the air out of these emotions. Let these energies subside and deflate, and stop giving them energy, agreement and excuses.
Some problems are caused by others or by external circumstances, but many problems are simply caused by our own self, such as conflicts within our self or reactions we have to others, especially our personality reactions. Many other problems are caused by our beliefs – about life, about others, or about our own self. Negative beliefs can cause problems, and many kinds of beliefs are very limiting and thus create various limitations in our life. Fixed beliefs about others or about the truth can also cause conflict-creating personality reactions. Yet if we take responsibility for our self-caused problems, then we can at least solve these.
It is an important in the course of our everyday lives to be able to distinguish between lower personality reactions and higher soul responses,. The soul has different qualities from the personality. To name just a few, the soul is inclusive of all life, considerate of others, courageous, joyful, beautiful in thought and speech, and always striving towards finer perfection, both in oneself and in the world. The soul will make choices different than the personality, and it will react more calmly and without attachment. Imagine certain conditions and see how you would react as a personality and then as a soul. Notice the difference. There is usually some kind of selfishness in the personality, while the soul holds a larger consideration for all of life.
If our soul were perfectly expressive in our personality, then all of our emotions, thoughts, decisions and actions would be spiritually motivated and spiritually infused. Unfortunately though, problems arise in the personality; disharmonies arise, which are contrary to our soul and often obstruct the soul's purpose. Some of these problems arise due to past karma from other lifetimes, some arise because of acquired patterns conditioned in us from childhood, and some problems arise from our own self-obsessive consciousness in our present life now. The personality becomes a container of recurring emotional reactions, repeating habits of thought, and self-centered choices, which are counter to soul-spiritual purposes. And thus, these need to be watched and eliminated; or in other words, negative thoughts and emotions need to be transformed into spiritual ones.
Resistances from various ego-desires (of lower self), conflicts of ego-desire, and reactive negative emotions of the lower self, can all be solved with love. This might seem to be a dubious proposition, but certainly worth exploring (to see whether it is true by experience).
Love melts the resistances of lower self, resolves our inner conflicts, and transforms negative emotions. This is because love opens the lower self to Greater Being. Love encourages the lower self to surrender its resistances. Love resolves conflicts of ego-desire by uniting all the little desires under the greater purpose of love. All desires are essentially a longing for love, so if love becomes the forefront of all desire, then all the little desires become united in the greater desire for love.
Reactive emotions are transformed by love, when it is realized that negative reactions do not achieve love but only thwart it. And love softens our reactions to irritating or problematic circumstances, as we become compassionately loving to those who upset us. If we can keep love in our heart and keep love as our goal, then most of our problems will be resolved and dissolved in love.
It is possible to transform our troubling emotions and also our false beliefs. Troubling emotions are most easily self-observed, because we can more easily observe ourselves caught in a cloud or storm of emotional frustration, fear, anger, jealousy, self-righteousness, or some other powerful emotion. As we will notice, these powerful emotions do not suddenly disappear upon decision, but if we decide to let them go, or give them up, they will soon dissipate. The hardest part, though, is making a decisive choice to let it go, since the emotion itself wants to hold on and express itself. Each emotion is like a living ego in itself, and like the usual ego each believes in its own self-importance.
Each emotion also has a unique structure in our energy field, and some people can see these as an aura of energy or colors. Most people do not actually see colors but instead feel or sense the emotions of others. Each emotion has a definite structure in the energy field, and when active this structure is like a balloon full of energy or pressure, which is trying to release itself.
When people feel and express strong emotions, the energy-filled balloon-like-structure is full and in need of an energy release. An outward expression of strong emotion is an outward release of this energy. Yet one can release the energy in a much more subtle way, in a more controlled way, via a conscious decision and a letting go through the out-breath. This is, of course, more difficult to do than simply allowing an emotional outburst of the energy. A third way is to actually use the energy for some other kind of expression, which is a re-channeling of the energy, and this also involves conscious breath. This will gradually transform the emotional structure itself, and this could be classified as a kind of emotional alchemy.
Also in need of transformation within oneself are false beliefs and false conclusions, which become our mental illusions. False beliefs and illusions of the mind are very difficult to notice, because they can be mostly subconscious. But if we develop critical thinking and are willing to test our beliefs with actual experiences and also with reasoning, then we are more able to transform false beliefs and illusions.
My self image and various beliefs about myself could easily be delusionary and based on personal bias - a propensity to see myself as much more grand than I am, or as somehow superior. This may be a feeling of moral superiority as a substitute for physical or skillful superiority, and some people may feel as superior victims or as spiritually superior saints letting others crucify oneself.
There are many ways to achieve ego self-importance, all based on self-delusions. On the other hand, many people have negative self-images and hold patterns of self put-downs; these too are self-delusions. All of these are false selves, false egos. True freedom is from the false delusionary egos.
Also one might have fixed beliefs which hold one back from realizing more of one's inner potential. Fixed beliefs, in regards to self-beliefs, are when one holds onto a certain concept of who one is, like 'this is who I am.' 'I'm this particular kind of person.' Recognizing various qualities and truths about oneself is good, but not if this becomes a fixed and limited self-belief - that 'I am just this' and could not be anything else.
