Monday, December 10, 2012

Thought for the Day - Learn to Face the Unpleasantness

This thought struck me the other day when I was under some stress and was wondering if what I was doing was worth doing at all considering what I was putting up with. I took sometime off to think. In a moment of calm thought I realised that all my stress boiled down to only a few 'moments' - a really small part of the whole. The rest of my time was perfectly normal. Even these unpleasant moments were mostly harmless words.
Pic courtesy Satish Nargundkar

Why was I willing to give up what I was doing because of these few moments of stress? Do we all do this all our lives? Don't we give up on many things things because of these small 'unpleasant' or 'stressful' moments? Why do we not handle these moments better instead of running away? (Or committing suicide).

From chasing our dreams to accepting greater responsibility, to moving out of the comfort zone and seeking higher growth - the one thing that comes in our way of action is this fear of 'unpleasantness'. What people will say, how people will react, how we will be ridiculed and asked certain questions, how we will be judged, how accusations and allegations will fly and so on and so forth. These thoughts set us back and we step back. Why do we need this at all we think.

And we stop acting. We stop taking responsibility. From not standing up to our basic duties as a citizen - for eg. helping accident victims, eve teasing victims, bullies, hooligans, political parties, land grabbers, corrupt officials and clerks, malpractices - we shy away from our rightful action because of this perceived 'unpleasantness' of abuse, physical threat, police, questions, courts, victimisation.

This is the place where most right thinking, educated people are stuck today. There's no avoiding it - all of growth or responsibility is made up of out-of-comfort-zone acts, or 'unpleasant' acts. We need to face the unpleasantness and go through it.

The good news is that the actual unpleasantness lasts only for a few moments. The bad news is that we carry it much longer in our minds because of our inflated egos and that really is the problem area (and not the unpleasantness per se). If we can knock our ego out of the equation and say "Okay, let's see what this is about", we are challenging the unpleasantness. And once you are into it, you know it is not as bad as you think it is. It may be unpleasant, but you can face it once you decide. Like cleaning a clogged sewer.

Stepping into cold water, facing a stressful interview, appearing for a tough exam, facing an enquiry for mistakes done or not done, going in for surgery, the prick of an injection, the pain of rejection, the shock of a physical wound, the sting of sharp words, criticism, abuse, the trauma of injustice, lies and false allegations, threats to self and loved ones, the humiliation of failing, the guilt of being found out, the ending of a relationship - all unpleasant.

But what is the worst that can happen. How long will it last? The actual pain will fade away soon as the act is done. But it is the 'perceived pain' that the ego carries afterward that makes it all so difficult to go through. To please our ego, we choose not to face that momentary unpleasantness. Not to grow.

But let's say we decide to face the unpleasantness. We drop our ego and face that momentary pain or unpleasantness. Without any ego in the way the 'unpleasantness' has no effect on us - like water off a duck's back - and we remain focused on the outcome. The moment will pass. You can now deal with it the way you want to.

I think we must all learn to face these moments of 'unpleasantness'. I wish it would be taught in schools and colleges in a sensitive and experiential manner - to make kids more aware. It is a large part of our growth. We cannot escape it. Once we decide to face it, and drop our egos, nothing can stop right thought from guiding right action.

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