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Day 98: Wishing Hurt

January 20, 2024

Do you know anyone you can’t stand?

I was listening to an audio book the other day and the author did this visualisation exercise where you had to imagine all the people you disliked, judged, thought harshly about or wished harm on. The visualisation was quite dark and involved these people being held in cages – the purpose being to show us how much ill-will we can all harbour within ourselves while still calling ourselves “good people”.

I couldn’t think of a single person. I really tried but nobody came to mind, and although I wanted to believe that was an indication of how “zen” I’m becoming, I knew it was more likely that I just couldn’t think of someone in that moment.

Yesterday I realised I have someone in one of those cages.

What does this have to do with joy?

In truth, I’m not sure right now. I’m still too confused and ruffled by the thoughts and feelings running out of control due to an interaction with this person. Definitely not an ideal state for day 98!

Realising I hold this person in a cage has been uncomfortable. I’m in a position where I can’t easily confront the person about how I feel, nor can I avoid them. I’m also aware that I have a very limited picture of who they really are and I’m being super judgemental. It’s hard not to be though, in the face of nasty, bullying, spiteful behaviour.

Yet, even as I write those words, I know they’re wrong. These are my interpretations of the behaviour but I have been nasty, bullying and spiteful in my time too. I’ve even been a bully to my kids, yet I don’t consider myself a nasty, bullying or spiteful person.

This morning, I woke up feeling stressed because I have to interact with this person again soon. My mind played out a whole series of scenarios in which I read them the riot act, publicly cut them down to size, told the what’s-what. I felt the tension rise in my body, my temperature literally rise and my face flush – isn’t it funny what we can do to ourselves even when nothing is actually happening?! Then I remembered my whole “joy quest” – which, in that moment felt quite conflicting and far away from the irritation and aggression I’d built up.

With no better ideas for how to handle what I was feeling, I decided to do a breath-work exercise. I’ve found that when my thoughts leap and bite, the worst thing I can do is try and think my way out of danger. The best way out is via my body and breath work is amazing for that. Luckily it was 4.30am at the time so I had plenty of time for this sort of thing! I used a technique called “conscious connected breathing”, which is hard on the body but usually creates an altered state of mind, making it easier to get behind the torrent of stressful thoughts that often block insight or reason. I’ve been doing this type of breath work once a month for just over a year, and every time I do it, I have these crazy out-of-body-type experiences and spiritual revelations, and this time didn’t disappoint.

By the time I was done, I had seen myself and this person as one person, experiencing the same need for everything to be perfect, the same need to control the things and people, the same fears, doubts and anxieties, and the same need to protect ourselves from negativity and upset. I realised my reactions were mirrors of the feelings that likely lie behind the behaviour I find so difficult to tolerate – behaviour quite similar to my own when these feelings overwhelm me.

Coming out of the breath work, I realised I’d be wise to feel grateful for the presence of this person in my life because I clearly need to learn the lessons they have to teach me abut my own demons and the things I have yet to face if I’m serious about letting go and living joyfully.

It’s hard though and I don’t feel grateful yet. Ask me again on day 998!

Do you have people in your cages? How do you deal with it?

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