A self-study of the ego and a practice of self-noticing are virtually necessary along the Path, because the ego preoccupations and deceptions can be so very subtle and hidden beneath our normal awareness, yet so very powerful in our lives. We need to begin with an acceptance of who we are, a self-ego with all sorts of manipulating patterns and defensive reactions, as well as selfishness and vanity. The possible variations of ego patterns and behavior are many, far more than this little study will attempt to shed light upon.
We need to learn about how the ego works. Study from books can be of use, but of greatest necessity is to make a self-study, a study of our self in thought and action, because only by this self-study can we really know what's going on. And also, only by the process of self-observation can these ego patterns transform.
So first we have to start from where we are, which is to start from who we are, and we can only know that when we make honest self-observations. Thus, from the spiritual view, we need to see the darker sides of our self, which are those ego patterns that we would not like to admit to. This is known as the harder part of the spiritual work, like cleaning out the stables. It is certainly not a glamorous work, but even the high and royal people have to do it, because you really cannot hire someone else to do it for you.
But how is this work done? Self-observation and self-study are the first steps. Sincerity and self-honesty are also needed. An ability to experience humility and accept occasional self-embarrassment would also be useful. Love and non-attachment are invaluable. Then finally, when needed, there has to be a surrender, a sacrifice, a letting go of certain ego or personality patterns.
The most difficult aspect of ego to transform is self-centeredness and selfishness.
An ego/person who is self-centered and selfish will be engrossed in and predominately concerned about their own self-interests, while anyone else's interests are quite secondary. This self-centered egoism is all about I and me and mine. So as a selfish centered ego, I hope that others will cooperate with my interests, rather than me making any sacrifice to cooperate with the interests of others. Even when one doesn't see this kind of egoism going on, it is probably more prevalent than one would like to admit.
Those with a self-centered and selfish ego are attached to and even obsessive about manifesting their own particular desires, without any care about others and without any alignment with a higher spiritual Purpose. And since there is a lack of alignment with higher Purposes and Values, these ego-people will often make problems in the world - if they have enough political, social, military, or economic power to do so. Unfortunately, the most egocentric and self-interest-only people, who are focusing predominately on their own personal success and wealth, tend to rise up in social power by a power of dominance. They have no qualms about gaining power over people, then using people for their own gain.
A most difficult self-work is the sacrifice of our self-centered ego and selfish-only desires. But self-centeredness and selfishness are the most difficult patterns to transform. This is because the emotions and desires of our ego are so strong, and also because our egocentrism is so deceiving.
One way out of this is through an attitude of service - service to others, to humanity, to the world, to life, and to nature. This is a way to transform oneself, because service is a direct turnaround from being a self-centered ego. Service is an attitude and a will to help others to be fulfilled in their basic needs and for their spiritual potentials to bloom. To be in the attitude of service is to be dedicated to bringing love and wisdom into the world.
So, being of service, or at least having this as our goal, is a way out of our egocentrism - which is like a hole that most people get stuck in. The hope is that once one sees the hole one is in, this plight of oneself, there might be enough motivating energy to want out of it and thus be willing to sacrifice our egocentrism and selfish-only desires.
Another way out of egocentrism, also related to service, is developing a compassionate mind. The heart also needs to be compassionate, but compassion is already more natural in the heart. So we need to build a compassionate mind; otherwise the mind will find reasons to not be compassionate or not be loving.
Usually, we are stuck in our ego mind of egocentrism, like being in a hole or a capsule, and most people never get out of this except in occasional moments. So only a compassionate heart and mind, mixed with an attitude of active caring and service, will transform this situation. Our egocentrism and selfishness has to be sacrificed for the sake of a new kind of person, full of compassion and a desire to be of service.
The spiritual lovers have a positive attitude of service towards others and to life. They are ready to serve the needs of others and also the Purposes of God. They realize that everyone of us are meant to be the hands of God. God is not supposed to be left all alone to do everything, like bring more light and love in the world, like bring creative beauty and truth into the world, like heal people, like protect the sacredness of nature. No, it is not all up to God. It is up to us. It is up to you and me, and anyone else who happens to realize this. We are here to be the hands of God, the suns of Light, the givers of Love, and the flowers of Beauty. We are here to serve life; and because each person is a part of life, we love to serve them.
So from a spiritual view, service is the path. But the ordinary self-centered ego cannot see this. In fact the self-centered ego will fiercely resist having a goal such as service. This ego may, at times, be helpful to others or serve the good, but there is always a hidden self-reward or expected compensation in any activity that serves. Most predominately, the ordinary self-centered ego will oppose and resist service. This ego-person will be just fine with others serving them, but they do not want to serve others - unless of course there is some payoff in it. Payoff for service work is not a bad thing and can be thankfully accepted; but true service (in this spiritual meaning) does not require or demand compensation. Instead, it is an unconditional giving; like charity without a required need to be paid back.
Note that service does not negate enjoyment by the person of service. The giving lover enjoys the love even more; so we can serve and also enjoy it (gaining enjoyment from the service). In addition, we can enjoy other aspects of our life. So our spiritual dedication to service does not mean that we should not enjoy, and we do not need to abandon enjoyment as an essential Value in life.
The self-centric self-interest-only ego will be opposed to this idea of service. There are various possible reasons for this opposition - why a person blatantly will not want to serve the needs others (unless there is an expected payoff for oneself). The foremost reason would be that this person is way too identified in their ego of manipulation, compulsive self serving desires and greed; so the very opposite of this, service, is resisted. This self-centric person is just looking out for their own interests, so there is no self-interest in service.
The next reason for not being on the service path is an ego fear of being unfairly treated like a slave by other egos. It's like when you think of being of service, you get an image of being slapped around, manipulated and humiliated. The thought is, I'm not going to let others make a slave out of me. So because of this, a person avoids the service path. There are good reasons to be cautious about this; but fear of others taking advantage of us can become our ego-excuse for Not being of service.
Now it is true that we could become a mere slave to other egos, so the one in service needs to be cautious about others taking advantage of this service attitude. Spiritually, we are here to serve the needs of others, but we are not here to merely serve other people's lower egos and desires. We are not meant to be mere servants to other egos. Well we could be, but then we ought to get decently paid for this.
But are these fears or concerns really credible justifications for not serving others? Not really, because we can keep a cautious eye out for the abuses to our service, while still maintaining the service attitude and actions. Service is actually a beautiful path, if one remains both loving and awake. It is a way to let the ego go, let go of the ego which always demands for itself. It is a way for the ego patterns previously discussed to transform or dissolve.
Another justification for avoiding service is a demand that others first give to me before I will give to them. This person might be thinking, 'Yes I will love and serve this person, but only if they first show something to me or give to me'. One could hold an attitude of I am ready to serve, but you go first. Another avoidance of service is a demand for some contract; that is, before I serve you I want to make certain that you will also serve me. So we have to first negotiate a social contract or create some kind of group rule that everyone else must also serve and not just me. I will cook you dinner tonight, as long as we agree that you will recompensate for this another time. This kind of contract does make us feel more secure about service; but if the contract does not look fully secure, this can be one more excuse for not being of service.
Another justification for not helping others is thinking that 'everyone needs to work for their own achievements.' This is true, in that everyone ought to self-responsible and not merely rely on the gifts of others. Yet, while bearing this in mind, we can still help others achieve this self-achieving independence. An example of this is the capitalistic view that each should go out and be self-achieving, by their own paoers and by their own free choices; rather than relying on a social government (ie, socialistic government) to provide. So in a pure extreme structure of capitalism, no one is to help anyone else. But these extreme view doesn't have much heart in it; for it lacks any sense of shared community. If we were to simply imagine a small community, it makes more practical sense for everyone to be helping everyone else, rather than each person on their own working in competition with everyone else.
When the theme of service to others is considered, we need to consider who should be served - soul or ego, true need or whimsical desire? And also consider what really needs to be done; that is, what kind of service is really needed.
Spiritual service is not about being a servant to another's ego desires or habits. The ego personality of another may be demanding or wanting a form of service from us, but what they really need may be something else. Yet if we are merely serving the desires of anyone around us, then we might just become a provider for their self-centered ego. However, to serve the wishes of another can sometimes be an act of kindness and caring. So as one might see, there is a tricky discernment needed in this.
Mostly it is nice to give to others what they want, like serving a house guest the tea they would most enjoy. But we should not get caught in becoming a servant to someone's demanding ego or compulsiveness. We do not want to merely become a co-dependent to another person's compulsive patterns. To use an analogy, which could also be literal in some cases, we would not want to keep serving someone the drinks or drugs that their compulsiveness demands, as a way of service to them.
Besides watching out for people with compulsive desires, we also need to watch out for people with bloated egos of self-importance, which is the I'm the prince or princess syndrome. As spiritual people wanting to serve others, we are not really serving a person well if we are merely serving their bloated ego or compulsive patterns.
One common pattern of a self-important and compulsive ego is a domineering approach to others. This is the 'I'm the Dictator' or 'I'm the master-owner' kind of ego; and so you need to do whatever I demand, and don't mess up. This approach can be quite aggressive in its demanding and domineering of others.
There is also the passive aggressive approach, which is a reverse method for dominating others or getting what one wants from others. For example, the passive aggressive ego might express severe emotional pain when their desires are neglected, or they might position themselves as being a victim, in order to make the other person feel guilty - which would then mobilize action in favor of the one expressing the emotional pain. This subtle and ingenious method of the desire-ego for getting what it wants is called passive aggressive, because it really is an aggressive move on another person - intentionally playing on their sympathy and guilt - though it is dressed up as a passive expression of victimization.
Of course though, these ego-patterns are seldom conscious or noticed by the performers; rather; these approaches have become subconscious patterns for the ego getting its desires and wishes met, or sometimes they are ways to cope with stress.
Another ego approach to others is being a thief. This is similar in many regards to the domineering ego. The thief is a manifestation of greed, mixed with a lack of caring about the welfare of others. The domineering ego finds ways to get others to serve them. But the thief simply steals what they want from others. They might steal attention or energy from others, or they might simply steal money or land.
Many of the great thieves of history became wealthy people, because they cheated other people and got away with it through a corrupt economic system and a lack of true justice. Our popular capitalistic system makes ways for those with power or money to make evermore money off the backs and purses of others, yet most people think the thieves deserve what they have because of their business cunning and savvy. So there is plenty of social justification for the economic thief.
One more pattern can be mentioned here, in regards to being a servant slave to the egos of others. This is the ego who wants to please others, in order to be liked and loved by others. Of course, there isn't anything wrong or neurotic about wanting to be liked and loved and accepted. But a problem arises when one is so primarily motivated by this desire to be liked, loved and accepted, that one has a tendency to do whatever others want or be who they want one to be. This is the socially molded ego – one becomes molded like soft clay in whatever fashion the social world is most comfortable with.
The social world around one, or particularly close friends or family, often become influences for social molding. They want you to be this or that way, so that they themselves feel more comfortable and also so that they get more of what they want. So then when you realize how they want you to be, you mold yourself into this image, you become how they want you to be. So in order to be liked or accepted or loved, you become conditioned by their ideals and hopes, which is often a hope that you will mimic or follow their particular ways of being, their beliefs, and also cooperate with their desires and interest.
This social conditioning or social molding can be from family or from peer groups, or even from religious groups. But the problem is not so much with the groups; for they will behave as they behave, and they will hope as they hope. The problem is with the one who is accepting this social coercion and surrendering to this force of molding.
You are not here in this life to merely become how others want you to become. And if your self-expression is primarily motivated by social acceptance, or trying to please the ideals or norms of others, then you are not really being authentic to yourself. You become merely a social persona, a variety of masks to meet the wishes of others. Rather than being self-authentic, you become a false-self - motivated by social pressures and molded by others. So, our true goal is to serve life and others, but not to become a mere slave to other egos, nor to please others in order to merely be well liked and accepted.
No one can completely remove themselves from the rest of life. And who would want to, anyway? Each of us encounter the world, whether it be other people or other beings of the natural world. We are continually meeting up with others, encountering, relating, responding to and being affected by. So for the sake of thinking, let us divide these encounters into two kinds - positive and negative. Positive encounters are those we think are good and feel are enjoyable, to some degree. Negative encounters are those we think are bad or feel painful in some way. This of course is quite a simplified classification, but at least it starts off the topic.
Some teachings tell us that we should not be dividing up experience in such a way, or that we should not be making distinctions between good and bad, or between enjoyable and painful. But realistically, we need to begin with who we are, including our normal ways of thinking and feeling. So dividing experience into positive and negative is really quite normal, and we should accept this honestly.
Now, there is no problem with the positive encounters, so let us leave these be. Yet there is a problem with the negative encounters, and that is why they feel to be negative - because they present problems, or at least challenges. So we need to consider these negative encounters and figure out what the problems are, and hopefully we might actually solve or transform those problems.
Most of any solution to negativity, as presented by others, is really to do with ourselves, that is, how we react or the attitude we have to these challenges. If we have an attitude of accepting negatives as useful challenges, then at least we have found something positive in the experience.
It makes sense to still call certain happenings negative, but we have found a way to find something positive in these, or to change them into positives by how we respond and make use of them. If a car breaks down in traffic, it seems sensible to still call this a negative event, but much of the negativity changes into positive if we can make use of this as a challenge. If one is in a relationship where one is being abused or unfairly treated, this is still a negative but we can make something positive from it by treating it as a challenge to deal with, and one will grow by this challenge. Or very possibly the challenge might be to gather enough courage to either confront the person or leave the person. So in this notion of seeing negatives as useful challenging experiences, it doesn't mean that everything is really good, nor does it mean that one should just put up with abuse from someone.
Similar to this perspective of 'negatives as challenges' is a perspective or attitude that negatives can be positive learning situations. If we can learn valuable and useful insights because of a negative situation, then we are getting something positive from it. We should be able to learn from any situation. Though sometimes what we have to learn is how to cope with negatives, or sometimes we need to learn how to challenge and transform negative people or institutions, or again sometimes we need learn how to leave and say goodbye to negative people or negative circumstances.
Other steps are important as well. One is to do with our own reactions. Reactions often get us into trouble, or they often make problems even worse. Remember that reactions come from the ego-self that is caught up in its own perspective and agenda. So any automatic emotional reaction to someone else is already caught up in the ego struggle and will only intensify that struggle. Reactions can never solve problems; they only make the problems worse.
Thus, one important key is to self-notice our reactions and not simply get caught up in them. Remove yourself from your limited ego perspective, and a way to do this is to work at seeing the other's perspective. So the suggestion is two-fold: not getting caught up in one's automatic reactions, and trying to see the other's perspective.
A third suggestion is to always let go of any personal reactions. One might learn why there is a reaction, and maybe there is even some righteous justification for it; but there is never any use in holding on to a reaction, let alone to give it more energy. For instance, sometimes a reaction of anger might be justified if there is a perceived injustice or unfairness. We might then accept that there is some justification for the anger or frustration, and acknowledge that there is some degree of injustice at hand; yet there is no use in holding on to a reaction.
Non-reaction is difficult because reaction is so automatic and energized by powerful emotions. Also, what tends to occur is that one person will be reacting to another person's reaction, and then another reaction will be set off, which will then set off another, and this back and forth chain reaction will just keep getting worse. And sometimes the people forget even what set it all off in the first place.
But what helps to restrain emotional reaction is some degree of cognitive thinking about what one is reacting to. The first question to think about is how important is the statement or action that caused the reaction. Very often we are reacting to quite small things, quite trivial stuff. So when we intelligently see how small or trivial this is, we can more easily let go of the reaction. However, sometimes a situation happens, or a person does something, which cannot be simply seen as a small thing. For obviously it is possible that big deals happen occasionally. Still, the problem will be increased by an automatic reaction.
A truly good solution can only come from a combination of cognitive intelligence and compassion. Solutions to bigger issues require a thoughtful intelligence, not an automatic emotional reaction. And compassion is also needed, because nothing is really solved – if love and compassion are left out.
There are two important points here to remember. One is that often we get upset by quite trivial stuff, which is not really worth making so much a deal about. Second is that the best solution usually is to just let go of the reaction.
Letting go is always up to us. No one one can do this for us. The more you can let go of your reactions, the more you have become a master of life. If you can't master your reactions, then you cannot master your life. Being able to let go of a reaction may sound like a little thing, but really it is a huge mastery.
Similar to the act of letting go is forgiving. Forgiving is an alternative to blaming and resentment. Resentment is a negative emotion that is built up regarding others, or even large groups of people or nations, because of certain things done in the past. We blame them for negative situations or for our own distraught, and then we resent them. Usually, such blame seems justified. Maybe it is, though maybe not. But even if it seems justified, the only real solution to blame and resentment is to forgive, or to just let it go and move on to a real positive relationship. Forgiveness is letting go of past resentments and also giving that person another chance. Holding on to blame and resentment will get us nowhere. Forgiveness also a quality of love, recognizing the others' spiritual humanness and realizing that we all make mistakes.
At the basis of negative or problematic encounters are two forces (or sometimes more than two) at odds, or two forces with contrary directions. That is, there are at least two forces meeting but each is trying to go in different directions. If two forces meet and are going close to the same direction, then they merge harmoniously and even strengthen each other. But with problematic encounters, the forces are not going very much in the same direction, or they might even be directly opposing.
Egos tend to struggle with other egos to promote their own agendas, interests, and beliefs. And the only solution to this endless battle is when one side listens to the other's side and makes some effort to fulfill the other's wishes or hopes. But if the other is continuously demanding and does seem to respect one's own needs, then another solution is needed, because it is not fair for one side to become slave or puppet to the other.
So here is the problem, which makes the negative experience, the pain, or the feeling of frustration, or the anger, or the fight. Two different agendas, two different directions, two different desires have encountered one another.
Or maybe the problem is an encountering of two different beliefs about what is the right way to do something. Sometimes, people have a similar agreed upon goal, but they differ in what they think is needed to do to get to that goal. One person thinks they know the best way to proceed, but the other person has a different idea; yet they both are working in the same job so they have to work together. So these are a few of the possible problems in interpersonal encounters.
Two different agendas, or desires, bump into one another. Or two different beliefs about how to proceed bump into one another. And this is the basis of most social conflict. To put it all even more simply, two egos bump into one another, which causes some friction or sometimes pain if they bump too hard. But let us consider the easier cases of friction, frustration, tension, disappointment, and the general uncertainty about how to really solve this problem.
The first step to consider is that we are smarter if we begin altering our own reactions and agenda, rather than expect or hope that the other will somehow change to accommodate our agenda. In other words, make the first move towards compromise and reconciliation.
From each ego-self perspective, obviously each would prefer that the other ego-self give up their particular agenda, desire or idea, while accepting one's own. And this is the kind of interaction that often takes place; as each side proceeds to make every possible attempt to manipulate the other, or somehow change the other, or convince the other to come over to one's own side - in order to solve the problem and live in harmony.
Each side wants harmony, peace, love, cooperation and teamwork. Yet, each wants such goals accomplished in their own particular way; which is usually a hope that the other will simply change their desires and beliefs in a way that harmonizes with one's own. Each side wants the other to cooperate with them rather than they cooperate with the other. So no wonder there are stalemates in most social conflicts. No one really wants to budge from their own agenda, desires or beliefs.
This is why the first smart step is to consider how to change one's own agenda and one's own reactions, instead of trying to get the other to change theirs. This doesn't mean to completely submit to the other. It doesn't mean just giving up and surrendering to the other ego. Rather, the step to take is a movement towards the other; not a complete submission to the other, but a movement towards them. This is a movement towards helping to satisfy what they are needing. In other words, it is a movement towards fulfilling some of their agenda, their desires, or their direction. This eases some tension right away.
The deeper key here is to stop viewing the situation from just one's own point of view, or from just one's own agenda or desire or hope. As long as one is holding fast to one's own point of view, nothing will really change. And first, I need to get out of my little box, my little ego perspective, rather than expect the other to get out of theirs first. Eventually, we both need to expand our view to consider the other as well as our own agenda. But we cannot just wait for the other to consider us; we need to first consider the other.
These problems never get solved until one person budges a little out of their ego box and personal desire. Someone needs to make the first move out of themselves, or a move to empathetically consider the other's wish. So rather than expect the other to make the first move, it is much more mature to make the first move oneself.
Also realize that we should not be expecting to always get what we want, that others will give us what we want or that others will behave as we want. Once we realize how silly it is to expect such harmonization from others, our lowered expectations will help us not get so disappointed and upset by others. Sometimes we have to adapt to situations or to others; rather than always expect others to adapt to us.
Every ego's tendency and world view is that 'I am the most important being on this planet'. Everyone should listen to me, agree with me, and praise me for my obvious virtues. I should get what I want, and people should agree with me and harmonize with me. This is the normal ego-centric view. The world revolves around me. So I expect others to do as I hope and to harmonize with me. And I get upset or react when they do not. This is the common ego perspective.
Another problem to do with ego perspective is in how we understand the intention of another's action, or speaking, or their meaning. Sometimes people do things or say things, which we see as negatives or personal attacks, but they did not really intend it that way. In other words, there are times when we do or say things that hurt or offend others, but we don't really mean it that way. So sometimes we are reacting to negative expressions from others, yet they did not intend it to be negative. This could be called unintended mistakes, and we all make these at times.
So, rather than simply reacting to others according to our own perspective about what they meant or intended; we need to hold back on our immediate judgment and try to see what they actually intended from their perspective. Likewise, we sometimes misinterpret what others really mean by what they say. And so we might be reacting to a misinterpretation. Just like we might be reacting to something unintended.
Another guidance on how to deal with negative situations or people is to accept and even appreciate these situations, because they present beneficial challenges for our spiritual growth. These negative situations give us spiritual work. They give us psychological challenges and opportunities for human development. They challenge our habitual, automatic ego patterns of reaction or upsetness.
One of the great opportunities in being confronted by negative situations, brought on by other ego-people, is in noticing our own reactions. The negative brings up some reaction, which our cognitive intelligence can then notice and learn from. So the negatives help show us about how we emotionally react.
From this self-observation, there is then a possibility for self-transformation – IF we are able to:
a) not get totally caught
up in the reaction
b) observe the reaction and understand its perspective
c) intelligently work out a new solution
d) intentionally decide to make a change
– to take a different attitude, or perhaps speak or act
in a non-confrontational and helpful way.
The most common manner of emotional interaction between people is reaction upon reaction. For example, person-A says something or does something to person-B – who then feels insulted or threatened so then reacts emotionally to person-A – who then feels insulted or threatened so then emotionally reacts to person-B, and so it goes on. It usually just gets worse and a fight ensues, or else one person withdraws from this circular interaction though nonetheless holds on to the memory and the resentment about it.
There are many possible emotions that could be involved in such interactions, but the pattern is often similar. One person says something or does something, which the other person feels or thinks is either insulting, wrong, or threatening. The primary emotion here is usually anger. What is said or done, whether it is actually meant to be negative or not, is being perceived as negative by the other person. They might either attempt to fight back or maybe to correct what seems wrong, or they might just sulk in a passive feeling of resentment. But often things tend to get worse, until there is some sort of resolution.
To help resolve such patterns, at least one of the persons involved needs to first rationally understand what is happening, rather than just react emotionally. For example, person-A could consider if their words or actions result in anger by person-B. person-A needs to understand something about person-B, which is that at this moment person-B is perceiving their words or actions as insulting, wrong, threatening, or in some negative manner. This perception by person-B might be unjustified or simply mistaken, yet nonetheless this is how person-B sees it.
So first, person-A needs to understand that person-B is upset about something; then, person-A needs to figure out what this is. This would be called 'getting to know what the emotional upsetness is about'. Yet, person-A needs to remember that it's not important or useful now to argue about if the perception of person-B is right or wrong, justified or not. What's important is to know that there IS a perception behind the emotional reaction, and then it's also important to find out what this perception is. Note that we are labeling this as a 'perception', though it could also be called an 'interpretation' of what has been said or done.
The other very important task for person-A is to refrain from reacting immediately and automatically to person-B's emotional reaction; but instead, bring attention from the emotions to the mind, in order to rationally consider the other person's reasons for their reaction. person-A is now becoming a psychologist, as it were, figuring out what is going on in this other person. Of course this can be a difficult task if the other person is yelling or insulting or threatening; for it IS difficult to refrain from automatically reacting back in a similar pattern.
You see, one person in this back and forth pattern of emotional reaction needs to take the mature initiative to refrain from automatic reaction and, instead, rationally consider the other's perception which is causing their emotional feeling and reaction. One of the battling parties needs to break free of this emotional merry-go-round, this back and forth battle, and move on to a more rational road, whereby they might begin to understand the perceptions and perspective of the other party. Once there is some degree of understanding-the-other, then there is a possibility for person-A to help resolve some misunderstandings or perceptual exaggerations.
This is not to suggest that all conflicts are easily resolved. Some conflicts are only resolvable by negotiation and compromise. Some conflicts are only resolvable when one side finally realizes that their desires are not realistic. Yet, in many cases, much can be resolved in any conflict by resolving misunderstandings and mistaken perceptions.
In life there will be people who do stupid or bad things. Sometimes this is just from our own perspective, but sometimes it's the real truth. So our reaction is often anger. Or, there are people who bother us in some way, so we react with irritation, and if a person-or situation gets very intensely bothersome, the our irritation turns to anger. Irritation is not as intense nor as violent as anger. Anger includes irritation, in that anyone angry is of course also bothered and irritated; but irritation does not necessarily include anger, in that one can be irritated without also being angry. Yet irritation might turn into anger, if the irritation intensifies enough. Like one might start out being just irritated with the noisiness or inconsiderateness of a neighbor, but later on this might turn into anger if the causes and the irritation keep repeating.
Anger could be considered as a natural state we go through at times, but it usually fails at being an effective practical response to positively transform anything or anyone. Anger might be difficult to consciously abstain from, because anger is so often an automatically triggered reaction. But once the anger is out in the open and we are conscious of it, then we have more of choice in what we do with it; that is, we can let it go on, we can even justify it and be proud of it, or else we can choose to let it go - whereby it will gradually fade away by our apathy to it and our dissipation of self-righteousness about it.
Anger can be distinguished into two kinds. One is the anger felt when one's desires, hopes or interests are either ignored or threatened by others. This is an ego-interest based anger. The other kind of anger is a reaction against some injustice. This is justice-based anger.
Of course though, the justice-based anger might stem from our feeling that others are not being fair to us - like when feeling that I'm not getting the justice I deserve; so sometimes a justice-based anger is blended with an ego-interest based anger. Very often, even the ego-interest based anger is self-justified by a belief that this reaction is justice-based. So most often, anger is an emotional reaction against a believed injustice, either in regards to our own self or regarding the treatment of others. Most of our angry reactions, in any day or week, are in regards to threats or actions against ourself, though sometimes we get angry about injustices to others.
Yet is anger justified, or ever justified? Our mind is good at justifying all kinds of emotional reactions and patterns; so it could be a slippery-slope to say that some angers are justified; because then our excuse-making mind will happen to see all of our own angers as justified, while the angers of others are not. However, it is true that some angers are justified; just as it is unarguably true that there are real injustices in the world, real intentional hurting of others, real violations of human rights, which are not merely bad from our own perspective. They just are bad. So anger about injustices (or about people who inflict pain on others) does really have a well-based justification. Even in the saintly narrative of Jesus, he gets angry at the corruption and deceit found in the marketplace.
In fact, this kind of anger may be a quite natural reaction for any sensitive and loving person perceiving injustice, or pain inflicted on others, or violations of how one would like to be treated. Therefore, natural empathy and sensitivity in regards to others is also a justified reason for anger; in this sense, anger might even be regarded as a healthy reaction by any emotionally mature person. Perhaps, healthy emotional people even have a natural sensitivity to justice and injustice itself.
So anger is justified in cases of perceived injustice. The better question to ask, then, is if anger is a useful or effective reaction. For we might agree on the justification for a certain kind of anger, if justice-based, but there is still a question as to its practical usefulness and effectiveness. We can feel justified and righteous about our anger, but still, is it useful?
First of all, in regards to injustices, corruption, deceit, and violations of people; anger can be a useful motivator for action - to get off one's butt or out of one's comfort chair, in order to help those being abused or unjustly treated, or to help eliminate injustices in the world. So, justice-based anger can motivate one to work (or to struggle) for the elimination of such injustices. This righteous anger, based on real injustices, can be a good motivator towards promoting justice and eliminating injustices. This anger helps one to wake up and do something about what is wrong, rather than just remain passive, thinking that others will solve these problems, or thinking that God will solve these problems or worse, thinking that all of this is just the way God wills it to be.
So anger is useful as a motivating energy to make needed changes in the world or even just in our own life. But is the actual expression or outburst of anger useful?
The actual emotional expression of anger, in itself, does not usually change anyone or anything. Imagine yelling at someone with great anger about the bad things they are doing. This anger merely creates a corresponding reaction in the person (or persons) being yelled at. It either causes a reactive anger in that other, or else the other merely tunes it out. Moreover, this anger creates a disharmony in the angry person, and it tends to veer the person away from making a rational, practical, smart response to the situation. So if the anger is a good motivator for righteous action, then very good; but be careful to not merely remain in an angry emotional state, because the direct and immediate effects of this are usually unhelpful and ineffective.
Most of the time, in fact, anger just seems to cause more problems. For example, anger at another seems to cause a reactive anger in them. So is any success coming from this anger? Anger at world injustices (outside of one's separative ego-concern) seems the most justifiable kind of anger, but is this useful as an actual self-expression? In some cases, the expressed anger of a group seeking justice can wake up other people from their sleepy apathy, and it can also mobilize actions to protect the environment and human rights and to help remove injustices. But even in these cases, the initial emotion of anger is best transformed into an intelligently methodical action, rather than remain as angry emotion. Intelligent and rational discussion, rather than reactive emotion, is more effective in producing social change. For again, emotional anger leveled against others tends to create a mirroring in the target of our anger reactions. That is, anger at another or at a group tends to create a mirror reactive anger in them.
So we need to first realize that the actual expression of anger isn't going to really change or transform anyone. Second, we need to realize that we cannot expect to change anyone, anyways. Each person is in their own slow process of learning and maturing. So don't expect to change anyone, and don't expect anyone to suddenly change. Yet, we can hope and we can try. Or if we do hold onto some expectation, then at least temper it with sufficient patience, because no one person and no society changes immediately and certainly does not immediately change at the very moment of one's anger at them.
Another rational insight about anger is that the anger itself, in its expression, will want the other (the target) to change immediately, as if the target person is like a ball and the anger like a fist which can hit that little ball towards a new direction. But the effect of expressed anger does not work this way, because the human target is not like a little ball but is rather stubborn in its own way and also ready to strike back with its own anger.
The best practice is to transform anger into a more useful, practical energy, which involves a willingness of the self-in-anger to let it go and transfer this energy into a more practical, successful response. In this way, we could say that anger helped get things moving at an initial phase, but it then has to be transformed into other kinds of energy and response. The pure will-to-good mixed with a loving intelligence, which are divine-soul qualities within us, are much more successful in helping make life and the world a better and more fair place. So in comparison to this pure will-to-good, anger is not useful at all.
It may be a difficult self-practice, but well worth it, to just decide to give up any anger when it arises, and stop justifying it or making excuses for it. That itself would be a big step in self-transformation. Yet before we let it go, or channel this energy into some other response, it would be good to understand why the anger arose. If it arose due to a real injustice or offense, then we can make some intention to solve this injustice or teach others what would be more fair and wise. Yet if we see that our anger is predominantly due to our ego-self reacting against not getting what we want, like a little child screaming about not getting what it wants, then this is a good time to let go of that ego-attachment and cry-baby reaction. Sometimes we need to take a deep breath, then let it go and move on. Don't get stuck in your own self-attachments and selfish concerns, nor in anger about not getting what you want. Move on. Life will be much more enjoyable without anger.
Also, anger can be specifically transformed into a will-towards positive action. An example of this would be turning our anger about injustices into a positive social activism. This involves using the motivating energy of our justice-based anger, by channeling the anger energy into an active will towards justice and social activism. In this, we do not want to expend this potentially-useful energy into mere outbursting expression. This becomes a waste of our emotional energy, a wasteful expenditure of it. Instead, we want to use the motivational energy of anger and apply this into our intentional will and activism. Anger as a motivating energy, but unexpressed, can then turn into will.
So the key here is to refrain from emotionally expressing anger, or outbursting it, in order to conserve this energy and use it more intentionally rather than reactively, more strategically rather than ineffectively. One sublimates the mechanical tendency of anger to simply express or unleash itself, and directs this energy into a will-towards justice. So rather than simply express-out our justice-based anger, this anger can be transformed into some other form of expression - which can involve more intellect and more strategic planning - rather than wasting the energy in a self-mechanical emotional outburst.
Anger is an energy, an emotional energy, so it is possible to transform this form of emotional energy into some other form. Also remember that any expression of our energy uses up some of our energy. Thus, if our self-energy is often consumed in feelings and expressions of anger, then we have less energy for other kinds of self-expression. Therefore, it makes sense to bring our energies into the most positive and enjoyable expressions, or to use our energies in the most useful ways.
The process required for this transformation of emotional energies has two basic steps. First, the particular emotion itself, which is like a form or structure of basic emotional energy, can be dissolved or dis-integrated into its basic energy. Every particular emotion is a structure of our basic emotional energy, which can be dissolved back into its original formless and fluidic energy. So in order for an emotional pattern or a recurring emotion to be transformed into a positive and more useful emotion, it first needs to be dissolved back into just pure emotional energy. This pure emotional energy can be experienced as a kind of fluidic stream of emotion, or feeling, that has no particular quality to it - though very often it is an enjoyable and peaceful feeling, the feeling of just being or of just feeling the subtle energies of life. But as well, we can think of this basic emotional energy as our emotional reservoir or storage. So when we are not emotionally expressive in outbursting ways, then our emotional energy is better conserved in its reservoir state of being. Then, at other times, we will have more of this emotional water (this emotional energy) available from our emotional reservoir, to be positively expressed in more beautiful and enjoyable emotions.
This already gives a hint of the second step of transformation, which is to consciously direct our energies towards the most positive and enjoyable expressions, and also to use our emotional energy for loving others. That is, use the emotional energy for love and for the many qualities of love, such as caring, compassion, giving, and thankfulness. Then, as we give our basic emotional energy to these positive and loving emotions, we are simultaneously strengthening those positive structures of emotion, thus building more of these beautiful emotions into our very being and into our lives. This is all part of a larger transformational process known as spiritual evolution; though it could also be understood more simply as a real maturing of the human being or as self-actualizing our human potentials.
Realize that we can positively influence another by our own quality, by who we are and the qualities we have that can inspire others. Each of us on this spiritual path are evolutionary transformers. That is who you are, an evolutionary transformer, a transformer of energies (such as anger or hatred) and perhaps also a transformer of social norms and structures. This means that you can be an evolutionary inspiration for others, whether they are conscious of this or not. Every person is in a process of human evolution, which is to become a complete and real human being. This is what the whole spiritual path is all about. It is to become a real human being. But realize that a real human being is also a spiritual being. Everyone is really on this path to become a complete human being; yet most people just don't know they are on this path. And this path can be very slow, if one is not conscious and intentional in it.
But the message here is that we can help positively influence anyone we meet, to help them forward onto the next step of being a complete human spiritual being, or onward in their evolution, by being the fullness of who we are and by being free in expressing this fullness, because we influence each other's evolution by way of the inspirational qualities we share.
So instead of being angry at those who let us down, or who do not live up to our ideals, or who are simply idiots; dance your own being and radiate your own positive qualities. For them, you can be an inspiration for what is possible. For them, you are the next evolutionary step. Show the way, by the quality of your expression. Be the example, the leader, or at least be the truthful one.